Writing - Property & Shopping Centres

Rob Rodell

My book, "Brand Loyalty is Bullshit," will be launching soon. I will keep you posted!

This blog is not necessarily meant to be controversial, but it is meant to challenge conventional thinking, and call into question several pernicious myths about marketing.

The first of these is the concept of brand “loyalty.” If you are trying to create loyal fans of your shoppers, then you are steering your aeroplane directly into a range of mountains, and you are about to crash and burn.

The marketing fraternity – shopping centre or otherwise – is split down the middle on the issue of brand loyalty. Let’s look at what loyalty actually is – it’s defined as unfettered devotion to an object of desire. But look in a marketing dictionary, and suddenly the meaning of the word changes to “frequent use of a product or service,” or something equally innocuous.

So if you are walking down the road holding your girlfriend’s hand, and every time you walk past a nice looking chick, you start to wolf whistle and tell your cherry that you really dig this other girl walking past you, is that a sign of your ‘loyalty’ to her? More than likely it’s a recipe for a good slap. Likewise, if you frequently use a boy for services rendered, and then go back to your boyfriend and profess that he is the one you are loyal to, well that would make you a tart.

The truth is, brand loyalty does not exist. Branding guru David Aaker’s books will tell you that loyalty is one of the four cornerstones of brand equity, but that too is a misnomer. Somebody who lives in Century City in Cape Town is probably likely to go to Canal Walk, because it is close to where they live. But they could just as easily jump in their car and go to Tyger Valley, CapeGate or the V&A. How then does this make them ‘loyal’ to Canal Walk?

It’s far more useful to accept that shoppers may like your centre an awful lot, and they may prefer it to others. Well then call the spade a blinking shovel – that is brand preference, not brand “loyalty.” And be sure of this: the minute a better option comes along that is perceived as better, people will switch brands. Just ask N1 City – it may still be a successful centre because it has had to reposition itself in the shadow of Canal Walk, but please don’t delude yourself that people are still “loyal” to it and would rather shop there than at Canal Walk.

Read on to find out what you can do about this great marketing dilemma.

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