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Why Are We Loyal to Certain Brands?

Why Are We Loyal to Certain Brands?

[♪INTRO] A few years ago, Microsoft rolled out the
“Bing It On” challenge. You’d enter a search term and get side-by-side
comparisons of Google’s results page and Bing’s results page — both unbranded. Visitors to the site get to vote for the one
they like best. Of course, a lot of us know what Google looks
like. The idea, though, was that you might look
at Bing’s user interface and discover you liked it okay… or even better than Google. And, I mean, there are a lot of brands out
there that do basically the same thing as their competitor: Starbucks, Dunkin. Pizza Hut, Domino’s. Target, Walmart. I know to some of you those were fighting
words. I hope all you super Domino’s-loving people
don’t get mad at me for saying it’s basically Pizza Hut…or the other way around. I’m sure it’s different for you. So why do we care so much? Part of the answer seems to be social identification,
which is our sense of belongingness to a group. Brands become part of our identity — or
at least, part of the identity we aspire to. Think of the Mac vs. PC commercials that portrayed
Mac as a hip, young kid and PC as an old guy who couldn’t keep up. Or Canon Rebel ads, which seem to tell us
that we, too, can be outdoorsy and adventurous. With groups of people, social identification
has been found to increase our feelings of pride and self-esteem, and make us more willing
to cooperate with others in our group or donate to a cause. But it seems like we can identify with brands,
too, and that makes us more willing to trust and invest in them. That’s why companies make ads that seem
to share our values and aspirations. But while our attraction to and identification
with a brand seems to increase things like trust and word-of-mouth recommendations, it
doesn’t fully account for brand loyalty. Psychologists think another big part of brand
loyalty is habit. A lot of studies have shown that we prefer
things that are familiar. This is the mere exposure effect: the idea
that simply being exposed to something again and again makes us like it more. On top of that, there’s the sunk cost fallacy,
which is when we keep throwing money, time, or effort at something just because we’ve
already put a lot of money, time, or effort into it. Even if we might be better off with something
else. Basically, we’re not always very good decision-makers
when some sort of comfort or recognition is involved. Consider, for a moment, jam. The stuff you smear on toast. In a study from 2000 that’s become somewhat
famous, across two Saturdays, 502 shoppers at a grocery store encountered one of two
displays of jam: one with 6 flavor choices or another with 24. The display with more jams seemed more attractive
to shoppers. More of them approached it to try a sample. But the people with more choices ultimately
bought less jam. 30% of samplers at the six-flavor display bought jam, while only 3% at the 24-flavor
display did. The researchers recognized that there could’ve
been other factors, like different kinds of shoppers approaching different displays, or
people not having time to sample enough options to make a decision. But they did do two more experiments with
slightly different setups that involved choosing an essay prompt and picking chocolate from
either a big or small selection. And they generally found that people liked
having a lot of options, but the choice felt overwhelming and sometimes hard to manage. So, like, why bother with all the options? Choosing to buy the same products could help
you avoid things like uncertainty, stress, and the worry that you’re making the wrong
choice. But our brains seem to go even further: once
we get to know or like a product, we double down on it. A 2004 study had 67 participants do a couple
different taste tests of Coke and Pepsi. In anonymous tests, when the drinks weren’t
labeled, there were mixed preferences for Coke and Pepsi. Then, there was a taste test between Coke
that was labeled as Coke, and another mystery cup that contained Coke or Pepsi. And participants liked the labeled Coke better,
even when they expressed different preferences beforehand, or both cups had Coke inside them! These tests were repeated in an fMRI machine, and different regions of the brain were activated in each one. Anonymous trials activated the ventromedial
prefrontal cortex, which we think is involved in lots of things, including decision-making,
processing risk, and mood. Activity in that brain region was different
enough between drinking Pepsi and Coke that the researchers could even predict what participants
would say they preferred afterwards, based on taste. But trials with labeled Coke also affected
activity in other regions, like the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory,
and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which seems to be involved in working memory. The researchers concluded that different parts
of the brain seem to be involved with what participants thought tasted better, and what
they preferred because of cultural influences. Just labeling Coke seemed to activate more
memory-related brain regions and bias people’s judgments. It’s like the participants remembered things
about Coke’s brand, and those feelings had a bigger influence on their behavior than
tasting the sodas. This study’s results go hand-in-hand with
what’s called the choice-supportive bias: our tendency to remember good qualities of
brands we’ve chosen to like, and forget all the bad aspects of them. There’s even evidence that marketing messages
work better when they’re about a brand that we already like, which kind of makes sense. If we already like something, we want to rationalize
why. And ads are ready-made warm and fuzzy messages
that help with that. But when it comes down to it, brand loyalty
is only partially because of catchy jingles. It’s mostly all about us. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych! To learn more about the weird things our brains
do, you can go to and subscribe. [♪OUTRO]

