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The Psychological Difference Between Repeat Purchase & Brand Loyalty


Explaining the psychological difference between repeat purchase and brand loyalty.

When consumers become committed to a brand and make repeat purchases over time, they are brand Loyalty customers. This phenomenon is a result of consumer behavior and is affected by a person’s preferences. Loyal customers will consistently purchase products from their preferred brands, regardless of convenience or price.

Brand loyalist

A great example of the sociological reasons why people will go to great lengths to purchase a brand is Apple computer and its Mac products. In this case, the brand becomes a prestige product, in that it makes the one who owns it feel good. Some people think Apple really over-prices their products,  yet because the psychological and emotional value attached to it, price doesn’t matter. Consumers attribute high value to these computers and mobile devices, so much so that their personal sense of well-being and social standing improves.

Consumers stay with a brand because it feels safe, or familiar, or it reminds them of an event, a person or a place. At other times, it is because they tested the product and know it is a good product.


Overcome consumer fear

Another sociological element is when consumers don’t buy unknown brands due to lack of trust. People fear what they don’t know, so this is the reason why companies will often use different marketing strategies to cultivate loyal customers through loyalty programs (i.e. rewards programs), or trials and incentives (ex. samples and free gifts), to get consumers to use or consume their products, in the hopes that they will become familiar with them and turn into repeat customers.

Types of Buyers

So the difference between Brand loyalty and Repeat purchase costumes is that brand consumers don’t care if the product is really worth that much money – they just want it. They are technically under the same spell as being in love, and love is blind some say. Some might argue the product is lacking in some usability, yet the brand loyalist won’t care about this and will continue the love affair because it just feels so good!

Repeat Buyers

In contrast, Repeat consumers will continue using a brand or product based on the name, but their love has conditions and is not totally blind. They also seek quality,  the value and benefits of the product offer (like good consumer service), the convenience of the location, and many times they choose the brand because of the price. Some (groups) repeat consumers love bargains and low prices. One successful example of repeat costumers based on prices is The Dollars stores (.99 cents stores).

People who love bargains will keep coming back even if the quality is not that good.

From Consumer to Loyalist 

How can a company market to each type of buyer and transition them from casual buyers, or even repeat buyers, to brand loyalists? — One company that has been successful in doing this, again, is  APPLE.

Loyalists are excited about news from the brand, new content put out. They follow their brand on social channels. They are advocates on behalf of the brand, and they are current customers.

So companies should create marketing and advertising campaigns geared towards obtaining this. There is no “follow this checklist” and you’ll have a band of loyalists at your door. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it’s different for each brand. However, there are some things that are important for each brand to consider as they figure out what works best for them. Some suggested general recommendations could be as follows:

  • Having transparency: Consumers are very smart nowadays. They will only fall in love with a product or service if they trust it 100%. Sooner or later the consumers will find out the truth about a new product or service.
  • Having the best consumer service: I’m a sucker for that. I will always, 100% of the time, choose a company that shows they care for my best interests and they are always available to listen and help, opposed to a company with a good product but poor consumer service.
  • Social media to make that personal connection: Companies have it good in this department. Social media has explored this and there is a direct communication channel now available to this type of practice.
  • Consistency: I think this is one that people find safer than anything. They know that if what is promised will be delivered and that consumers can count on the same values or quality and will be consistent with the company’s mission statement and policies, etc.
  • Lastly and the most important GENTRIFICATION

Brand Gentrification:

Two great examples of brand gentrification: Starbucks and Wholefoods. If you think about it, Starbucks is not the only coffee shop in your town or city. In fact, if you visit Seattle, you can find way better places than Starbucks, but what makes people like Starbucks so much?  Simple answer: Educated, hip, and wealthy people visit Starbuck. The prices of coffee at Starbucks are high, which in the eyes of consumers translates to high quality. High-quality perception—even if the product it is not– is the gold mine tough to achieve, but once a product or company managed to achieve it, the sky is the limit. So Starbucks has consolidated a brand loyalty based.

Wholefoods in the other hand, not only created gentrification through a supermarket that looks more like a gourmet place than a supermarket but also by providing high quality and organic products.Even though there has been a controversy of over-pricing of products, people continue to shop at Wholefoods for the experience of walking into a place where only wealthy people can afford. In a sense, these places leave consumer feel they are part of a higher class.

So for those companies who want to achieve brand gentrification, they should do the following:

a) Target wealthy demographic. In this case, higher income neighborhoods

b) Do sele products that have good quality

c) Find endorsements that can be pushed your brand to the correct target market

d) Be ready to sell at high price, and make sure people can perceive your product as high quilty.

The downside of gentrification in products

The downside is when low-quality products are branded as higher guilty. For sure gentrification and brand loyalty can be achieved by hocking people up, and then bait and switch the product quality,  but sooner or later consumers– or bad press– can destroy the entire brand.

Other brands have achieved brand loyalty through gentrification and don’t even need to provide high quality. This is the example of Luis Benton handbags. Most of the product lines are made out of plastic, made in China. Why do people buy these bags at such of the high price?

If you are interested in reading more about Luxury brands and how they work, read this article:

Six must dos for successful luxury goods marketing

In conclusion, there are more variables of the sociological reasons why a repeat consumer will continue using the same service or purchasing the same product. In contrast, the brand loyalty consumers’ sociological reasons are more narrow to the brand and the social prestige and sociological effects this one produces, such as feeling cool or feeling as the product enhances their value as a person. Brand loyalty consumers don’t focus so much on the tangible benefits that the product or service produces (save money, electric car saves gas, etc), as the repeat consumer does.




Cited: Geist, D. P. (2013, August 31). Speaking of Business.(Acala, Ed.) Retrieved from Standing out in the crowd, why branding is important!:

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