Loyalty? Or habit?

16 Jan, 2018

The Christmas break is not just a break from work. For most of us it represents a break from routines, from the ebb and flow of daily life.

We eat differently, sleep differently and shop differently.

It reminded me that so much of our lives are down to habit and particularly the more commercial aspects. So, do we become less loyal to our usual brands over the Christmas period or are we just breaking habits?

Loyalty is a very over-used word in business and particularly in marketing: brand loyalty, customer loyalty, loyalty schemes, loyalty cards.

But is loyalty really the right word?

The reframing of customer loyalty as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) may be a small improvement, but is a relationship really at the heart of our commercial behaviour?

Or is it just ‘habit’ dressed-up to sound more positive?

‘Habit Management’ doesn’t sound so appealing but at both the category and brand level it is vital to most brands’ short and long-term success.

A quick quiz for you.

Ask yourself…. loyalty or habit?

At the category level?




Utilities company

Training shoes





Football team

Now, at the brand level?



Nat West




Kellogg’s Cornflakes


Cancer Research Uk

Man Utd

Personally, I’m not sure how much loyalty comes into it (apart from your football team and maybe a charity).

At the category level, habit is certainly the driver (in the case of coffee, probably addiction more than habit). And at the brand level a short-cut to fulfil the habit without having to waste time making complicated choices.

But loyalty? Not really. If you break the habit, you’ll break the loyalty.

So, I’m suggesting an additional way of analysing categories and brands.

What creates the habit in the first place? How strong is the habit (a sub-conscious routine or an addiction)? How can my brand become part of the habit? How do we change habits? How do we strengthen the habit? How do we stop the habit being broken?