It’s no secret that brand loyalty often stems from familiarity. Coca-Cola has always pumped millions of dollars into its advertising campaigns and is the biggest-selling soft drink in history, along with being one of the best-known products in the world. It’s not always obvious to some people why they do this; why would a multi-billion dollar company need to spend so much in advertising? Surely most people know what Coca-Cola is? Well, that’s true. Coca-Cola is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. The reason for this is because
they spend so much on their advertising. It’s their huge ad campaigns, including the hotly-anticipated annual Christmas Coca-Cola advert, that keep cola drinkers spending their money on the Coca-Cola brand, rather than competitors such as Pepsi.
To prove how important branding really is, experimenters have, over the years, conducted a series of blind tests with Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Challenge Pepsi was a long-running blind taste to see which cola participants preferred the taste of. Results showed that Pepsi was generally preferred by the participants. However, more people still claimed that Coca-Cola was their brand of choice, despite the experiment proving that Pepsi’s taste was more popular. Similar experiments have taken place where the labels on some bottles of Coca-Cola and Pepsi were switched, and participants generally expressed a preference for the drink labelled as Coca-Cola, regardless of which drink was actually in the bottle.
Coca-Cola: Always the real thing?
So what does this mean? For a start, it means that the participants, who claimed to prefer Coca-Cola, weren’t necessarily basing their opinions on the taste, which should surely be the most important element of a soft drink? This must mean, then, that they were basing their preference on something else, and this ‘something else’ is most likely the perception that Coca-Cola is the leading brand; therefore must be the best tasting. This is the placebo effect, whereby the participants believing they were drinking Coca-Cola led them to think that it was the better tasting drink.
Exposure to Coca-Cola
The reason the participants showed so much brand loyalty towards Coca-Cola is the constant exposure to the brand. Coca-Cola adverts, from logos on newsagents' windows to magazine campaigns, tend to be far more widely spread than those of its closest rival, Pepsi, and so this is what people are familiar with. Think about it this way: You arrive in a foreign country where you have no grasp of the language. You have been bombarded with adverts for soft drink A ever since you stepped off the plane. You have now reached the hotel and are thirsty. You’re presented with soft drink A and soft drink B, for which you have seen no advertising. Which are you more likely to choose?
Memory refreshment and positive association
Coca-Cola works on the same principle. Almost everyone knows what it is, but by refreshing our memories with widespread advertising and positive association, we can’t forget about it, and it remains a familiar brand. Coca-Cola’s ad campaigns have always focused on ‘realness’, with slogans such as ‘Always the real thing’, suggesting that its rivals, such as Pepsi, are ‘not real’ colas. If ‘realness’ is associated with Coca-Cola, and not Pepsi and other rivals, people are more likely to opt for Coca-Cola when given a choice. Coca-Cola also has a traditional family image, which people can associate with happy times at Christmas, for instance. When pitched against the comparatively little-advertised Pepsi, people tend to express a preference for Coca-Cola as the brand they are more familiar with, in turn creating brand loyalty.
Holidays are coming
But it’s not just the advertising that makes Coca-Cola the globally recognised brand it is today. It’s all the other brand touchpoints, too: the use of red and white; the contoured bottle; the globally consistent message; the strong links to the holiday season. It is all of these things, and more, which evoke an emotional response in those loyal to the brand, and make them reach for Coca-Cola over all the other similar products on a shelf.
Getting familiar with customers
This example shows that branding can be just as important, if not more so, than the product itself. Familiarity creates a sense of affinity between the customer and the brand, so with the right marketing campaign, customers will feel more loyal towards your brand.