stuck in neutral
Posted by Abe Sauer on October 21, 2009 05:58 PM
As if the auto industry needed more bad news. The New York Times points out that this year, "only about 20 percent of car shoppers stayed with the same brand when they purchased a new vehicle."
Ford Motor Company’s head of marketing, James Farley, explained part of the reason why "churn" is the new brand standard for autos: "Brand loyalty has shrunk because of widespread improvements in the products. The ‘trust factor’ is more or less the same for most cars.” That is to say, nobody sticks with their Ford anymore out of fear that the Toyota will explode and kill them. (Though a recent study of brand loyalty found Ford strong, with six of the top 10 vehicles for customer brand loyalty.)
One brand that's actively managing this recent brand loyalty erosion is Honda. While other companies promote the hybrid, "green" diesel, "smart" and aspirational qualities of their individual models, Honda has launched a full-on, capital-B Branding campaign focused on brand loyalty. The commercials feature a selection of Honda owners with the message "everyone knows somebody who loves their Honda."
But what's bad for one auto brand may be good for another. What "decline of brand loyalty" really means here is "increase in buyers being picky." Consumers feel empowered to show around and compare what they are buying instead of zombie-walking, arms outstretched, into the same dealership their grandfather went to. A case study auto brands may want to start with is Washington Post’s Alan Sloan and his recent column: “Saturn and Me: GM Loses a Customer.”