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Only 1 in 5 American adults say they tend to be loyal to specific brands and largely buy from them repeatedly, while one-third like to try out different products even when they know there’s one they like. So reports Morning Consult in a study entitled “What Drives Brand Loyalty Today” [download page].

The research points out that there are certain consumer segments that appear to be more brand-loyal than others.

Among those are affluents (people with at least $100k in annual income): 29% of these respondents say they tend to be loyal to specific brands, versus 19% of respondents overall.

Affluents are most apt to associate the words “high quality” with brands or companies they’re loyal to, with 94% saying that’s the case (versus 88% of respondents overall). More than 9 in 10 affluents also associated the words “reliable” (93%) and “well priced given the quality” (91%) with their loyalty, in both cases at a slightly higher rate than the adult average.

Affluents are also more likely than adults overall to associate the term “innovative” with their loyalty, but far less likely to think of loyalty in terms of something being “inexpensive.”

Older Adults Less Likely to Try New Products

The study also finds an interesting discrepancy in behavior when sorting by age. Respondents were asked to choose which of two statements best describes their view:

  • “When I find a product I like, I tend to buy it repeatedly;” or
  • “I like to try out different products, even when I know there’s one I like.”

Although only 49% of Gen Z (18-21) respondents said they tend to buy a product repeatedly when they find one they like, that figure increased with age, to 59% of Millennials, 67% of Gen Xers, and 75% of Boomers.

Do Millennials’ Brand Loyalty Drivers Differ?

When thinking about brands and products that they’re loyal to, the largest share of adults overall (70%) said that reliability and/or durability is very important in contributing to their loyalty.

Next on the list, the quality being high given the price is a very important brand loyalty driver for 55% of respondents.

These results match up with an earlier report from Morning Consult based on the same survey, that focused on Millennials (ages 22-37). In that report, 68% of Millennials said that reliability/durability was very important to their brand loyalty, and 54% said the same about the quality being high given the price.

While the top drivers of brand loyalty matched up, some variances emerge when comparing the results from this report with the earlier one focused on Millennials:

  • Positive customer service interactions are very important to 50% of Millennials, versus 42% of adults overall;
  • The ethical and moral standards of the company are very important to 42% of Millennials, compared to 30% of respondents overall; and
  • Having always purchased from a company (a matter of habit or routine) is very important to 25% of Millennials, versus 17% of adults overall.

Why Do People Abandon Brands They Were Once Loyal To?

Fully two-thirds (65%) of adults report having stopped buying from a brand they were once loyal to. Asked which of 7 primary reasons were responsible for that decision, by far the largest percentage (34%) of respondents said that it was due to the quality of the products or service decreasing. That was a much greater motivator for abandoning brand loyalty than the price of the products going up (19%), emphasizing again how quality appears to be a greater brand loyalty lever than price.

Again, though, these responses differed by demographic group. Gen Z respondents (ages 18-21) are actually about as likely to have stopped being loyal to a brand due to the price going up (28%) as to the quality going down (27%). By contrast, Gen Xers are about twice as likely to have abandoned their loyalty on the basis of quality (38%) than price (20%).

For Millennials, a customer service issue was as likely to be the primary reason behind the loss of brand loyalty as the price of the products going up.

And among affluents, increasing price mattered less than a customer service issue. Disagreement over a political position the brand took has also been as great of a reason for abandoning loyalty as an increase in price. Nonetheless, a decrease in the quality of the product or service was by far the greatest reason for affluents losing loyalty to a brand, with affluents tagging this reason more than other adults.

The full report is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted in early August 2018 among 2,202 US adults (18+).

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