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Seven psychological tricks companies use to make you loyal

Plus, we unveil the big brands customers feel most and least loyal towards, and reveal what to do if your loyalty's not rewarded

Seven psychological tricks companies use to make you loyal

The psychological tricks brands use to make you feel loyal have been revealed by Which?. We’ve also unveiled the brands you feel most – and least – loyal to.

Consumers often feel loyal for good reasons, including convenience, quality or value for money. But behind the scenes, marketing experts are also trying to manipulate our loyalty for their own profit margins. 

The latest Which? investigation exposes the psychological tricks brands use to make you loyal – find out if you’d fall for them. We also reveal the top and bottom brands for loyalty, plus our quiz will reveal if you can save £725 by being less loyal.

To find out more about making loyalty work for you, see the best and worst supermarket loyalty cards.

Psychological loyalty tricks

Jack Russell dog looking at an empty food bowl

We talked to brand experts and analysed firms’ marketing techniques to reveal the top seven tricks they use to create customer loyalty.

  1. Manipulate emotions To really hook people in, you need to use emotional incentives. Offering experiences – from exclusive events to theme park vouchers – adds a whole new level of value. It associates the brand with fun, family time and positive experiences.
  2. Target life events Buying a new home, getting married, giving birth and retiring all trigger new commercial needs. We all also need extra help at this time. If a brand can hook into these key events it can position itself as an authoritative voice for life.
  3. Show off community values Brands like to associate themselves with community benefits. If a brand can show it shares values with its customers, this can create both an emotional bond and a sense of shared community.
  4. Create a tribal identity The more you can bind your customers together, the better. This builds a sense of community and integrates the brand into customers’ personal identity.
  5. Get up close and personal Personalised emails have been shown to be six times more successful than impersonal emails. Think about how many brands use your name or send you birthday greetings, thereby creating an emotional bond.
  6. The novelty factor Novelty helps brands stand out and creates stronger memories, which can instil familiarity and positive feelings.
  7. The power of surprise Scientific studies show expected rewards reduce motivation on a task, but surprise rewards increase it. You might think you’re loyal to Pret, for example, but is it just because that friendly barista gave you an unexpected free coffee?

Which big brands are you most loyal to?

We quizzed the general public* to uncover the big brands UK customers feel most and least loyal to. Our investigation revealed supermarket giant Tesco is the brand shoppers feel most loyal towards, followed by Amazon and Nationwide.

But the eagle-eyed among you would have noticed that Tesco also features in our bottom seven companies for loyalty.
Brands you are most and least loyal to. Tesco tops both!

This is because some high-profile brands instil strong loyalty with some customers and, at the same time, a lack of loyalty in others. Like Tesco, which splits shoppers’ opinions right down the middle. Maybe some people use it out of convenience, rather than choice.

For Tesco fans, the supermarket may lack Waitrose’s reputation for quality or Aldi and Lidl’s for price, but it’s a British brand and it’s been at shoppers’ sides for generations.

But are Tesco’s products any good? Check out the best and worst supermarkets to see how shoppers rate it.

Which big brands are you least loyal to?

Tesco sign with Tesco logo

Our investigation found some of the highest profile brands instil strong loyalty among some customers and – simultaneously – a distinct lack of loyalty among others.

Tesco may be the brand that commands the most loyalty, but it’s also one that other shoppers named as their least loyal, too, alongside Boots.

Tesco is everywhere on the high street, so shoppers perhaps use it more out of necessity than love. Similarly for Boots. It’s also a place where you stock up on bathroom essentials, rather than pampering products.

Just like any friendship, loyalty should be a two-way street. Feeling loyal is great – but make sure your loyalty is rewarded. If it’s not? Haggle or switch. You could find yourself saving hundreds of pounds.

Find out more by reading our expert guide to haggling.

Loyalty quiz

The most loyal among you can save £725 – find out if it’s you.


Can’t see the quiz? Go here and scroll.

*In October 2017, we surveyed 2,000 members of the UK public with a nationally representative sample. Our survey asked about how loyal they felt to the major broadband, car, car maintenance, energy, financial, home, insurance, mobile, retail, tech and travel brands they had used in the previous 12 months.

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