28 June 2007

Brand loyalty

For a trade mark lawyer, I have some heretical views. Reading this morning that the Commission has blocked Ryanair's bid for Aer Lingus, while allowing it to keep its 25 per cent stake, on the grounds that the takeover would lead to a monopoly in air travel in Ireland (and perhaps to and from Ireland too) I began to think about how important it is to be able to choose products and services.

People become familiar with a particular supplier's (or provider's) offering, and they feel comfortable with it. When my regular morning train turned up the other day in the unfamiliar and rather brash livery of Midland Mainline rather than Great Western (lots of comfortable greens and dark blues) it wasn't right. Great Western's refitting of its rolling stock makes me uneasy too. I know their brand, in the broad sense, and while I don't have much choice about using their services they have lulled me into an acceptance of what they stand for.

On the infrequent occasions when I fly to the States, I prefer to fly with United. Apart from the mileage awards, I feel at home with all the aspects of the service because it's what I'm accustomed to - and the feeling that you're already in the USA when you board the plane is another attraction. The brands that we patronise become components of our own personalities. That's why cars assume such importance in many people's lives. It's also why I wish I could understand Linux.

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