A Word About Brand Loyalty

“Brand marketing is nothing more than mass seduction.” – M.D. Campbell

I only had one area of the large photo of the Waldorf Astoria hotel to retouch and then I was done. I could hand it off, get paid, and the restored photo would hang in the classic hotel. But, I still had to complete this last area.

My Paasche Turbo airbrush was too fine for such a large area. My workhorse, the Iwata HP-C and the Aztek were too general for an area like this. The one airbrush for this size was the Badger. That terrified me.

Iwata HP-C airbrush given to me at my high school graduation by my art teacher and friend, Ed Colley

I’d spent two days retouching this photo, and I was on the final area. The Badger was notorious for buildup in the chamber, no matter how much I cleaned it. I knew if I used it, there was a chance it could spit ink all over the photo. But, I just needed 20 seconds!

I loaded the color into the cup, clicked on the compressor, aimed the airbrush, and depressed the trigger to begin spraying. For 10 seconds, everything was fine. But, then, suddenly, I heard it. A slight gurgle that told me to get out – NOW!

But, it was too late. The acrylic paint was clogging the chamber, blocking the spray from being consistent and sure. Before I could pull my hand away, grayish-brown spit spattered across the photo. It was ruined.

Luckily, I had a backup copy of the photo, but that meant starting all over again. I was not happy. That was the last time I ever used a Badger product again.

In my professional career, there are only a few products I will never use again. Badger, being one of them and Logitech being another. Faulty products and terrible customer service will lose customers and generate a reputation that can last for years.

As a young artist, just learning, I bought a set of Windsor & Newton paints from the local art supply shop in my area. They weren’t cheap, but I didn’t want low-grade paints. I wanted the higher, artist grade paints I’d seen in magazines. Yet, the only paints the store carried were the Windsor & Newton and they were great!

For years, I used their watercolors and gouache paints, learning and experimenting and developing my loyalty to this particular brand.

Years later, however, I discovered that there were other brands of paints that offered a whole different experience. I began to question my loyalty to Windsor & Newton and explore the other brands.

One of those brands was M. Graham paints, which I’ve only been using for a few years. I started with a few tubes, then bought a couple of sets, and eventually built a set of 12 full pans, which I really enjoy.

However, over time, I collected a few more tubes and found myself wanted to expand my 12-pan set to accommodate all the new colors.

So, using some spare empty pans, I chose to re-tool my 12-pan set and use my old, 1940’s Chesterfield cigarette tin to create a 25-full pan set for all the colors in my M. Graham set. I showcase this in my recent video.

Unlike other brands of watercolor paint, M. Graham paints are sticky, easy to re-wet, have a ton of pigment and even kind of smell funky! It’s widely known that M. Graham paints can often smell like rotten eggs or a moldy swamp right out of the tube.

But, don’t let that scare you, once they’re stable and dry, the smell disappears.

I’ll add that if you leave your M. Graham paints on a picnic table, outside, like I did, the honey binding in them may attract ants! 

It’s so easy and rewarding to recycle older items into something new, instead of spending money on new products or services.

The new M. Graham set turned out great and I can’t wait to start exploring this new, expanded brand of paints. And that’s the direction where this article will go next – discussing brands and brand loyalty.

So, what does brand loyalty have to do with art?

The best way to describe brand loyalty is when consumers, like you and I, experience a positive emotional response to a product, service, organization, or company, enough to make dedicated financial or personal commitments, exclusively, over their competition.

Brand Loyalty is based on trust, personal appeal, or the feeling of clout or status derived from being associated with that company, their services, or products.

Working in a high school, I got to see, firsthand, how brand loyalty affects teenagers. Brands like Apple, Vans, and Timberland make a student feem “cool” in having the latest and greatest gadgets or clothing.

Young parents all buy the same strollers and car seats based on their safety ratings.

And professionals invest in the highest-end vehicles like BMW, Land Rover, or Audi to exhibit their level of success.

The attachment to a specific brand can be very powerful, whether financially, emotionally, or even physically when it comes to medicine, food, or even cigarettes or alcohol. I admit it — I’m a fan of Starbucks coffee! I enjoy the taste of their coffee over all the competition.

How and when does brand loyalty start?

Companies begin targeting consumers around the ages of 2 or 3, when children first begin to recognize patterns, shapes, and colors.

Brands like Hasbro, Disney, and Kellogg’s spend billions each year promoting bright, primary colors, fun cartoon characters, and familiar patterns and shapes on their packaging, toys, and clothing to attract children.

