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Whether your brand is new or just not too recognizable yet, it can often seem impossible to make any breakthroughs into the existing marketplace. Popular existing brands are powerful and have actually won their way into consumers’ minds (and brains) and hearts through becoming habits. Through being smart with market research, design, marketing and brand strategy, you can successfully make your own product or service the new habit and thus a major player.

Once clients or buyers are in the habit of purchasing a particular brand, it can be very difficult to get them to change their minds to purchase yours. This is especially true when the brand has established the KLT (know-like-trust) factor with their buyers. As discussed below, there are various benefits consumers gain when they purchase their habitual brands. These are what you will have to overcome to become the new habitual product or service.

Benefits of Habits

We all know that habits can be very difficult to break…but not impossible. There are several reasons for the persistence of habits. To understand one reason, we can look to brain science. Underlying the habit is that the structure and functioning of the brain has changed. Pathways have been established and reinforced each time purchases are made of the brand.

In addition, the brain likes to conserve energy and these pathways help it to expend less energy on thinking about buying decisions. People have to actually break free from their comfort zones to purchase a new brand. It takes time and energy to think about buying another brand; both of which are in scarce supply these days.

Some brands take the status route. Their buyers benefit from an ego boost and a boost to their own “personal brand” when they purchase status brands. They believe they will receive admiration from others and get identification and connection needs meet as they feel as though they are part of a special group.

Failed Efforts

There are many examples of brands trying and failing to usurp one another. In the 1970’s, IBM attempted to beat out Xerox in copiers. They were unsuccessful. A decade later, Xerox tried to do the same to IBM with respect to PC’s. Obviously, a failed effort on Xerox’s part. Once a brand is entrenched in user’s minds, it takes some powerful elements to get them to change their thinking and behavior.

Successful Efforts

The search engine market was already populated when Google came along. It provided a very simple to use system which made searching better. They were able to break pre-existing habits and made it easy to switch to their system. Google is now the new brand habit and Bing, which has made repeated efforts to change this, has been unable to do so.

With a cult-like status, Apple has completely changed the previous cell phone marketplace. Remember Blackberry? Apple relied on exciting product designs to grab market attention and get the power of word of mouth on its side. The iPhone they developed could function both as a smartphone and a PC (the number of apps developers have made available is endless and allows the iPhone to offer a huge number of possible uses). Consumers have become habituated to purchasing iPhones and Apple users define themselves as a connected group which meets belonging needs and desire for status.

How to Break Brand Habits

It is difficult but obviously not impossible to break through buyer habits. To have a chance to do this you must comprehend the “why’s” of habits, realize they are difficult to change and have some knowledge about just how to go about changing people’s minds. Here are the necessary steps:

    • Conduct market research to determine what needs the habit-brand is providing and what needs are present but not being met.
    • Use this information to create a message that your brand has significant and unique elements that will satisfy these unmet needs.
    • Clearly communicate the specific benefits so that clients and customers will go through the extra work of switching to your brand. The benefits to them must exceed the costs.
    • Work to develop engagement with potential clients and customers and deliver services or products which exceed client or customer expectations.
    • Continue to conduct market research to seemingly “anticipate” new buyer needs and wants and satisfy these.

Whether your brand is the “new guy” or has been around for a while as a benchwarmer, you can make it to the major leagues. You have to motivate potential buyers sufficiently so their brains actually make changes and form new connections. Switching to your brand must be in the best interests of customers or clients. You have to do your research to find unmet needs and desired benefits and, importantly, position and communicate these effectively.


“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Lao-tzu quoted from Tao Te Ching

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