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I'm looking for a term or phrase to describe a customer whose apparent brand loyalty is actually due to the high costs (not just the financial ones) of switching to an alternative product.

For example, John's first laptop is a Macbook, which he receives as a gift from a relative. Due to this purely accidental initial introduction to the product, John ends up using Mac laptops all his life. John's apparent life time loyalty to Mac is due largely to an accidental starting point as well as the ever accumulating product-specific knowledge: the more he uses Mac, the harder he would find switching to a Windows PC. Had he been introduced to a Windows PC initially, he might have been stuck with that OS for all his life as well.

I want to describe John in the above example as an "X customer" (of a product), where "X" is the phrase I'm looking for, and "X" should mean "one has always used that product and it's hard to switch to an alternative because of this experience".

Currently I have in mind "momentum customer" or "inertial customer", but neither sounds satisfactory to me.

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  • Maybe: die-hard. Or: accidental? Apr 7, 2021 at 4:33

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The idea of consumer loyalty is nicely captured in the McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-consumer-decision-journey

The original article was published in 2009. McKinsey published a “new consumer decision journey” in 2015, available on the same site.

Tne terms introduced by McKinsey have become widely used in marketing. This means that you can incorporate them into the term you want to create, rather than taking concepts from physics, such as inertia and momentum.

The “inertial customer” sounds like someone who has entered the loyalty loop, but who doesn’t experience bonding or enjoyment, and probably does not advocate for the product.

You could refer to them as a type of loyalty looper, with an adjective that reflects their emotional state, or their lack of action in general, such as:

  • joyless loyalty looper,
  • silent loyalty looper,
  • first capture loyalty looper, etc.

From a marketing perspective, loyalty loopers should be the best possible product advocates. A large number of silent loyalty loopers indicates a failure of marketing and brand management.

The McKinsey articles themselves may suggest other terms.

If the McKinsey framework doesn’t seem like the right “anchor” for your readers, there are terms like perseverate that have a more psychogical flavor to them. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/perseverate

Your choice depends on whether you want to emphasize the external marketing context or the internal mental state of the customer. Perseveration is associated with autism, itself a term that indicates internal autonomy and disconnection with the external world.

Less intense would be numbed, which suggests a disconnection where the external agency is at fault.

Your choice of words here can tell the reader a lot about John’s state of mind - assuming this is what you want to do.

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  • A "perseverating customer" sounds quite good. Does the word carry a heavy psychological undertone? A quick look-up of "perseverate" in a few different dictionaries does not seem to convey that connotation to me.
    – Herr K.
    Apr 7, 2021 at 14:03
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    IMHO, perseverating is neutral, maybe even slightly positive, since it labels the behavior and implicitly relates it to an underlying cause that is physical (medical) as opposed to moral (bad judgement). It’s just that behavioral terms like this often drift into slightly negative territory, like salivating. You’re good for the moment, though :)
    – user205876
    Apr 7, 2021 at 15:59
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An Habitual customer does not convey the capriciousness of the choice of brand only the necessary consistency. A Hostage customer does not sound like the right part of speech. A more descriptive phrase would have more options to describe his relationship.

"He is a fan by default, or in name only."

"He is a fan based on ownership, whose and of what is open to debate."

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  • Thanks for the suggestions. "Hostage customer" sounds good to me -- the customer is "held hostage" by his own accumulated product-specific knowledge -- except that the word hostage is too easily misconstrued to mean other forms of hostage.
    – Herr K.
    Apr 7, 2021 at 13:50
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John is a long-standing customer:

a person, business, or institution that has been a customer for many years.

The expression doesn’t necessarily imply loyalty to a brand but just the fact the for some reason you have been buying products of the same brand for years.

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