Autism + brand loyalty

I used to think “brand loyalty” was a good thing, even if it feeds into capitalism — and perhaps because it feeds into capitalism. It’s what I was taught!

However, I didn’t realize until recently how much of a problem society has with brand loyalty until I realized this behavior is pathologized when autism enters the chat.

As if the capitalistic society I live within wants me to be loyal to brands unless I’m also autistic.

Allistic skateboarders can dedicate their feet to Vans shoes for the rest of their lives. If I do that, allistics perceive me as snobby and privileged.

I think less of the general public is practicing brand loyalty, but this hasn’t changed for me so much. Regardless of the stage capitalism is in, part of accepting autistic people involves accepting our behaviors and needs, too.

Brand loyalty = same brands

I have

  • same shoes
  • same pens
  • same sunflower seed butter
  • same vitamins
  • same body wash
  • same shampoo
  • same lotion

The list goes on. While I may have a handful of brands for options, I remain somewhat loyal to them.

My loyalty to brands has little to do with the superficiality associated with capitalism.

I have “same things” — like “same pens” and “same shoes” — because they are predictable and reliable, consistently.

I use Pilot G2 pens for all my pen needs — except when I use micron pens for art or bullet journaling — because they glide best, don’t require much pressure and fit pleasantly in my hand.

Rainbow-checkered Vans shoes on wood vinyl floor, wearing black jeggings

A pair of Vans shoes lasts me years, even with daily wear. I know how a new pair of Vans slip-ons will feel throughout the break-in process and how to break in my Vans slip-ons. The design choices vary enough that I have options — without forcing me to acclimate to completely different styles.

G2 and Vans don’t change or discontinue their main products. They’re reliable and consistent, in predictability and quality — therefore, they live up to my expectations and needs every. single. time.

I can’t imagine having to familiarize myself with a brand new shoe style, shape and brand. It wouldn’t be the same.

I would have to figure out what size fit me best, what socks worked best for me with those shoes — because not every sock style pairs with any kind of shoe.

You have to consider a lot of sensory ish with that.

My brand loyalty = need

Generic brands don’t always measure up to the brand name products, especially in regard to food. Great Value butter rounds do not bear the same sensory input as Ritz crackers — they taste stale even when I open a new box.

When I eat food that doesn’t satiate a sensory need in the way I expected — that is, needed — the hunger to fulfill that sensory need does not relent. Instead, it becomes a void I’m desperate to fill but don’t properly comprehend.

I wonder if, since non-autistic minds don’t process as much sensory information as autistic people, the issue is less a matter of misunderstanding and more closely related to the double empathy problem.

If allistics don’t perceive the difference between homemade ham-and-cheese-filled pastries versus store-bought Hot Pockets (or a ham-and-cheese-filled sandwich equivalent), then of course they would struggle to comprehend why encouraging Cheeto-loving autistic kids to try carrots is like fire and ice. 🤷‍♀️

They don’t comprehend the difference, because their allistic brain processes less information. Ergo, they mistakenly dismiss sensory preferences of autistic people as unimportant, “trivial” matters.

Brand loyalty in autistic culture

A notorious autistic trait is eating limited foods, especially in relation to beige foods. Non-autistic people desperately want autistic people to eat a “complete diet”, as if this is the thing that will normalize us.

I’m not writing this post to offer solutions.

My favorite posts to see on forums, in Facebook groups, or social media profiles and pages in general are always the ones about an obviously autistic person stocking up on a same food or product they love and don’t want to miss out on before it’s discontinued.

When products I adopt into my regular routine, or fall in love with sensory-wise, are discontinued, finding a similar replacement is futile except in rare circumstances.

2020 led to many cosmetic and grocery companies shutting down indefinitely. The products I loved and used were not replaceable; they were truly one of a kind.

Perfectly Posh had a Gender Bender bar soap that I’d stock up on for a year; the MLM has since fallen due to various drama Charlise filled me in on, and I am now determined to learn soap making one day so I can recreate the soap with the fragrance I fell in love with. 🧼

Allistic equivalent

The only allistic equivalent to “same brands” and “same products” — the autistic type of brand loyalty — I can think of is having a good friend of childhood and experiencing the kind of nostalgia that stirs within you melancholy feelings.

Even that doesn’t begin to describe the kind of loss that is a beloved, discontinued product — but perhaps, for those who don’t understand this kind of brand loyalty — the comparison will help you empathize with autistic people over this experience better.

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