If you’re a smartphone user, you know this feeling well: you’ve met someone adorable online and now you’re ready to graduate from messaging to texting. When you open their first message, your heart drops a tiny bit.
“I never would have pegged them for a Android user – not that it really matters…” you tell yourself.
But these things do matter. Well, kind of.
(I mean, what other surprises do they have up their sleeve? Are you going to discover they spent the past 10 years listening to Nickelback albums on their Zune?!)
There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether a relationship will last. Do you share the same values? Do you want children? Who did you vote for in the last presidential election? While these are all valid concerns, a recent study from Duke University found that brand compatibility (aka being loyal to the same brand) can potentially affect your long term happiness as a couple.
“People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion or education,” study co-author Dr. Gavan Fitzsimons, Ph.D, marketing professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, explained in a press release. “But we find those things don’t explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility.”
Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study “Coke vs. Pepsi: Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power, and Life Satisfaction,” operates on the premise that in every relationship there is one partner that has more power. The researchers found that partners who had low power in their relationships – those who don’t feel they can shape their partner’s behavior – tend to find themselves stuck with their partner’s preferred brands.
“If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you’re probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner’s favorite brands, over and over again. This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling,” Brick said. “Most couples won’t break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low power partner becoming less and less happy.”
This is especially true as brands have evolved to play a bigger role in the daily lives of consumers. But as Brick explains, they aren’t given the same weight as other relationship-influencing factors because they’re not seen as significant.
If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that, if this is an issue you can’t work through, then the relationship isn’t going to last,” Brick said. “Conversely, if you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you’re probably not going to break up over it — but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you’re the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner’s preferences, you are going to be less happy.”
This makes sense. As a very loyal Mac/iPhone user, I’d feel pretty resentful if my partner was always trying to convince me that I should only be using Android or PC products. In fact, that behavior alone would be enough for me to feel like we weren’t compatible long term.
While I could probably live with someone who preferred Pepsi over Coke, when it comes to tech, it’s about more than just brand preference. It’s about how I see my world. My laptop and smartphone are my lifeline. I use them all day every day for work, play and to organize and record my life. Almost everything I do is filtered through that desktop view. I’d kind of like my partner to have the same one – or, at least not hassle me about mine.
The researchers agree. “People who are looking for love should maybe consider including brand preferences on their dating profiles,” Fitzsimons said. “There’s also an opportunity for marketers to seek to be the family brand. Even if two partners have slightly different brand preferences, if they can adopt a joint brand that both are happy about, that might increase happiness for a partner who would otherwise feel unsatisfied.”