And once they’re hooked, those children become consumers for life, loyal to their favorites.

I remember when my son would shout “Grandma!” everytime we’d drive down the same stretch of highway near our town – apparently for no reason. One day, I realized, he shouted it at the same place every time, right as we passed a Toyota dealership.

Above the treeline stood a large Toyota sign that I never noticed, but which my son could see. The logo on the sign was the same logo my son saw in his grandmother’s car, which was a Toyota, so for him, he associated that brand with his grandma – a connection of love and warmth.

Now, at 18 years old – he drives a Toyota. Coincidence?

Still, it takes a lot fo get a person to be loyal to a specific brand. In fact, it takes years.

For children, it relies on comfort, fun, and how it makes them feel.

Chicken nuggets on a plain, old plate don’t taste nearly as good as the exact same chicken nuggets that come out of a colorful Happy Meal bag.

For teens and older, companies rely on those years of inundating consumers with a relentless onslaught of images, advertising, and product placement.

For adults, it’s a little more complicated. Adults are more savvy and become resistant to basic marketing. It takes a lot more for companies to get through to them, and smart companies will employ Six Levels of Marketing Strategy:

1. Genuineness is when companies promote their brands with honesty, sincerity, or an established history.

2. Luxury is when brands are promoted as being sexy, sophisticated, or having mass appeal – or by making the consumer feel that way.

3. Durability is when products or services are show to get the job done, that are tough, and can hold up to extreme use.

4, Intelligence is where companies leverage their consumer’s desire for smart, responsible, and intelligent products, especially when related to the environment.

5. State-of-the-Art is for consumers who demand the newest, latest-and-greatest and most current products on the market.

6. Inspirational is when products that promoted as being fun, creative, expressionistic, and positive, which are big among most artists and creative-types.

Then, of course, there’s the less savory strategies, where companies rely on subliminal or subconscious brand recognition, whether it’s the product placement in a favorite movie or television show, or mentioned in popular song or podcast.

And it’s a wise professional, who understands the business of marketing, who knows that there are 4 Forms of Reactive Marketing which prompt consumers to react and retain information or memory of that brand or company over their competition:

1. Informational

The best way to a consumer’s heart is actually through their brain. By providing clear and direct information about a brand or product is the best way to get consumers to remember that brand or product.

For example, “BrandX Filters are tested and proved to remove 100% of all pathegens from water.” Consumers respond to information and will become loyal to a brand that delivers what they promise.

2. Humor

Using a sense of humor and levity is one of the most standard ways to market a brand to consumers. Insurance brands figured this out a long time ago. Just look at the advertising for Geico, Farmer’s, Progressive, or Nationwide to see prime examples of humor in advertising.

3. Sex Appeal

If there’s one thing marketing professionals know is that over all other forms of marketing – sex sells. For decades, companies have associated all kinds of brands and products with sex, whether it’s food, clothing, cars, and even power tools. It draws off basic human nature and, it’s been proven time and time again that it works.

4. Shock Value

One form of brand marketing that is both effective, yet sometimes frowned upon, is shock value. That can range from reviving a deceased celebrity and using them in a commercial, like Burger King did featuring Andy Warhol, to catching consumer’s off-guard like fashion company Sisley did when they compared the addiction to their products to actual drug addiction. 

This form of marketing is often obnoxious, attention-getting, offensive or edgy, and is often referred to as “shockvertising.”

So, how does all this apply to artists?

Whether a professional artist or an avid hobbyist, ask yourself about the brands and products YOU use?

Are you loyal to them because of one of the Six Levels of Marketing Strategy, like their genuineness, durability, or because they are inspirational?

How do those companies sell their products using the 4 Forms of Reactive Marketing? Does their packaging show information, like what the product is made from and what it does, or does it use shock value by showing mind-blowing artwork that most artists would love to be able to create?

And ask yourself if you could give up your Prismacolor pencils and only use Staedtler’s?

Or maybe stop using Copic markers and only use Artist Loft from Michael’s?

Whether it’s markers, brushes, paint, or even paper, artists are subject to more brands and products than many other fields. 

And even the artists you find on YouTube tend to favor certain products over others. I mean, would I be willing to stop using M. Graham paints and only use paints from a lesser known company? 

Heck no! I love my M. Graham paints!

Companies like Daniel Smith paints continually release new, obscure products to expand their line, knowing that devoted consumers will line up for them.

