This weekend I got a new bike, a Specialized Rockhopper. The frame of my last bike was about four inches too big for me: I settled for it because it had the front shock absorbers that I wanted, and it was on sale. But I've spent the last four years or so straining to reach the handlebars. This time, I got one that fits.
It's my fourth or fifth Rockhopper, I can no longer quite keep track. It's a bit like buying a Honda: not the most incredibly exciting choice, but one that you know you'll never regret. And, if properly cared for, it'll last forever.
I suppose that with a track record like this, the marketing people at Specialized would describe me as having "brand loyalty." I've always found something a little unsettling the use of the term "loyalty" to describe consumers' choice of products. For me, the term "loyalty" is one that has some richness to it, and signifies a deep relationship: I'm loyal to a small number of people, a couple non-human beings, and a couple institutions; and to some degree, the feeling is reciprocated. And if that bond no longer existed, we'd notice.
In contrast, if I stopped buying from Specialized, or Apple, or Mazda, or Lands End, or whoever makes Pert, they wouldn't be able tell; nor would my web of social contacts and relationships be made poorer. There's no loyalty here, just a transaction marked by preference and convenience.