Yesterday, I was at a family gathering at my parents’ house for Mother’s Day, and at one point, several of us were hanging out in the kitchen. I noticed that my mom was using a type of sponge to wash the dishes that looked different from the one she usually used, and asked about it. Why, you might be wondering, would I ask about such a thing? I’ll tell you–it’s because for years, I have been using the same kind of sponge that my mom always used. If she had switched for a good reason, then I figured I better find that out because chances are I would need to switch as well.
There were several other family members in the room that listened intently to the sponge conversation, because I had gotten them using my mom’s previous kind of sponge as well. It was in this moment that I realized: I would be willing to bet that people within a family often use a lot of the same brands of products. This brand loyalty is strong because it is passed on within a family: “this is the kind of _______ that we buy.”
I don’t know about all of you, but when I was living on my own for the first time, I made many a phone call home to my mom while standing in a grocery store aisle, and the conversation usually went something like this:
me: Hey Mom, I’m at the grocery store and I need [fill in the blank]. What kind do you get?
Mom: Oh, I always get [fill in the blank] brand. I’ve tried some other kinds and I think that one is the best.
me: Okay thanks!
[Proceed to checkout line with item that Mom recommended.]
As pathetic as it might be, I am sure there were times when I made multiple calls like this within one grocery trip. There were probably several reasons why I wanted to use the same brand as my mom. First of all, there is a lot of trust there. I feel like my mom knows what she’s doing when it comes to grocery shopping, so it’s like the hard work has been done for me. She’s been figuring this stuff out for years, so I might as well tap into that knowledge. Secondly, having the same brands in my house that my mom has in hers makes it feel more like a home to me–as weird as it might sound, I probably associate those familiar brands with being at home.
This doesn’t just apply to mothers and their children. Because it can often go out much wider than that, and as the children get older, they can start recommending brands to their moms as well (it can go both ways). Oftentimes within an extended family, one person will try a new brand of a product, and then they’ll tell someone else in the family, who will tell someone else, until eventually they are all buying the same brand of, say, sponge, like in the above example. I am fascinated by this.
It just goes to show that word of mouth is oftentimes the absolute best advertisement that there is. It also proves that brand loyalty can spread down through generations, which is probably pretty intimidating if you’re in the marketing field. How do you get someone to break the mold and try your product, rather than the one their entire family has been buying for years? I suppose that’s where packaging and other forms of marketing would have to come into play.
Next time you’re in the store and you go to buy your usual brand of a product, ask yourself if the reason you started buying that brand was because it’s the kind your mom (or other family member) buys. And if you see someone in the aisle on their cell phone, asking their mom what to buy, you can think of me. In fact, it might actually be me (yes, after all these years, I still find myself making that call every once in a while). Because in my book, when it comes to brands, “Mama knows best.”