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Who Made the 2010 Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders List?

Beauty trumps technology, retail shines as consumers opt for emotional connections with brands.

Cosmetic and moisturizer brands, including Mary Kay, Estee Lauder, and Clinique, accounted for a third of the 10th annual 2010 Top 50 Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders, in the annual survey by Brand Keys (www.brandkeys.com), a New York-based brand, customer loyalty and engagement consultancy. "The 'emotional engagement' that women share with their favorite beauty brands is very powerful," says Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. Technology brands, primarily smart and cell phone brands, account for 26 percent of the Top 50.

"There's nothing out there today better at fueling a consumer connection than technology," noted Passikoff. The technology group also includes search engines (Google, Bing, and MSN), Apple computers, and Kodak digital point-and-shoot cameras.

This year's Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders List includes 501 brands in 70 categories. The brands in the 2010 Top 10 include: Apple iPhone, Samsung cell phones (#1 and #2 respectively for the second consecutive year), Wal-Mart, Grey Goose vodka, Apple Computers, Hyundai, Amazon, J. Crew, Blackberry, and Avis.

Retailers Ring Up High Loyalty Ratings

Sixteen percent of the Top 50 Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders represents retailers (bricks, clicks, and catalogs). Wal-Mart was rated #3. J. Crew took two places; one for clothing catalogs (#8) and the other for retail apparel stores (#13). J. Crew has done all the right things in terms of the store experience and migrating the brand to another level of quality, Passikoff notes. For Department Stores, Kohl's earned its loyalty ranking this year (#44), as did Amazon (#7) for online, and Target (#26), Sam's Club (#29), and B.J.'s (#42).

"Brand loyalty is absolutely driven by emotion," says Passikoff. "And the rankings on this year's list make it clear that consumers are looking to emotionally connect with brands more than ever before."

Beverages Score

Of the Top 50, 12 percent of the leading brands were alcoholic beverages, principally vodka brands, including: Grey Goose, Ketel One, 3 Olives, Stolichnaya, Rain, Chopin, and Sky. Sam Adams (#46) was the only beer brand to make the Top 50 ranking.

On the other side of the bar, Dunkin Donuts coffee (#14 up from #54 in 2009) and McDonald's coffee (#18) were the only other beverage brands to make the Top 50 loyalty rankings.

Car Brands Run Out of Gas

Automotive brand loyalty rankings were generally unchanged from last year with only two car brands in the Top 50: Hyundai (moved up from #295 two years ago to #24 last year) is now #6, an increase in loyalty largely due to significant increases in product quality, success of its
new higher-end models, and the ongoing halo effect from its innovative and emotionally resonating buy-back campaign, Passikoff says.

Toyota, a perennial loyalty leader, #15 last year, is now #37. "They're still feeling the effects of the recalls and bad press over the last year," notes Passikoff.

Big Loyalty Winners and Losers

Some brands that showed the greatest gains in loyalty this year included: Progressive Insurance (+78), Avon (+53), and Domino s Pizza (+38). "Progressive has been doing it right," says Passikoff. "Their spokesperson, Flo, has turned out to be a trustworthy and uniquely cool
emotional center that holds for consumers and telegraphs a future of painless online transactions." Avon recently introduced a new, more emotionally based stand-on-your-own campaign, and Domino's success had a lot to do with the introduction of its new recipe and a new, consumer-inclusive approach to category satisfaction, Passikoff says.

Among the brands that saw the greatest losses in loyalty were: Palm (-407), Tylenol Allergy (-199), and BP (-326). Palm, at one time almost a generic for PDAs with very high loyalty, fell behind rivals that merged mobile and data management. Palm's latest operating system, webOS, and newest model phone, received a lukewarm consumer reception when introduced a few days before a new iPhone entered the market, Passikoff says. The brand, along with customer loyalty, faded away, and in April it was acquired by HP.

Tylenol's loyalty loss coincided with a number of product recent recalls, and BP, rated last in this year's rankings (#501), learned that if you're an oil company that built its house on being green you need to avoid blowing up oil rigs, destroying livelihoods and fragile ecosystems, says Passikoff.

"Some brands have suffered loyalty losses because of the economy as consumers shifted to less expensive brands that held the same degree of meaning," says 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."

The study updates last January's Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, which was conducted among 35,000 consumers. Eighty-five percent (85 percent) of the interviews are conducted on the phone; the remaining 15 percent are conducted via central location intercepts to account for the increasing number of cell phone-only households.

For the complete list of 2010 rankings, visit http://www.brandkeys.com/awards/leaders_10.cfm