Brand Loyalty and the Environment


Based on our previous article Is Coca Cola or Pepsi More Sustainable?, I started to wonder what brand loyalty means for the environment. In a world where there is a million things to choose from in almost every category, sticking to one brand is a logical and natural tendency. I am very guilty of this; I like routine.

Yet, if a brand turns out to do really bad things, we should at least consider changing to a different one.

What is brand loyalty?

The term is fairly self-explanatory: you stay loyal to a brand. This means that, even when other brands, potentially better brands, are available, you stick to the brand you’ve bought before. This can be anything, cookies, cola, shirts, shoes, appliances, cleaning supplies, supermarkets, websites. The list goes on and on.

Brand loyalty is exactly what any and all companies want you to have; it’s what makes you give them your money over and over again, rather than the shop next door.

Nostalgia Marketing

One type of marketing that is particularly effective is Brand Nostalgia. This is where companies try to get you to recall memories where you enjoyed their brand. Nostalgia has been shown to be a self-soothing mechanism which triggers the reward signal in our brains. So of course we wanna keep buying! We all just crave that comfort and familiarity.

It can be hard to let go of these brands in particular because they remind us of a happier time, often associated with friends and family. Millenials are particularly sensitive to this type of marketing.

Mcdonalds drivethrough sign lit up at twilight.
Has the little kid-self in the back of your brain ever excitedly yelled “MCDONALDS!” when driving past the big yellow M sign?

So why is brand loyalty bad?

Well, simply put: it isn’t. Not necessarily. It makes sense, really. You find something you like: you stick with it in fear of another brand being worse. It gives you an evolutionary advantage.
The problem comes into place when you stick to a brand, even though you object to their policies. Or, more miserably, don’t even like them anymore but you just don’t want the hassle. We’re creatures of habit and we don’t fancy change.

But, when there is reports of clothing chains making their clothes through near slave labor – or rumors of them burning tons unsold clothes, you have to wonder whether or not you want to stay loyal to them. Which leaves you with the question: who do I turn to?

The good news is, you can often have your cake and eat it too. For most things there are dozens of alternative smaller brands you can try. Brands you can make new connections and memories with.

Be adventurous

The way to find a new addictive brand is simple.

Are you ready?

Try other brands. That’s it.
You just have to try other, potentially better, potentially worse brands. Sometimes it takes a while to find an adequate replacement and it sucks. But if you keep going, you could encounter a much better product than you were buying before! Beyond Burgers, for example, have absolutely filled the void that cutting back on meat left me with. Beeswax candles light up the same way Bolsius’ paraffin candles do. You can read more about sustainable candles in one of our earlier posts.

Interestingly, more and more companies are greenwashing (making something appear more environmentally friendly than it is) their brand as a way to get better brand loyalty. This is, of course, in it’s own right a very bad thing. But it does mean the companies are aware that the consumer wants things to change. It means we are, collectively, sending a message, and that’s a great way to get started on change.

If there is a brand you really cannot leave behind, try to buy their products in moderation or second hand. I’ve recently started buying most of my clothes 2nd hand, and it feels just as exciting as it did when I bought new clothes. It just takes some getting used to.

Change is a slow, sometimes difficult, process and you should give yourself time to replace one brand at a time!


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