Brand Watch: Can You Buy Loyalty for a Quarter?

People who shop ALDI tend to more than loyal – they’re really Raving Fans. We love brands with personality, and ones that inspire that kind of following really get our attention. What gives a brand personality? It must have a unique appeal.

What’s ALDI’s appeal? In a nutshell, the German-based grocer sells quality foods in a decidedly no-frills store atmosphere. ALDI doesn’t appear to be worried about the Amazon vs. Wal*Mart retail fight that’s raging again (and at a more heated pace) this year.

In fact, ALDI shoppers seem to enjoy participating in the “in real life” shopping experience a little more than other shoppers – a lesson we’re pretty sure isn’t lost on ALDI corporate.

Make ‘Em Pay For a Cart

Plenty of people have written about the ALDI “Shopping Cart Effect,” but we’ll add to the mix something we haven’t seen written about it: It makes shoppers smile, at each other. And we think that’s got to be good. Was this a planned element of the company’s marketing mix? We can’t answer that question, but we can say it’s an intangible, but important, part of the brand.

In case you’ve never shopped ALDI, here’s the gist: shoppers stick a quarter into built-in locks that secure the shopping carts together. When shoppers return their carts, they get their quarter back.

Sticking a quarter in a slot to get a shopping cart doesn’t sound like something you should make your customers do – especially when they’re in a hurry.  Sure, they get the quarter back when they return the cart, but there’s a cost: they have to take it back to the lock up line, by the store entrance, which can be inconvenient. Say, for example, if your car is full of groceries (especially cookies) and toddlers. Or hungry teenagers. Either way, it could be turn out badly, right?

But a funny thing happens in ALDI parking lots. People unload their carts and look around to see if another shopper is nearby, They’re likely to call, “Want my cart?” as they approach the new arrival. Just as often a shopper jumps out of his or her car, waving a quarter in the air, shouting, “Here; I’ll take that!” They’re in this quarter-for-a-cart thing together.

In a world where online behemoths and big-box-bruisers are battling over the grocery delivery market, this is a whole different ball game. And it’s created an interesting – possibly unintended – marketing advantage for ALDI.

It’s as if that silly quarter makes us want to work in cahoots with other human beings.

Consumer behavior is interesting. As brandwatchers, shoppers, marketing geeks and operational afficianados, we love stuff like this.

What consumer behavior does your company encourage? Your company’s unique appeal may lie in some of the ways you interact with your customers. Even if the results are unintentional, they may be positive aspects of your brand. Think about it…some of those touchpoints could hold a secret marketing advantage.

We’d love to hear about your brand, or one you’re watching. Share your secret with us!

3 minutes read