Although one recent Edleman study (cited earlier this week) argues that purpose is more powerful than a brand, another study recently conducted by the Marshall School of Business (USC) suggests the opposite. A well constructed brand relationship can run so deep that consumers will experience separation anxiety if they are forced to buy a competing brand.
In fact, the new study suggests that a bond between a product and a consumer can be so strong, they will be willing to sacrifice time, money, energy, and reputation to maintain their attachment. The reasoning fits well within the conversation presented last week, proving that brand attachment isn't consumption based but rather the consumer seeing the brand as an extension of themselves.
The power behind the study is that it is not a survey.
Social media has made it all too easy to do spontaneous crowd sourcing. And while I maintain that information is useful, it does not always mean it is accurate. People lie, even when they don't mean to.
So, when the Edleman survey asks whether people will give up a brand if another brand is willing to do more good, their sensibilities take a holiday and say "yes." The reality is that most would not, with exception to extreme cases where the brand has done something that makes it impossible to identify it as an extension of themselves.
Without relying on what people say, the USC study indicates that traditional measurements such as brand attitude and strength do not adequately explain consumers' intense loyalties to the brands they love. Specifically, consumers fall in love with brands because they literally capture their hearts and minds. The entire study is available at USC Marshall.
Reflecting back on the Edleman study, it seems more likely that as people see brands as an extension of themselves they want those brands to share the same values. And lately, people are more interested in doing good. And that is a very good thing.