It’s Not Me, It’s You. Why Are Consumers Breaking Up With Brands?

Relationships between consumers and brands, in many ways, mirror relationships they have with other human beings.

Some folks are brand-monogamous, such as the age-old Ford vs Holden debate, for when it comes to cars for Australian men it’s a case of pick and stick for life.

Other relationships can be more fickle, and sometimes it can take one bad experience to put a consumer off a particular brand forever, and they can do great damage to the brand by discussing its flaws in details with their friends, generating negative word of mouth, much as people do when they discuss the flaws of their ex-partners with their friends.

For other brand relationships, there is a degree of inter-changeability, for example one might flick between WeetBix and VitaBrits the next week without batting an eyelid.

These consumer-brand relationships are complex and fascinating.  A recent study by ExactTarget in the United States has made some intriguing discoveries about how how social media, depending upon its deployment as a strategy, can both undermine or support a consumer’s relationship with their favourite brands.  The full report info graphic can be viewed here

Among their findings, it was revealed that:

  • 54% of those surveyed felt that they received ‘permission emails’ from brands too frequently
  • When asked why someone might ‘unfriend’ a brand on Facebook, 44% said it was because the brand posted too frequently, thereby clogging up the user’s news stream
  • In response to the question why consumers ‘unfollowed’ a brand on Twitter, 52% said it was because the brand’s tweets were repetitive and boring

Finally, it seems when a consumer-brand relationship is over, it is O-V-E-R, there is no equivocation, much like in human relationships.  Once that customer-product bond is broken, it is broken for good, as respondents said they would take the following steps to sever the relationship: unlike on Facebook, unfollow on Twitter, unsubscribe from their email list.

So what’s the learning here?  If brands are serious about building long-term, monogamous relationships with consumers, then the same rules for human relationships apply.
1. Don’t pester them
2. Don’t be repetitive and boring
3. Don’t waste their time

Or, if we were to put a more positive spin on it, contact your customer when you have something interesting/important/new to say, respect their time and use it economically.

Social media can be a powerful tool to reinforce B2C relationships but only if it is used wisely, strategically and sparingly, in support of the brand, but keeping the customer’s needs at top of mind, as it seems from the research that there is such a thing as loving your customers too much.

Yours in PR



  1. melanie Said:

    Interesting and very encouraging. I have discovered most of the time that people are more convinced by the brand than the product! Either way interesting result

  2. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But
    maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

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