Inanimate Love Stories: Thoughts on Product Loyalty

My parents were married for 26 years. That entire time, if you opened our medicine cabinet, you'd find two tubes of toothpaste. My dad was an Aquafresh or die man, and Mom was a Colgate consumer. Never the twain shall meet, and over 3 decades of knowing each other, and two and a half of living together, neither would compromise on their preferred brand of toothpaste.

It seems bizarre, but as I get older I notice this about myself, as well. I use one brand of toothpaste (to be fair, I tried one or two others, particularly as a broke college student, but wasn't happy.) Until last week, I've used one brand of soap for the past thirteen years. When I think about it, other than with family, I haven't had a significant relationship with a HUMAN that lasted so long. The only reason I swapped soap was because my last visit with my mother, I noticed she was traveling with a new brand, and I had forgotten to pack my own. And so, in a random hotel shower, I used her soap. And fell in love with Oil of Olay. Oh, serendipity. Sorry, Caress. We had a good run. Thirteen years - that's longer than most marriages nowadays. It's not you, it's me. I'll remember you fondly.

And so I've been thinking about product and brand loyalty, and how much of it likely stems from liking something once, growing into the habit of continuing to buy and use it, and failing to experiment with other things, which is expensive, risky, and anxiety-inducing, as an unknown.

If, as libraries, we want our users to replace something else they've been using - the iTunes store, their local bookstore, Netflix, high-cost technology training, whatever other service you can think of - with our services, how are we making the switch an attractive one? How do we lessen the opportunity cost anxiety that happens when we ask folks to move from something habitual, easy and comfortable to something unfamiliar?

We should be thinking about product loyalty - how to generate it, and how to overcome it. It can be done, but we shouldn't be waiting on serendipity. We should be actively - and loudly - generating interest and the will to try our services in strangers who only don't love us because they don't know us.

We could be somebody's Colgate. Which means their children will be raised on us, know us and love us. And so on down the generational line. Just like toothpaste, only better.


As an oldie, it seems funny to me that in this day and age we can see the trechnologucal world as familiar and comfortable and libraries as strange! But then, I was fortunate to have been raised on libraries, to kniw and love them.

Nice to meet another poet/librarian, btw. (Although my own librarianship is long behind me now.)
Colleen said…
Rosemary - hello! Ah, I'm the same way. The public library was a constant presence when I was young - my mother brought me often since I read voraciously, and so i thought of it as a bookstore where everything was free. it was also just across the street from my high school, and I worked there summers and occasional nights when I got older.

And apparently there are quite a few of us poet-librarians. I think ALA's acrl humanities section (or whomever runs the les-l list) is collecting a list...
cognitive lock-in is not just an abstract concern, but one comes with real-world costs: "the costs associated with thinking about and using a particular product decrease as a function of the amount of experience a consumer has with it. Thus, repeated consumption or use of an incumbent product results in a (cognitive) switching cost that increases the probability that a consumer will continue to choose the incumbent over competing alternatives." This suggests that, even if a product isn't especially easy to use, familiarity with it may overcome that drawback as, ultimately, its users don't have to think about their actions in order to get things done anymore.

this is what i think.

well but you have got considerably- good observation
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