Creatures of habit

People pretty much are creatures of habit.

Inasmuch as they are set in an unvarying routine, this affects their conduct in the marketplace.

Restaurants that cater to migrants, whether they come from exotic parts of the globe or different parts of North America, reflect that.

They are not merely for connoisseurs of fine foods, but they also confirm that people retain their preferences for the kinds of food they grew up eating.

Recently on British television an immigrant from Nigeria complained the London school board did not provide plantain her son was used to eating for lunch in Nigeria, an extreme example of customer loyalty.

Consumption patterns for food are striking examples of widespread, deep loyalty to products.

In blind tests carried out here, people were unable to tell apart their favourite from a seemingly identical alternative, yet customers insisted on buying their usual brand. This was particularly the case with cigarette companies over the years.

Some products have such brand loyalty that their product’s name is almost generic – for instance, Kleenex or Jell-O. Advertising alone cannot explain this attachment to a brand, but rather usage over a number of years.

People who grew up in Quebec almost always choose the local beer. Regional picks remain popular even though the consumer no longer may live in that region, still loyalty did fade after a considerable interval.

All this has important implications. This habit formation may also lead politicians and economists to think that previous patterns are applicable at the present time. What worked in the past may not necessarily be appropriate later on.

Universities count on graduates to be loyal and fund the institution.

This “brand loyalty” extends to voting traditions. People from a predominantly Liberal province are inclined to vote for that party even when they move away.

It is astonishing and unfortunate that the public remains attached to theories that have become outmoded or to military strategy that no longer is appropriate. France’s reliance on the Maginot line in the Second World War is an example of adherence no longer relevant.

If people adjusted promptly to altered circumstances, perhaps fresh thinking would emerge that would be of benefit to us all.

Meanwhile, customers will continue to buy their preferred brand, for no sensible reason.


Bruce Whitestone