Retailers get the highest loyalty ratings
Cosmetic and moisturiser brands, including Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, and Clinique, accounted for one third of the Top 50 Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders in the tenth annual survey conducted by US-based loyalty consultancy Brand Keys.
Some 16% of the top-50 loyalty leaders are retailers (including bricks-and-mortar, web-based, and catalogue retailers). While Wal-Mart was rated number 3 overall, J. Crew took two places (number 8 for clothing catalogues and number 13 for retail apparel stores). J. Crew has done all the right things in terms of the store experience and migrating the brand to another level of quality.
In terms of department stores, Kohl's earned its loyalty ranking this year (#44), as did Amazon (#7) for on-line, and Target (#26), Sam's Club (#29), and B.J.'s (#42).
"Brand loyalty is absolutely driven by emotion," said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys' founder and president. "And the rankings on this year's list make it clear that consumers are looking to emotionally connect with brands more than ever before."
This year's Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders list includes 501 brands in 71 categories. The brands in this year's top ten include:
- Apple iPhone
- Samsung cell phones
- Grey Goose vodka
- Apple Computers
- J. Crew
Although the Top 50 Brands list comprises eight general categories, cosmetics and moisturisers (including both mass and luxury brands) accounted for 30% of the nation's leading brands. Following closely, technology brands (primarily smart and cell phone brands) account for 26% of the top-50. The technology group also includes search engines (Google, Bing, and MSN), Apple computers, and Kodak digital point-and-shoot cameras.
Of the top 50, 12% of the leading brands were alcoholic beverages, principally vodka brands, including: Grey Goose, Ketel One, 3 Olives, Stolichnaya, Rain, Chopin, and Sky.
"The number of alcohol brands may just be a reflection of how consumers feel about both the category and the economy," suggested Passikoff. Sam Adams (#46) was the only beer brand to make the top 50 ranking. But, on the other side of the bar, Dunkin Donuts coffee (14 up from #54 in 2009) and McDonald's coffee (now #18) were the only other beverage brands to make the top-50 loyalty rankings.
Automotive brand loyalty rankings were generally unchanged from 2009 with only two car brands appearing in the top 50: Hyundai (which rose from #295 in 2008 to #24 in 2009) is now #6, an increase in loyalty largely due to increases in product quality, the success of new higher-end models, and the on-going halo effect of its innovative and emotionally resonating buy-back campaign.
"Brands that can make a real, not superficial, emotional connection with consumers always engender higher levels of loyalty," said Passikoff.
Some of the brands that showed the greatest gains in loyalty in 2010 included Progressive Insurance (+78), Avon (+53), and Domino's Pizza (+38).
"Progressive's spokesperson, Flo, has turned out to be a trustworthy and uniquely cool emotional centre that holds for consumers and telegraphs a future of painless online transactions," commented Passikoff. "And Avon recently introduced a new, more emotionally-based 'stand-on-your-own' campaign, and Domino's success has had a lot to do with the introduction of its new recipe and a new, consumer-inclusive approach to category satisfaction."
"Some brands have suffered loyalty losses because of the economy as consumers shifted to less expensive brands that held the same degree of meaning," said Passikoff. "But brands that understand that real emotional connections can serve as a surrogate for added-value, will be able to create stronger loyalty bonds no matter the economy."