I didn’t want to do it, so I put it off for seven years.
I dislike the process of returning cans and bottles. When my garage was full, I had no choice. I carried four lawn and leaf bags filled with cans into the Redemption Center, which was staffed by one person. I found out her name was Laurie.
“I’m here to return some cans” I said, stating the obvious.
“Do you have any more?” she asked.
“Yes, there’s more in the truck outside. It’s ……full”
I carried the remaining bags in while Laurie started sorting and then she had me put the cans into see-through bags. Each bag is to contain precisely 180 cans. I don’t know why that number is so important or why anyone needs to see the contents of the bag at all times. Laurie instructed me to load the bags, 180 per bag. “Yup, got it.”
I was there a long time and soon noticed something interesting…
Virtually everyone who came to redeem cans and bottles – and you could tell they were regulars because they all had the “magical, see-through, 180-cans-per-bag” bags – were returning bags and bags of the same thing. Whether it was beer or soda, people tended to stay loyal to a particular brand.
To find out if this was an anomaly, I asked Laurie how long she had worked in the redemption center. It had been about 25 years. I told her I was surprised that everyone seemed to stay with one beverage.
“Well, she said, that’s pretty much the way it is. Except for the folks that collect them from the side of the road, people tend to stay with one thing. Sometimes I can tell who’s coming just by seeing the bags.”
The Redemption Center is the end of the line for the product life cycle. The product has been consumed and only it’s shell remains. It’s one of the few places you can sit and watch and see who is loyal to what brand. That’s not the case at a bar or restaurant where your choices are limited. Here, you can return anything.
Strong brands both attract and repel.
This is one of those basic truths about branding to which I had given little thought before I became interested in personal branding. But some people coming in that day demonstrated fierce loyalty to a beverage I wouldn’t use to wash my car.
Brand loyalty exists for products, but also for services and the people that provide them.
In an uncertain world, people long for that which they know, and upon which they can depend. Your brand, your unique promise of value, grounded in authenticity, is what can engender loyalty to you from the people in your communities.
When I visited the Redemption Center, I brought a truck load of empty cans of Schweppes Diet Ginger Ale because that brand has delivered consistent value to me. As much as I dislike returning cans, I will repeat the process – seven years from now.