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Why we don't change our brands

Researchers say that consumers prefer certain brands because of their ease-of-use, which, however, comes only after repeated usage.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2007 14:02 IST

A new study has revealed the reason behind people’s loyalty to one product, even in the presence of better alternatives.

A significant new study from the Journal of Consumer Research has identified a mechanism called “cognitive lock-in” as an influential determinant of people’s choices.

“We find that consumers typically are not aware that this mechanism is a powerful determinant of the choices they make,” write Kyle B Murray (University of Western Ontario) and Gerald Häubl (University of Alberta).

Murray and Häubl looked at a theory of cognitive lock-in centred around the idea of skill-based habits of use, that is, how using or buying a product becomes easier with repetition. In a series of experiments, they found that people are more influenced by their understanding of ease-of-use rather than how neutrally easy a product is to use.

Significantly, they also found that habits are reliant not only on the acquirement of a specific skill set, but on our desire to accomplish definite goals.

“This has important implications for consumer behavior. For example, learning to navigate a particular grocery store to purchase orange juice does not necessarily lock consumers in to that store when their goal is to buy a cake. Similarly, becoming skilled at looking up stock quotes at Yahoo.com does not mean that the user will inevitably sign up for a Yahoo email account,” the authors write.

“This is an important finding because it demonstrates the specific nature of the link between the development of habits of use and consumer loyalty. In fact, the results of the current research indicate that, although habits of use can create a substantial advantage for an incumbent where otherwise none exists, such an advantage appears to be limited to the achievement of a particular goal,” they add.