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Brand keys customer loyalty engagement index finds seismic changes in loyalty rankings

Now #1: Disney+, Trader Joe’s, Enterprise, Lego, Booking.com, H&R Block, Levi's McDonald’s, Chipotle, Samsung, NFL, Colgate Reclaim No. 1 Spots

91% of Categories See Shifts in How Consumers View & Compare Brands,

95% of Brands See Massive Expectation Gaps Between Consumer Desires & Brand Delivery

Shifts in the order of product/service category loyalty drivers in nearly all (91%) of the 110 categories with 987 brands tracked have fundamentally changed the face of brand loyalty, radically widening gap between customer desire and brand delivery, according to the 26th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by Brand Keys (brandkeys.com), the New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement research consultancy.

“Two and a half years after the pandemic upended life, the marketplace is normalizing,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “But the characterization ‘normalized’ now takes into account extraordinarily complex levels of social and consumer advocacy, combative political tribalism, and an economic rollercoaster, all of which explain consumers’ new-views of product categories and brands amid frighteningly higher expectations.”

2023 Newest Customer Loyalty #1 Leaders

Brands rated #1 in their categories for the first time include:

Corona Extra

Disney+

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Aquafina

Traders Joe’s

Booking.com

Oscar Meyer

Epsom

Levi Strauss

H&R Block

Lego

Dannon

Don Julio Tequila and

Drury Hotels.

Returning Brand Champions

Because of the new ways in which consumers view categories along with their increased expectations, certain brands were returned to the #1 loyalty spot in their categories. This year those brands included:

McDonald’s

Uber

The NFL

Chase

L’Oréal

Apple (headphones)

Chipotle

Dick’s Sporting Goods

CVS

Samsung (smartphones), and

Colgate.

Customer Expectations: A Two-Word Model For “Normalized” Brand Loyalty

As complex as the brandscape and consumers have become, the new paradigm for loyalty can be captured in two words – ‘customer expectations.” But as expectations are more emotional than rational, identifying them is tricky. It’s tricky because expectations are often unarticulated and more-often subconsciously felt. Hence our use of psychological measures,” said Passikoff. Shifts in expectations result in massive changes in consumer wants, needs and desires. And how brands are seen capable of delivering against those expectations. You really do need to be able to measure both those things. Customer loyalty is calibrated precisely to those expectations.”

An "Ideal" for Every Product

Consumers have an Ideal for every product and service that they use to gauge how brands measure up when it comes to their loyalty. It describes the emotional and rational values each consumer uses, often unarticulated and more-often subconsciously felt, to view the category, to compare brands, and to buy and remain loyal.

More importantly, whether emotionally or rationally-based, consumers hold expectations for each value. Those include aspects like personal goals, connection, customer experience, image and self-image, and the basics: value, availability, product range, product efficacy, reputation, and trust.

“Brands that best meet consumer expectations always have the most-loyal customers,” said Passikoff. The shift in how consumers view brand Ideals (in 87% of the categories tracked), combined with substantial expectation increases (in 95% of the categories) directly correlate to the shift in overall 2023 brand loyalty rankings.

Owning Brand Loyalty

“Because expectations are more emotionally-based today,” said Passikoff, “brands have a difficult time identifying and tracking them customer desires. But there are ‘hero’ brands that pretty much ‘own’ the #1 spot in their categories long enough to earn a ‘perennial loyalty’ designation.” Those brands include:

Discover Card (26 years running)

Google (23 years)

Domino’s (19)

Dunkin’ (17)

Konica Minolta (16)

Hyundai (14)

AT&T Wireless (14)

Amazon.com (12), and

Home Depot (11)

Meeting extraordinarily higher consumer expectations have had a multiplier-effect when it comes to emotional brand engagement, desire, and loyalty.

Brand Loyalty For the “New Normal”

“The new paradigm for brand loyalty is pretty straightforward,” said Passikoff. “Expectations are the key. But as expectations are more emotional than rational, identifying them is tricky. And that results in massive changes in what consumers want and equally massive gaps between what they desire and how brands are seen capable of delivering. Happily, accurate loyalty metrics can help identify, close gaps, and keep marketers on the path to profitability.”

A list of the 2023 CLEI brands rated #1 for loyalty in their categories can be found at: brandkeys.com.

See more at The Customer.

Not for nothing, but back in 1984 when we launched Brand Keys, “satisfaction” and “loyalty” were used interchangeably. You could get folks to mumble semantic differences. But you really had to press them on it. No, satisfaction measures were actually used as surrogates for “loyalty” assessments. Not by us, I hasten to add, and sure, that was 40 years ago, but why would you expect anything different? Satisfaction measures were easy and (real) loyalty wasn’t. And nobody was making a big deal about it. Well, except us. We thought it was a very big deal!

It took 15 more years for loyalty to come into its own. The Quality and ISO movements guaranteed brands still in business were, well, satisfactory. And undifferentiated. (That’s still the case. And why “awards” for satisfaction read a lot like, “Highest satisfaction for a new, 4-door, all electric crossover vehicle with fewest problems in first 30 days of ownership. In blue.”) But I digress.

So, researchers did what they were forced to. Change. Well, not change completely. Or even a lot. Because folks had a lot invested in satisfaction and satisfaction was, well, easy. And profitable. So, most researchers and brands came late to loyalty. In most cases, research companies just put a new coat of paint on satisfaction. They whitewashed over it and re-painted it as “loyalty.” In the largest, reddest letters they could. The conversation eventually shifted to “loyalty,” but it took a while. So, loyalty – both real and sham – got bigger.

We got bigger too. But to be fair, we’ve been loyalty thought-leaders for 40 years. More to the point, the annual study of real loyalty got bigger to accommodate diverse customer segments and the ever-expanding brandscape. So, this year we examined 110 categories, interviewed 113,550 consumers, men and women, 16 to 65 YOA, from the nine US Census Regions. They self-selected categories in which they were consumersand the brands for which they’re customers, and assessed 987 brands. So, yeah, bigger.

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