When I was in college, my mom started giving me a small gift at Christmas: a bar of Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Soap.

She was a fan of the brand and, during Kiehl’s tent pole events, would stock up on a few of her favorites. It was an otherwise expensive brand for her, but she had progressed a lot in her career, and I think Kiehl’s became one of those brands that meant more to her because of what it represented (“I can afford this now”) than anything else.

Somehow, along the way, she started to get me that bar of soap. And it became the Christmas gift I both expected and looked forward to receiving.

If you’ve never seen it, the Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Soap is an absolute brick—and it feels like one, too.

It’s 7 ounces (twice the size of a normal bar of soap), filled with enough pumice that you’ll nearly jump out of the shower in pain, and produces enough suds that you could make a bubble bath with it.

In short, it is extravagant.

It is also priced that way: The Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Soap is normally priced at $15/bar.

As such, the soap is a common gift in my house, but I am far from a frequent buyer. It is, if one could have one, my soap indulgence.

I am loyal to Kiehl’s, but not valuable.

I’ve spent time thinking about my use of Kiehl’s of late, because the talk in the run up to BFCM is often about the type of customers you introduce into your file via discounts and promos: By and large, these customers do not become your most valuable.

There are myriad reasons why, but one, perhaps, relates to this weirdly personal story about a bar of soap:

As we wrote in “Loyalty”:

When we hear “loyalty,” we often hear about it in vein of Apple, say, or even Peloton. But what does that mean? And is it actually practical for a CPG brand to aim for loyalty in the same way Apple does?

If you were to attempt an answer at those questions, you might start with further defining loyalty into at least two types:

  • Attitudinal. Loyalty driven by a customer’s brand preference. Usually rooted in emotion.

  • Behavioral. Loyalty driven by a customer’s actions. Rooted in repetitive behaviors (i.e., repeat purchases). 

We often spend our time talking about loyalty in terms of emotional connections. Our leap here is often that the stronger a customer’s emotional connection is with our brand, the more valuable they will be to our business.

Perhaps, but not always.

That, it seems, is worth considering through the lens of this story: I have a deep attitudinal loyalty to Kiehl’s (which leads to regular use), but my behavioral loyalty is shallow (which leads to infrequent purchases).

How to change that?

That’s Kiehl’s challenge with me, at least.