Brand Loyalty Starts Early

The challenge of building brand loyalty is the focus of thousands of studies, articles and blog posts as marketers seek the magic that will keep a customer for life. Some brands strike it rich by being in the right place at the right time with the right message. Others build life-long brands with a solid foundation and then continue to focus on what matters to the customer as the context and culture changes.

What is it about the brands that hold that special place? A study by the Journal of Consumer Research, reported in The Atlantic, suggests that young cognitive development is a particularly impressionable time. “The consumer brain is a bag of concrete mix before a person turns 13: Anything you can slip in the soft blend is likely to harden, along with our neural networks, by the time we become a money-spending adult. This Concrete-Mix theory of habit formation was behind efforts to ban cigarette ads targeting young people. They found that, although people tend to be highly critical of promises made in advertisements, they’re more likely to positively evaluate a product they learned to love as a child. It’s as if their mushy, impressionable child brain returns to block their ability to think like a full-grown adult.”

While The Atlantic’s interpretation of the study is interesting we also believe there are fundamental motivators responsible for brands that achieve this lifelong spot for consumers.

To that point we analyzed six brands that have made an impression on young consumers that has lasted into adulthood and the values that drive their continued loyalty.

brand loyalty chart

Each of these now iconic brands have engaged with consumers through the values consistent with their unique brands.

  • Quaker Oats has been a staple for over 100 years, and even though its prominence rises and falls consumers know that it’s an affordable, convenient product they can trust.
  • The Simpson’s run is now legendary, and it’s because it appeals to our need for fun and escape and continues to stay current with pop culture and political references.
  • Nike was the first shoe for some kids, and the brand’s continued focus on cool and what it takes to compete keeps it top of mind.
  • There’s a good chance that if, as a kid, you rooted for a football team like The Packers, you’re still a fan no matter where in the country you live.
  • Annie’s Mac & Cheese hit the golden triangle of convenience, natural and quality at a time when natural and organic were exploding.
  • Patagonia hooked you with quality outdoor clothing and has never strayed from their core brand of sustainability.

From a broader perspective, the results from 2 slightly different Metametrix searches show fundamentals to be the path to success – starting young and starting early. The Concepts, or themes, offer multiple brand development topics to explore. However, the Values are directly aligned.

Concepts from a search on Brand Loyalty Starts Young identify the top 10 themes including the importance of social media, building brand personality and employees.

brand loyalty starts young concepts

And the Values are the evergreens of brand-building.

brand loyalty starts young- values

Searching on Brand Loyalty Starts Early, a different perspective, the Concepts shift for additional examination for the elements in building brand strategy at a younger age but also “early in the process.”

brand loyalty starts early- concepts

And the Values are consistent with solid brand strategies

brand loyalty starts early - values