Reader Comments

  1. I've heard before that advertisements don't work on today's generations (Y+Z), because we're inundated with them from a young age and learn to ignore them. Is that actually true or is it a myth?

  2. What about trust? Is that a factor? As in say, if you never had a bad experience with a brands product line, you return to it, trusting that the new model from them will be just as good, if not, better than the last.

  3. I wonder how this effects politics?
    I've seen a lot of people vote for their preferred brand of politic, instead of voting for the person behind the brand and their ideals and policies.

  4. 'Tis a required taste.

    I was a fan of Oreos and when I switched to a general brand version of Oreos it was horrible, but after a couple of days I realized it was actually enjoyable and now Oreos taste weird.

  5. I like Google better than Bing because Google brings up the most relevant results for me, and it has little to do with the interface. I use what just works well for me.

    As to the topic on hand, I use the brands that I've discovered work best for me, and I stay loyal to them until their products change enough to just stop working well for me, and then I start the cycle all over again. Plus, I try to go generic whenever I can to save a few bucks.

  6. I tend to just buy the best benefit/cost version of whatever I want to buy. Though I have wondered if buying off brands might be better… supporting local businesses and whatnot. Like purchasing Ma n Pa's cornflakes instead of Kellog's cornflakes.

  7. I'm loyal to a few brands:
    Logitech: Because on multiple ocasions, they gave me the best experience I've ever had with RMA-ing and tech support.
    Dewalt: Cordless Powertools only, I don't feel like buying different battery packs and chargers for other brands. Especially since I don't have a lot of space to store tools.
    Leatherman: One two separate occasions I broke my leatherman, walking into their store, and they just handed me a new one without any questions.

  8. I find it funny that researchers always "find out" that certain parts of brain activate when you do these activities and it's always on the news. Isn't that how the brain works?

  9. They could really confuse things by combining these tests with the ones where the decisions are made in public and everyone in the group is playing a part except for the one person who will go along with the group.

  10. I prefer Domino's over Pizza hut simply because Domino's is closer and cheaper to deliver even though their prices are similar. Cheaper delivery fee.

  11. because its 'tried and true'. you wouldn't want to have apprehension every time you try something new if its going to be same (quality) or not. like the brand consistently puts out something you like, why not?
    baseline its how people deal with changes.

  12. When it comes to food, I have very narrow tastes, so it's not really about brand loyalty so much as flavour familiarity. I know what I like and am risk averse to try anything new.

    But for other products, my rationale is generally, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If the thing I bought works well for me, then I consider it reliable and will stick to it until it fails me or my needs expand beyond their scope. Next time I need a new phone, I will likely stick to the same brand I have now, but only if they do what I need.

    I may not be typical.

  13. Switch "Pizza Hut" for "Papa John's" or whatever: Pizza Hut's crust & method of baking is very different from Dominoes', PJ's & the like. Using PH instead is like saying that "McDonald's & Arby's fries are the 'same'," instead of, maybe, "McD's & Wendy's" or whatever; seasoned curly fries are totally different from regular fries so you wouldn't say those are the 'same', would you?

  14. Cola and Pepsi tastes very different where I'm from acidity and sweetness level is noticeable. Cola has a stronger kick but is less complicated, Pepsi is softer and the sweetness is more prominent. Also REAL SUGAR YASSSSSS

  15. I find that brand loyalty gets more interesting the more complicated and expensive a product is. For instance, I am mostly loyal to Asus for computer products. But this isn't because I chose Asus and then just kept convincing myself it was the best. It's because I tried HP and Dell products before and had 1 bad experience with each of them and decided it was never worth buying another Dell or HP product. Now when I shop for anything PC related, those 2 brands are completely off the table for me, despite having had plenty of problems with my Asus products. The difference is that the Asus problems happened gradually and were more isolated. The HP and Dell problems were severe and catastrophic, causing me a lot of frustration and stress at once instead of a little frustration over many months.

