Practicing Change: Be Disloyal

Last week’s Practicing Change topic was “Switch Seats” Today we are going to talk about being disloyal. It’s not what you think. Being loyal to family and friends is fantastic, but being loyal to particular brands can be very confining. How many times have you been at a restaurant when someone orders a “Coke” and the waitstaff explains they don’t carry “Coke”? I have many friends who only drink one type of soda and only frequent restaurants that carry their favorite brand.  Brand loyalty, the goal of every marketer, is a form of change resistance on the part of the consumer.

Everyone has heard the phrase “acquired taste”, especially when it comes to olives, scotch, and beer. Developing an acquired taste is trying something enough times to actually develop a liking for the particular item. Granted it is more fun to try food and drink than perhaps a change in your work environment or responsibilities but the concept is the same. Learning to like a more difficult change in your personal or professional life can simply be a matter of acquiring a liking to the change.

There are so many opportunities to practice change in this area that I could write an entire book just listing them but I will offer a few suggestions that can get you started down the right path. I already mentioned one of the most common, switching brands of drink. Whether your tastes lean toward soda, water, juice, beer or coffee, try a different brand and stick with it for at least a week. Now I know what many of you are thinking; I tried “_______” and it stinks. Granted you might have done so once or twice but I challenge you to do so for an extended period of time because remember you are acquiring a taste. Now before you decide this is a change you don’t want to try let me tell you a story.

When I was in college, I did what many freshmen do, I gained about 10 pounds. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why this happens but for some reason it happens to most of us. Perhaps for me it was taking a full load of classes, working a 25 hour a week job and eating on the run to maintain the fuel needed to get everything done. Regardless, I wanted to do something about it but did not have a lot of time for exercise so I knew I needed to cut calories.  One afternoon, I drug myself over to a friend’s dorm after classes and she asked me if I wanted something to drink. I said sure, how about a Coke. She brought me Diet Coke, which is all she had. I told her I’d never had Diet Coke in my life but since that is all she had I would drink it. Well, I did and it was the most awful thing I’d ever tasted in my life. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would drink that stuff so I started to read the label to maybe understand why.  I then realized why people were drinking it; zero calories and it contained caffeine. A cold alternative to coffee that in the 1980’s had not yet been glamorized by Starbucks and friends.  Thinking about cutting calories, I decided to give it a try for at least week. The reason was simple, I did a quick calculation and figured that since I usually drank 3 sodas a day (at 150 calories each), by drinking Diet Coke, I could eliminate over 3,000 calories a week just doing that. For those of you that don’t know, 3,500 calories equals a pound, so it would take a little more than a couple of months to lose the weight I had gained. For more than a week, my 3 sodas a day were Diet Coke instead of regular Coke and I hated every one of them. In a moment of weakness I went back to a Coke and discovered that I now hated that even more. It was as if I was trying to drink a can of maple syrup. At that point, I chose the lesser of two drinks and went with Diet Coke and the zero calories. In less than a month, I found myself really enjoying Diet Coke. That was many years ago, and when I do drink soda, it is almost always diet. I say it is almost always diet instead of Diet Coke because I will also drink any brand of diet soda as well as regular soda on occasion.  Now for those of you that say, why not just drink water, I respond, caffeine. We all must have a few vices and that is one of mine. I’m working on changing that but fortunately I now enjoy hot and cold tea, black coffee (any brand) so I’m able to get caffeine in so many forms which means I’m not upset when I can’t get a certain brand or even certain type of drink. I’m simply happy to enjoy whatever is available. Now this didn’t happen overnight but it all started that day in a friend’s apartment.

There are many other products that consumers tend to be loyal about. They range from shampoo and soap to frozen pizza and tires. Even frozen pizzas that taste like tires have brand loyalty but who am I to judge. The lesson here is simple, look around your house or in your trash can and discover how many brands you are loyal to. Pick a few and change brands but don’t pick something easy like the bag holding your trash. I’ve never understood why anyone would be loyal to a trash bag but then again I don’t know what some people throw away. Perhaps the thought of their trash bag breaking under the strain of something diabolically heavy frightens them and if so, so does changing brands. But if you are like me and aren’t even sure what brand of trash bags you buy, consider “acquiring a taste” for something else.

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