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The swinging pendulum of loyalty
During the 1980s when brand managers were writing their annual brand plans, it was assumed that growth in market share would be achieved by getting more consumers to buy your particular brand (George et al., 1994). The loyalty of your existing purchasers, particularly heavy users, was considered a given and much of the marketing budget was devoted to attracting new users to buy your brands at the local supermarket, through TV advertising and sales promotion techniques. In other words, by making the brand available and informing consumers of its unique selling proposition - which was usually attributable to product function or product imagery and sometimes both (U.P.G.A., 1967) - the expectation was that consumers would be sufficiently convinced to place their trust in the brand and make the purchase.
For some very strong brands, this rather mechanistic approach can still work today (King, 1991). For instance, no-one would argue that Mars bars, in the confectionery market, or Andrex toilet tissue will not continue to dominate their existing market categories for the foreseeable future using traditional marketing approaches. However, for the majority of brands that sit on the supermarket shelf, today's consumers no longer feel the same deference towards them that motivated yesterday's consumers to remain loyal (Christopher, 1996). In fact, the pendulum has swung full tilt in the opposite direction.
During the 1990s, the effects of consumer pressure groups and organized boycotting of products and services has been felt in most boardrooms across Europe. The recent Brent Spar incident, in which Shell senior management chose to ignore the very vociferous wishes of consumers regarding disposal of the oil platform, resulted in forecourt picketing across Europe (Anon., 1995). This concerted consumer action led to a significant loss in petrol sales and an untold erosion in customer equity before the company did a volte face and acquiesced to its customers' demands. Similarly, the Hoover "free flights" debacle in 1991 - in which the company was slow to honour an incentive purchase scheme - cost Maytag in the region of [pounds]50 million in cash payouts to dissatisfied consumers who sought legal redress. The inept handling of the promotion and the force of the consumer response eventually precipitated the sale of the European brand name to Candy for a knockdown price. Currently, Marks & Spencer management are involved in litigation over a television programme which alleged that they were sourcing St. Michael products from developing countries which use child labour. They have distributed a leaflet to consumers throughout all their stores, categorically denying the accusation, recognizing the …