Other companies release similar products with different naming conventions, like Student, Premium, or Professional grade, which can confuse consumers into buying one over the other.

And for designers and digital artists, some companies will only release products for a specific platform or operating system and lock consumers into using specific products.

In 2005, Adobe Systems - the company that produces industry standard software like Photoshop and Illustrator - literally bought the only competition they had, a company called Macromedia, thus forcing digital professionals and service bureaus to use only their products.

Art and design are BIG business and billions of dollars a year are spent on art supplies and tools for artists.

That’s why the big companies work very hard to maintain brand loyalty and to present the best products available on the market to consumers.

It can take many years for a smaller company to emerge on the landscape and leave enough of a footprint for the market to recognize their presence for consumers to trust their products and become loyal.

One of those companies is Arteza, who is making great strides in the marketplace, and who I’m sure I’ll be talking about again in the future.

Yesterday’s Brand Loyalty is not what it is today.

Like I said, in the old days, consumers had to go with what was available to them. There was no such thing as online shopping, so the best you could do was to go to a local store and buy whatever they had in stock.

If they didn’t have it, then you were out of luck unless you were able to order from a catalog – and that took weeks.

Back then, Brand Loyalty was based more on product availability than anything else – and companies paid big bucks to have their products on the shelf.

And that still holds true today.

But, the good news for us is that we DO have online shopping and the big brand companies are finally seeing the result of the power that the internet has.

In the area where I live, brands like Victoria’s Secret and Gucci are closing their retail stores, while companies like Dunkin Donuts and Apple continue to thrive. 

Companies are developing incentive plans like never before to keep customers coming back. Michael’s and AC Moore have their reward programs and in-store 40% off coupons.

And when I worked for Staples, one of the programs I worked on was their Reward Program – imagine an entire team of marketing reps and graphic artists dedicated to the company’s reward program… that’s how important brand loyalty is to them.

And when I worked at Gillette, the entire marketing division would take field trips to stores like CVS, Right Aid, and Walgreens to hand out coupons for FREE razors to consumers in the store. It was called guerrilla marketing and it worked… customers could use the coupon right there, in the store! It also worked because in giving away the handle of the razor, customers would now be locked into buying the replacement blades forever.

The benefit of brand loyalty for consumers today is that we can hold those brands accountable. If they decide to take short cuts on manufacturing to save money, consumers can complain about it on social media. Once that information begins to spread, it spreads very quickly and can damage a companies loyal consumer base.

I did a video on Prismacolor pencils and I was surprised how many people responded with a negative perception of that company. It’s unfortunate, because I’ve used Prismacolor for years and never had any problem. But, historically, knowing how their product line has changed over the past decade or two, I can certainly say that I prefer the Spectracolor pencils I used to use over the Prismacolor pencils of today.

Another benefit is social and environmental awareness. 

Most companies are aware that going green is an investment into brand loyalty, because consumers see it as a form of “caring,” which fits nicely into the category of “Genuineness,” one of the six levels of marketing strategy. 

The downside to all this is that being devoted to one brand can actually keep us from exploring other potential brands and products.

For people who are die-hard Windsor & Newton painters, they will never stray from their favorite brand. They’ll never know how amazing some of the other products on the market can be.

Something I love to do on a random weekend, is to go and test drive really nice automobiles.

I drive a Nissan, so I’ll go to the Mercedes dealership and test drive one of their cars. Then I’ll head over to the Audi dealer and see what they’ve got. It’s a fun way to see what driving a really nice car is like, without buying it or spending money on renting one.

But, for those people who will only drive cars by Chevrolet, they will never appreciate what it’s like to experience a car from another manufacturer.

And that can be said for any brands or products out there. Times change, just like we change. And companies release new products all the time to keep up with those changes.

To turn away from those new brands, products, or even companies is unfortunate and it keeps the competition from being able to grow.

I love the idea of innovation and new ideas, and by supporting my favorite brands, it allows them to develop those new products.

And the same is true for smaller companies looking to mature. I mentioned Arteza products before – I support them and use their products, because I want to see the company thrive, grow, and succeed. 

Because in the end, the competition is best for the consumer. And we all win when there are enough healthy alternatives to one specific brand.

Thank you so much for checking out my blog today.  If you enjoyed the video, above, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and I’d bring more content like it, in the future.

I hope this discussion was interesting for you. Thank you again and have a great day!

Keep on creating and God bless!