Once upon a time, gasoline brands were heavily promoted and marketed, and you didn’t have to pump it yourself. However, in the ensuing years a number of factors have contributed to a steady decline in brand loyalty when it comes time to pay at the pump. Electronic engine controls that adjust for octane rating, national standards on fuel quality and sharp spikes in gasoline prices – all have disrupted traditional buying patterns.
According to NPD’s Motor Fuels Index, which tracks consumer motor fuel purchasing behaviors, drivers who are more than 65 years old, have always been more likely to limit brand choice to only one brand. However, younger drivers historically have been more willing to shop around.
The latest study from the market research group says the percentage of people reporting they “always buy one brand of gasoline” is 28% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 34% in the first quarter of 2000.
When comparing the first quarter 2009 loyalty to the first quarter of 2000 research, the age group that experienced the greatest decline was the 30-to-44 age segment. In 2000, 18- to 29-year-olds were the least brand loyal. In the intervening nine years, many of them brought their brand switching behavior into the 30-to-44 age bracket.
Thus have the classic “pig moving through the python” marketing trend, which is also evident in the vehicle buying behaviors of people as they age, much to the detriment of domestic auto companies who lost a generation of buyers to offshore nameplates and have yet to prove they can get them back.