As marketers, we want to work to build one of those iconic brands. A brand people love. You know... Apple. A brand that customers would walk across hot shards of iPhone screens to buy. The brand customers simply can't and won't live without.
However, the idea that people love brands and they are hopelessly devoted to them is—brace yourself—false.
I know, heresy... right?
But think about it. What brands do you love? I mean, really love. What product or service category would you absolutely positively not cheat on? In other words, if you love Coke but all the restaurant has is Pepsi, will you still drink a soda? For most people, the answer would be "yes."
In the book How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp makes the compelling case that marketers' perceptions of how sticky brands are is very much overblown. His research shows that if Brand A has, say, 23% market share, that does not mean 23% of people always buy the product and never buy from another brand. Sometimes, they buy another brand. And sometimes, other customers buy Brand A, and it works out that 23% of purchases are of Brand A.
Consider something you buy frequently—maybe the brand of soap you buy. I always buy Dove soap; but it isn't love, it's habit. It works, it's fine. If the company went out of business tomorrow, I'd recover. Think about your favorite beer. (I suspect you have one.) But is it the only beer you ever buy?
If you're lucky, and successful, your brand is like that—popular. Which is awesome in itself.
So how do you let go of the idea that your customers will truly fall in love with your brand and that it will maintain that lofty position, and instead accept the idea that you will achieve some positive (but likely incremental) growth?