Choosing Supplement Brands: A Look Inside the Consumer’s Mind

by Matt Weik

If you’re anything like me, you always question why things are the way they are and want to have a better understanding. So, being that I’ve been in the industry for over a decade, I wanted to see why (today) consumers are purchasing products from certain brands. What makes them open up their wallet and buy from the brands they use? This is no scientific study, rather my interaction with people online and in local supplement stores in my area. This article will share their reasons.

1. Price

When it comes down to it, not everyone has a large disposable income where they can spend hundreds of dollars on supplements each month. One thing everyone shared was that they do consider price when they are buying. If they don’t feel a product is priced correctly, they won’t buy it. They also mentioned that they feel some of what the price reflects is the “hype” surrounding the product or ingredients. If they are buying multiple products and only have a certain budget, they generally will spend more money on something like a high quality protein powder or pre-workout than something like a BCAA or creatine product.

2. Brand Recognition

Many brands have a cult following and are talked about often. You see their logo at the gym on banners, in magazine advertisements, sponsoring different fitness and bodybuilding events, etc. Then when they walk into the store and see one of those logos on the shelf, it’s easily recognizable so they gravitate towards what they are familiar seeing.

3. Marketing/Advertising

Quite a few people purchase products from brands who they constantly see in magazines and fitness website ads. They have great copywriters who create engaging copy that entices consumers to purchase their products. Some of the ads are brand based while others are simply marketing towards a specific product. Either way, it it’s eye-catching and resonates with the consumer, they are more willing to try the brand/product.

4. Friends Recommendation

It seems like at the gym everyone wants to talk about their amazing pre-workout product they are using. Many people mention that they overhear people talking about a product, or they see a friend using it before their workout. Or even something like a testosterone booster or “prohormone” that put quality size on your friend. The notion of “if it works for them, then it should work for me” comes into play. And most people trust what their friends are recommending and don’t believe their friends would lie to them if they truly hated the product.

5. Store Owner Recommendation

Some people mentioned that the owner of the store recommended a product. When looking at what they had in their hands, it’s clear that not all supplement store owners are honest people. There are great owners out there who don’t push products they don’t believe in. Then on the other hand, there are store owners who push products that give them the best margins. Unfortunately, for some of the people I spoke to, I quickly found out the type of owner they are (they were buying overpriced junk). But overall, I’ve seen more good owners than bad owners out there.

6. Online Reviews

This is actually quite tricky and deceiving to be totally honest with you. Some of the people I spoke to online mentioned that they went to a certain website and saw a product had a high score out of an overall 10-point system so they purchased it. Unfortunately, if you look at the reviews, many of them are not verified buyers and those reviews could have been paid for. Even if a review is verified, companies are getting smarter by having someone buy the product themselves, and then send them another for free in order to compensate them for the purchase and the good review of the product—or they simply cut them a check for the amount of the product paid for. In my opinion, I wouldn’t trust reviews you read online. Having been in the industry working for a supplement company for nearly a decade, I’ve seen all the behind the scene things that go on. So, I don’t trust online reviews and recommend you don’t either, but that’s your call.

7. Trust Due to Research

I would love to say that people are doing their own research, but that isn’t the case. Many people I spoke to said they go off of the research claims made on the label or marketing materials (or even the supplement company’s website). Let me be extremely clear with you. There are very few supplement companies out there today who are having their products backed by research. There are several reasons for this. For starters, it’s extremely expensive to do correctly and brands don’t want to shell out that kind of money, especially if they have a laundry list of products. The second reason is that people can read between the lines if a study was funded by the brand being researched. It becomes a little suspicious when a brand is paying for a study and the study is showing that the product is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Put very little emphasis on “supplement company research” when it comes to your buying decisions.

8. Legacy Brand

We all know the brands who were the originators. Some of them are being called, “our father’s protein brand.” They’ve been around for what seems like the beginning of time and because of their tenure in the industry, many of the buyers I spoke to swear by them. Some of the legacy brands are to this day, still putting out great products. However, there are many who are holding on for dear life and being beaten down by today’s competition. What worked in the past, does not work today. Those brands who refuse to change and evolve will eventually disappear. And the brands who simply think they can make it by copy-catting others products will never steal enough share for it to make a difference in their business. So, don’t even try.

9. It’s What They’ve Always Used

Some people mentioned that they started using a certain brand, liked it and never looked back. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s good to show brand loyalty, so long as the brand is worthy of such loyalty. Many people mentioned that they started using a protein powder from a brand, liked it and moved into their pre-workout products. From there they branched out into their intra-workout products, and so on. Loyalty goes a long way today and it’s refreshing to know that consumers aren’t all out there buying the newest, hippest, and over-hyped product out there.

10. Variety of Flavors

Everyone wants choices. When it came down to why some people were buying certain brands, it came down to flavor options. How many different protein powder flavors did they have? How many pre-workout flavors did they have? Did they all taste good? These are all reasons why consumers stuck with a certain brand. If they like the profile of the product, and they like the results they are getting, then they have no reason to go anywhere else. The only thing that could happen would be if they got sick of a certain flavor, but they chose the brand because of the variety they have so they can always change things up when a certain flavor is getting boring.

11. The Products Work

The truest reply I received from the people I spoke with? The product simply works. Why go anywhere else when you found a product that gives you the results you want? It works. Plain and simple. Who cares if something new comes out with flashy labels, a ton of marketing dollars behind it, and every cool kid on the block is buying it? Doesn’t matter. They stick with what works for them. Why spend money on something that you aren’t sure if it will work when you already found something that does? People buy what they are familiar with and what has given them the results  

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