Apple loses top spot for loyalty in 2011 brand survey
Brands that innovate and “delight” customers with brand experience make the biggest impact
Brands that “delight” customers with authentic innovation and an overall brand experience that delivers on consumers’ key expectations form the product are the ones making strides in achieving loyalty.
That is one of the major findings of the 15th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), which quantifies consumers’ current engagement/loyalty levels in the US across 530 brands in 79 categories tracked by Brand Keys.
Media brands were prominent and DVD rental service Netflix toppled Apple as the brand that inspired the highest level of customer loyalty. Pharmacy chain Walgreens was ranked third.
2001 was the first time that the Video Rental category had been included in the survey. Netflix easily outscored its competotors in the sector Blockbuster, Redbox and DVDXpress.
The top 10 brands that raked highest overall in terms of the degree to which they have met or exceeded consumer expectations within their own categories – ie. the degree to which they “delight” their customers – were:
6. Mary Kay
8. J. Crew
“This year’s results make it clear that ‘delight’ is now the critical brand differentiator and most important driver of engagement and loyalty,” said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of the Brand Keys consultancy. “Mere brand ‘satisfaction’ has never been more cost-of-entry. Consumers already know the brands. They know what they do and they know what they’re willing to pay for them. Now, they’re looking to be delighted.”
Passikoff said he was surprised Netflix had topped the overall ranking and that he would personally have opted for Apple.
“Consumers’ evolution toward defining value in total experience terms rather than price terms has been accelerating for some time, and it’s now taken firm hold,” he added. “Product/service attributes relating to brand ‘experience’ and ‘authentic innovation’ – the attributes that most drive ‘delight’ – are exerting the strongest impact on customer decision-making, category expectations and engagement. This year, 93% of all categories tracked are showing their greatest increases in expectations within purchase-drivers that are centered on innovation and other attributes that most strongly impact customers’ overall experience and produce that ‘delight’ factor.”
Passikoff says that authentic innovation – meaning that which makes some kind of a positive difference in users’ lives or lifestyles – has never been more critical because of its key role in producing an overall brand experience that achieves the “delight” level. In addition to launching new products/ services that offer the consumer something new and meaningful, innovations that improve existing products or how they are delivered or serviced post-purchase are hallmarks of the brands that are leading their categories in loyalty/engagement, he says.
The CLEI data predict coming shifts in the consumer marketplace 12 to 18 months before they appear in traditional research, according to Passikoff. “Given the levels of commoditization we’ve witnessed in so many categories as a result of product/service delivery and pricing/ promotion strategies, it’s no surprise that consumers are now looking for their favorite brands to make a real difference in their lifestyles,” he observes.
He added that the more specific product or brand attributes that drive loyalty/engagement and the expectation levels for delight vary by category.
Discover was ranked the best credit card (and came fourth overall for loyalty), Google the best search engine and Facebook the best social networking site, while Dunkin’ Donuts beat off Starbucks in the coffee category.
McDonald’s came top in Quick Service Restaurants followed closely by Subway.
“Consumer expectations for QSRs have risen tremendously,” says Passikoff. “Perceived brand value is the price of admission; now they want more choices, healthier choices – like McDonald’s oatmeal and salads and Subway’s lower-calorie offerings and whole-grain bread options – and better ingredients all around.”
For a full list of results see: http://www.brandkeys.com/awards/