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Brand retention: is it loyalty, or just a hostage situation?

A brand retention survey revealed that 76% of Apple users upgraded to another Apple device in 2013, 58% for Samsung. Is it loyalty, or are we hostages to the ecosystems?
March 15, 2014
We still love tablets

“iPhone users are a loyal bunch.” The words may strike a chord with the pro-Android reader, thus triggering the familiar debate of iOS versus Android. Things usually get heated and name calling often erupts. Why is this? What is behind brand retention and loyalty that leads us to quarrel with our fellow human being? What about Android users, are they loyal?

The Wall Street Journal commissioned a brand retention survey of users in the US, UK and Australia. They wanted to know how many people in 2013 replaced their smartphone with another from the same manufacturer.

WSJ Smartphone Brand Retention 2013

At face value, we see Apple as the clear leader in customer retention, and 76% is a respectable amount at that. The beloved, or not so much, behemoth of marketing budgets, Android powered Samsung, produced a healthy 58% loyalty. We could focus on the fact that Apple spent in the neighborhood of $1 billion on advertising in 2013, as compared to Samsung’s $14 billion, but I think there is one larger factor here that rules them all – ecosystem.

We’ve all learned that Smartphones are designed to operate best when connected to the ecosystem of the manufacturer. This throws an interesting curve at this research, as most of the listed companies essentially use the same ecosystem in Android. Sure, some of them offer their own apps and services, but they all connect to Google at some point, specifically to the Google Play Store to download apps.

The argument can be made that brand loyalty, in this regard, is not actually loyalty, it is more of a hostage situation.

On that premise, the retention numbers above simply then reflect each manufacturers ability to trap us into their ecosystem. Most Apple users cannot get away, and Samsung has locked in a good group for themselves. LG, HTC, Sony and Motorola increasingly set their people free to try out each other’s Android options. And, great news for Blackberry users, there are many new devices out there for you.

I digress. We all love our products because they rock! Each retained customer of each manufacturer has a unique reason to have upgraded within the brand. There is no definitive proof connecting Apple products to religious experiences. There are plenty of ways to get your iTunes music library into Google Play Music. In the end, we love our brands, but there is no reason to stick with a particular manufacturer if we do not want to, right?  Right?!?