Brand loyalty is a myth. Here's what it's been confused with

For CNET Now What, we talk to Adweek's Lisa Lacy about brand habit versus loyalty.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

"Brand loyalty" is pretty much the gold standard of product marketing, but what if it's all a crock? Now what?

Adweek's Lisa Lacy recently wrote "there is no brand loyalty beyond obsessed superfans," and said the pandemic laid that truth bare as consumers readily switched brands and channels in an instant as the pandemic demanded.

"There is a distinction between loyalty and habit," Lacy tells CNET's Brian Cooley. She referred to work done by Americus Reed, professor of marketing at Wharton, who posits that brand loyalty is hard to measure and even harder to tease apart from simple habit. "Habit is when customers buy brands over and over again because they're fine and serve a need," Lacy says. Hardly the passion many brands assume of their customers.

Grocery aisle indecision

What looks like loyalty to a brand can be upset rather quickly when any sort of unusual pressure is placed on consumers. Price, availability and basic confidence can be all it takes to shake a consumer's habit.


Another trap may be assuming that every product category is a place where brands can achieve loyalty. "Not all product categories lend themselves to (loyalty)," says Lacy. "There are a lot of products you buy regularly but don't necessarily have an emotional connection to. Something like paper towels is probably a harder sell."

If this relative indifference was lurking beneath the surface, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have exposed it. Overnight, consumers found the products they needed across any brand or channel that could deliver, and now the question will be how many stick with those newfound habits. Lisa Lacy and Brian Cooley discuss that and much more about brand loyalty in the full video above. 


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.