Function loyalty is the death of brand loyalty

Suneil just showed me this, and it is brilliant… it’s called tinysong and works like this…

Search for ANY song you like…


…then it returns you a choice of which one you may want, and gives you a very short URL for it…


…which takes you to Grooveshark to listen to it…


It’s a bit like Spotify crossed with, as Suneil said when he explained it.  You can instantly share just about ANY song you want with everyone you’re connected with.  For free.  Nice, huh?

For anyone who wants to include a very short link in something like twitter, a facebook status or whatever, it’s brilliant. 

I remember did something similar, but I just didn’t get as excited about it as much, or the functionality wasn’t as good or something (I may be wrong of course, it may be exactly the same…)

Anyway, this all got me thinking…

There is no brand loyalty on the web.  Only function loyalty.

For instance, I’ve been a big fan of URL shortners for a while; I started on, but moved to because it had a personalising function too so you could create.  There was no cost in switching for me, as I had nothing invested in being on

Of course, tinyurl latterly copied the functionality, but it was too late, I had switched. 

Brand loyalty on the web is practically non-existent, as we don’t really pay beyond investing our time in the profiles we create. 

But that ‘cost of time’ is more like the cost of time in entertainment; we enjoyed it at the time, we don’t feel that we need to keep recouping value from it.  We can leave any time we like. 

And we leave when something better comes along…

Function loyalty is about what the newest version of a concept offers us; what is it that the web can deliver in its greatest form?  Whoever can supply it will find a large hungry audience arriving on their doorstep.

Which makes it hard for companies to retain users in the face of new innovation from fleet-of-foot start ups.  Because companies invest time and effort in developing something, they feel they have to make it recoup that investment over a longer term, rather than adapt it quickly or cut their losses.

For instance, think about social networks.

Friends Reunited lost out to Friendster who lost out to Myspace who lost out to Facebook who are losing out to Twitter who will inevitably lose out to someone who simplifies and constantly improves and innovates functionality… function has always triumphed over brand.

Which is why the new Facebook layout is evolving to try and steal as many functions from other sites like twitter.

Let’s be honest, the new facebook home layout is nothing if not just a glorified twitter home page…


OK, so that’s true of the online world, but what about other brands?

I think that what’ll be hugely interesting is that this behaviour that the online world is teaching people that the ‘trusted and familiar’ world of brands is not necessarily what they must default to… the real innovators of functionality are most likely to be the small guys that you’ve never heard of.

Like this company, Moma, who’re selling amazing little breakfast things from a cart at Victoria station in the mornings…


…sure, there are lots of other, much more established brands in that environment who can sell me something for breakfast.  But a smoothie sized bottle stuffed with ‘as many oats as a bowl or porridge’, yogurt and fruit… it just seems to seem like a really good idea to me.  I’ve gone for function, not for a brand that I know and trust.

Anyway, I don’t think we’re at a stage where brand loyalty is about to drop off a cliff, of course… but I do think that the internet is increasingly teaching us all to be more loyal to great functionality

And when we find something brilliant and new, we’re more likely to tell other people about it…

What do you think?