    So it is not only brand familiarity, but also learned aversion to specific brands, that dictates my brand loyalty.

  16. It makes me wonder how much the choice-supportive bias effects people's loyalty to political parties. It's been shown that if both of your parents identify with the same party, there is a two-thirds chance that you will as well.

  17. I grew up poor and as a result, I will try every generic before resorting to name brand. I'd rather have those 100% authentic brand name US dollars.

    Oddly enough, I find I tend to dislike brand name dairy products. Kraft cheese (the real stuff, not the American slices) is chalky and bland, and Yoplait's nonfat and lowfat lines are disappointing.

  18. I think bias is a big part of it. People want to be correct and will distort reality to make them correct. They'll invent reasons why their choices are the correct ones, then continue to apply that logic the next time they make a purchasing decision. Any change implies that their choice was somehow wrong and they're bad at making choices. People tend to think this way even when it makes no sense – which is why we see so many heated arguments over extremely subjective things like music preferences.

  19. I try a lot of brands; and usually continue to buy only the quality ones. Some, like Campbell soup for example, has been in my life for as long as I have been alive. It is part of life, not just my choice.

  20. DUDE. Starbucks coffee tastes way better than Dunkin (which is on-par with McDonalds, all of which is WAY BETTER than 7-11). I'm not even a coffee snob, so I was surprised to learn that I can actually taste the difference. Also, Pizza Hut has better pan/deep-dish pizza, but their Gluten Free pizza tends to be contaminated, whereas Domino's Gluten Free Pizza has never given me issues. So if I could eat Gluten, I'd want Pizza Hut, but since I can't, Dominos. I can't personally comment on McDonalds vs. Burger King, but my husband says BK's grilled burgers taste way different (and better, and bigger, and has more fat). This isn't loyalty to the specific BRAND, it's just loyalty to BETTER TASTING FOOD. This is why my husband and I have "brand loyalty" – because we go somewhere expecting the yummy. If/When our "favored" brands start serving crap food, we stop being loyal.

    I'm not saying these effects (described in the video) aren't real, just that they don't pertain to EVERYONE at ALL TIMES. Which is kinda how the research tends to be presented.

  21. That is interesting, I don't think I would be watching psychology related videos, but since it's scishow and is hosted by hank green, I will. Familiarity is a powerful decision maker.

  22. I seem to be a weirdo in this regard. I can't think of a single brand that I consciously go back to time and time again. I could not tell you what brand of clothes I'm wearing at a given moment, even if my life depended on it. I have switched brand the last four times I bought a smart phone. I don't own a car, so I have no affiliations with a particular car brand. I play the guitar, but mostly play a custom guitar made by friend who is a luthier. I'm sure, that there are some brands that I'm unconsciously biased towards… but, in general I just don't seem to care about brands.

  23. There's also the element of risk aversion. If you buy brand X and it does what you wanted it to do, you're less inclined to try other brands because they might not, and you'll have wasted money. Even for trivial amounts of money.

  24. Ads are just reminders to buy a product? Guess that's why products no longer try to convince you to buy it, just make an impact to remind you to buy it.
    Also explains why they are becoming so terrible (ie: puppy monkey baby)

  25. That Bing vs. Google ad campaign they ran cracked me up because Bing had trouble finding what I wanted & would often bury the important stuff under unrelated junk, so ultimately Google won out every time. The search engine's accuracy has improved since then but I still think it was a dumb move on their part.

  26. I prefer Pepsi because it tastes less disgusting when it's warm. When they're both cold, they're both alright. Coke does seem to have more of a slimy, sugar mouth feel that I don't like.

  27. I can honestly say that I am more loyal to target then Walmart because Walmart just sucks like for example I pre-ordered this thing and two months later still hasn’t arrived and I am forced to cancel my order and get it off Amazon instead as at this point its out and has been fo 17 days. Target is just more reliable.

  28. Can you do a video on brad disloyalty ? like I personally always want to try different brands even of the same exact products and am sure am not the only one who does that.


