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.