Is Your Company a Life-Long Partner, or a Short-Term Fling?

Modern Marketing


Five years I ago, I fell in love with a body wash. Our romance began when one of the most captivating commercials I had ever seen came on:  Old Spice’s now-famous “Your Man Could Smell Like” body wash ad. It was entertaining, visually appealing, and somehow managed to mock itself while seeming attractive. I was completely infatuated.

To watch the ad on YouTube, click here.

Last week on the blog, we talked about brand loyalty. Well, Old Spice was actually the first product that I made a conscious decision to purchase based on brand. The body wash represented who I wanted to be – creative, handsome, funny, and self-deprecating. I followed their ads religiously and tried all their different body washes. But then, just like a high school crush, my love for Old Spice faded away.

I was recently reminded of this youthful fling when Old Spice’s newest radio ad popped up on my Spotify station. It made me wonder why Old Spice and I had grown apart. More broadly, it made me wonder why brand loyalty, even when it’s strong, doesn’t always last.

Why Old Spice was the Fling and Why Dove is My Lover

When it comes to dating, most people fall into one of two categories: the hot fling you fall head-over-heels for, right away, and then your partner for life. With the first, you might have insane chemistry. That person is all you can think about – until the romance burns out. The second kind of romance is less overwhelming, but more likely to last.

Sometimes, our relationships with brands aren’t so different. Old Spice was the hot guy at the party that I obsessed over, but despite how cool and handsome he was, our relationship just didn’t last. After Old Spice, I met Dove body wash, and the two of us are in it for the long-haul.

So why are Dove and I so happy together? And why did Old Spice and I part ways?

Are You Growing Old With Me?

The first question a company should ask itself is: “Will my brand evolve as my customers mature?” One reason that I gave up Old Spice was that brand didn’t suit my older self. A company can choose whether or not it grows with its core audience, just like a partner chooses to grow old with their significant other. But a company can also choose to be the hot guy or girl at the party, continuing to meet people at the same stage in their lives.

Companies that choose to mature with their audience will need to focus their marketing around customer service and customer loyalty; their brand messaging should project trustworthiness and reliability. For these brands, product quality is often equally or more important than advertising.

If a company wants to maintain customers in a static demographic (say, college students with sarcastic senses of humor), they will have a whole different set of marketing priorities. Because the core audience will age out of their demographic, these companies will need to focus on new customer acquisition and attention-grabbing advertisements. Advertising may matter more than product quality, because the customer’s relationship with your product is inherently limited.

Do You Meet My Needs?

I have dry skin. At a certain point, because of my skin problems, I no longer cared about being cool or funny or creative – I cared about product quality.

I chose Dove because it positions its brand around the word “Moisture”. This is a subtle, but important point:  I didn’t choose Dove because I knew Dove to have the best line of men’s body wash for dry skin. For all I knew, Dove’s body wash had exactly the same ingredients as Old Spice’s. But because Dove’s messaging contains frequent use of the word “moisture”, I perceived that Dove would meet my needs better than Old Spice. As it turned out, Dove’s product quality was up to the task. Their body wash comes with “moisture beads”, whatever those are, and they worked for my skin. So I made the switch.

Here’s a simple product management chart that companies sometimes use to determine their product/service’s ability to meet customer needs.  In the left-hand column, you list customer pain points; on the right-hand side, list the features of your product/service that can address those pain points.

body wash pain points

Value perception graphs can also come in handy. Here’s an example:

product chart

On the X axis, write the different categories you need to compete in, or the different pain points you are trying to meet. Next,  rate how well you address those pain points on a scale from 0 to 12. You can also map your competitors against yourself so you can see where your perceived value propositions lie.

Did I Make the Right Choice?

Analogy aside, our relationships with products are different than personal relationships in one very important way – unlike personal relationships, which are often messy to end, we can switch our preferred brand, no hard feelings, at the drop of a hat.

As marketers, we have the choice to either build loyalty with one audience over time, or to focus on new business within a consistent demographic range. There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s all about what’s best for your brand. I’m happy with my choice to switch to Dove, but I’ll never forget my affair with Old Spice.

What brands have you made life-time commitments to, and which have you outgrown? Marketers, does your company market to a static demographic, or do you mature alongside your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.