  30. But coke and pepsi are different? Because coke was founded before the refrigerator and pepsi after so it only tastes the same when pepsi is cold and coke is warm…

  31. Why did you guys not even mention that I might be loyal to brands because I don't want to make a multivariable comparison every time I buy something complicated? For instance, I like apple because so far it has shown to be much more reliable than other brands. Off course I will be hard to convince otherwise, but that is mainly because I don't like having the same discussion over and over.

  32. I think psychologists need to tackle the disease of the mind that is isheep syndrome. Suffers experience crippling loss of analytical thinking and get scammed lots of money but can't stop.

  33. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title was "Apple products". People are so stupidly obsessed with their products, even if they're mediocre at best (yes I said it) and overpriced. People keep throwing their money at Apple, even when their phone screens break within a year or so. It's so weird to me; I'll buy the best phone brand on the market at the time, because competition is more convincing that brand identification to me.

  34. I never understood the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. For one, people's tastes can change over time. Plus, the two drinks, in my opinion, have their own times and places. Like, I prefer Coke when I’m at home but Pepsi at parties.

  35. This is a great explanation and take on Branding. I look at quality of a business and their product or service, but most importantly is their staff. I base my entire experience off their attitude. I can't wait for kiosk to check me out so I never have to deal with crappy attitudes and not getting the right order especially at restaurants!

  36. I thought this video might also discuss choosing a new kind of product when one of the items belongs to a brand the person knows already, and the other one to an unfamiliar one. A little disappointed it wasn't brought up

  37. I remember on one episode of Brain Games they talked about many options vs few options. They explained it using ice cream.

    In their example, there were two ice cream shops you could pick from. One had probably around 34 flavors and the other one only had around 5. On this show, they listed the flavors that each store had for sale. They then asked the audience which store they would pick to go to, and then predicted that most people would choose the more options store. But after that, they explained this slight paradox.

    All the while I sat there feeling smug because I had picked the first one because it was the only one with chocolate.

  38. Everything I buy has to be a specific brand and if it’s not I get anxiety. I always thought this was because I don’t like trying new things but looks like I was wrong.

  39. Growing up, I drank Pepsi. Rarely Coke. But I lived in the Middle East (where Pepsi is, at least from what I perceived, a lot more popular.) and now that I am in North America, I only drink Coke. Because traveling made me realize that Pepsi and Coke taste different depending on where you are in the world.

  40. I didnt really understand the last thing on people tending to ignore all the bad aspects of a brand. Can someone explain me how so?

  41. I'm loyal to brands that last a long time. I'm more likely to buy a pair of DCs or Adidas shoes when I have the money because they last years of abusive use as apposed to brands that only last a few months.

  42. I'm not susceptible to brand loyalty. Being an outlier makes me less interested in trending. The bandwagon effect has no effect on me. Well, I just bought a cheap rugged phone that the mainstream US-based tech reviewers don't even bother to mention because they don't serve a monetary purpose. 🤔🤔🤔

  43. Lotsa ppl here inadvertently showing their brand loyalty, whilst claiming to have none…. ie; explaining why such-and-such brand is crap, and such-and-such is better. #funnyshit

  44. It's not surprising that people like food better when they know what it is, as most might find the idea that it's poisoned distasteful.

  45. Why are we loyal to certain brands? Because capitalism directly incentivizes people to consume the most in order to be the best within whatever respective collectivized identity it might be. Brand loyalty is exclusive to a capitalistic economic system that convinces people 120 brands are all different choices rather than admitting 3 companies own all of that and the differences are non existent or down to lower quality/safety of the product. Capitalism is the problem. Not people. Capitalism directly manipulates our social interactions to turn everything we operate within, into a competition in which one group must be convinced that the other group is inferior. If you want to explore this more, go watch peter coffins documentary on collectivized identities and how thought leaders convince us that brand loyalty means freedom of choice.

  46. I have a question: I prefer Brit's videos over Hank's because I feel like she is speaking in a less frenetic way. While Hank narrates a lot of videos that are of more interest to me, I often have to take multiple silent breaks, keep lowering the volume, or switch to watching something unrelated to give my ears a break. Is this a form of brand loyalty with people? To clarify, if it's revealed that both of you have the same speech speed and timbre, then am I just "loyal" to one individual? Their voice?

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