When you catch your significant other flirting with someone who is distinctly insignificant by way of “Who the heck is that person you’re talking to and why did you feel the need to laugh so coquettishly?” it’s a very bad thing. But when it comes to brand loyalty, one study says the more you flirt with a company aside from your current steady, the closer ties you form with your favorite.
Harvard Business School behavioral scientist Francesca Gino writes at Scientific American about this effect, where a quick bout of infidelity is a good thing for the companies behind your favorite brands.
“When consumers who are in committed brand relationships flirt with other brands, they become even more attached to their primary brand,” she writes. “They are then willing to spend more money to purchase that brand’s products, and more frequently.”
You’d think that it would be bad for companies if you’re having fun with another brand, perhaps admiring it in a way your current brand doesn’t seem to inspire. But Gino says letting consumers have a little fun outside the relationship — noticing the attractive qualities of a competing product or trying it out for a short time — can strengthen your bond with your usual brand.
In one study, for example, participants were shown four favorable features of one soft drink and asked to evaluate them.
“Participants who were loyal to Coca-Cola, and who were asked to rated favorable features of Pepsi, said they intended to consume more of their favorite soft drink in the upcoming week, as compared to loyal Coca-Cola participants who rated the same favorable features of Coca-Cola.”
The same thing happened with Pepsi loyalists regarding Coke, she explains. Merely acknowledging and appreciating the nice things about someone else made the most loyal want to give back to their favorite brand, and soon.
You drink the ones you love, even if you can admit that others might have something to offer. This could be akin to flirting with someone who’s uncommitted — it’s exciting, you get a rush and feel a bit giddy. But then you take that bubbly feeling back home to your committed relationship.
Gino suggests that this could mean all the truckloads of money marketers dump on trying to lure customers away from the competition could be backfiring — in essence, it’s providing that little bit of a flirtatious tingle that’s just enough to make loyal customers stay put.
When Flirting Increases Loyalty [Scientific American]