We all have products we love and places we like to do business. My admiration for Fluevog, for example, is well documented. But I have favourite products in just about every category. Mascara – Benefit Roller Lash. Electronics – Apple (and yes, I know it’s a cult). Skin Care – Vichy. Inexpensive bubbles – Le Petit Royale. Jeans: None.
I’m passionate about the products I love. And very, very loyal. Of course my enthusiasm doesn’t have the same influence as Oprah’s Favorite Things, but my preferences really matter to me. They tell my story.
Vanity Fair has a feature called “My Favorite Things”. VF asks someone, usually a behind-the-scenes influencer, about his or her favourite products in a number of categories: sheets, shampoo, sneakers, jeans, heels, handbags, etc. You get the idea. Even though I’ve never heard of most of the people interviewed in this section I find the responses are very revealing. I feel as if I know something about the person based on their responses.
None of us is immune from telling our own story with the choices that we make with our wallets. Even people who claim to be anti-logo or anti-brand have their own uniform. I bet if I said “farmer‘s market, Birkenstock, Prius, local coffee shop, Patagonia” you could conjure up as a clear an image of someone just as easily as if I had said “Canada Goose, Hunter, LuluLemon, David’s Tea, Coach, Tiffany, Audi.”
The brands we choose say something about how we want to be seen by others and how we relate to the world around us. Often we are communicating our aspirations through our choices. Or maybe, we are trying to fit in. Others still use their brand choices to "articulate" their difference.
A few years ago a woman won $1 million playing “Chase the Ace“ in Nova Scotia. According to the report, she continued to shop at Walmart. In an interview she said it was because she didn’t want the money to change her. She was invested in her self-identity as someone who is value-conscious and down-to-earth and Walmart supported that understanding of herself.
I’m not saying this is a good thing (or a bad thing) I'm simply reporting the reality of life in the 21st Century. These companies have invested years developing identities that are instantly understood by the public in general and provide emotional connections for their core customers. Critically, these companies know and understand their customers.
"The Loudest Voice", a 2019 Showtime series documenting the creation of Fox News and the fall of its founder, has shown how knowing the end-user audience connects to financial outcomes. In the first episode of the series the following exchange takes place between Fox Founder Roger Ailes and a NewsCorp executive:
RA: One question. Who is your audience?
Exec: Everyone. We want to reach the widest audience possible.
RA: Well I think that’s wrong. You don’t need everyone
Exec: Excuse me?
RA: ... We need to program directly to the viewer who is predisposed to buying what we’re selling.
Fox has been extremely successful by objective measures. For example, it has been the number one rated cable news channel from 2003 - 2019.
The Fox example demonstrates that successful companies understand their audience and find meaningful ways to connect with them. This is the formula to financial success through retention/loyalty.