Ford Drives To The Fore In Brand Loyalty

Hyundai-AAEditor's Note: This week, Marketing Daily brought you exclusive coverage of the Brand Keys 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI). Each day, we delivered a full report on key product/services categories from among the 54 surveyed for this year’s study, including automotive, electronics, retail and technology. This final installment focuses on highlights from automotive categories and summarizes an assortment of categories from the full report.

And we're off! Time to drive into the Brand Keys auto races. And here's how the auto brands passed the checkered flag:

  1. Ford/Hyundai (tie)
  2. Honda/Toyota (tie)
  3. General Motors
  4. Chrysler
  5. BMW/Lexus/Mercedes (tie)
  6. Subaru
  7. Mazda/Kia (tie)
  8. Mini
  9. Volkswagen
  10. Nissan

The big mover was Ford, which had been in the middle of the pack before moving up to number two in last year's study. But wait. Where's Chevy? Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, says that respondents were largely truck owners, and Brand Keys just doesn't look at that segment now. "Trucks really involve a different set of drivers." The results also reflect a big emotional connection to technology, he notes.

"You see many manufacturers trying to associate the brand with higher level of personal connectivity via technology. People want to be able to connect with how they drive the same way they connect with people: voice control, rear cameras, for instance." Passikoff said Hyundai wins for the emotional drive it gets for quality, design, and even the lasting effect of "Assurance," that recessionary program in which they offered to buy back peoples' cars if they were in a serious financial jam. 

Car Insurance

  1. State Farm
  2. Allstate
  3. Geico
  4. Progressive
  5. USAA
  6. Liberty Mutual
  7. Nationwide

State Farm plowed ahead of Allstate, which had been number one last year. Progressive was once the category leader because people went with the Flo. Has she now become an irritating fixture of the ad pod world? "They had tremendous engagement with the Flo campaign and moved away from that to the ‘lonely rider’ and lost some momentum," says Passikoff, who adds that the brand lost some punch with the initial ads.

Car Rental

  1. Avis
  2. Enterprise/Hertz
  3. Budget
  4. National
  5. Dollar/Alamo

Car rental? No big changes. Passikoff says Enterprise does extraordinarily well on customer service. Alamo and Dollar are all based on pricing, reputation or reliability. He points out that with the rental fleets it's about trust. A brand lives or dies with ashtray issues. "The concept is you tend to details -- there shouldn't be cigarette butts." 

Gasoline

  1. Shell
  2. Chevron
  3. BP/Exxon/Mobil (tie)
  4. Sunoco
  5. Citgo
  6. Texaco

Beyond big issues like Deepwater Horizon, and the commodity nature of gasoline (most of us just look at the price board) people look for full-featured stations that provide extra services. And brand rep does matter. "BP used to be top of the list years ago, and then destroyed the ecosystem and went to bottom of the list. They are moving back, and part of that is based on money they have paid out, given to Gulf states to boost tourism." 

Athletic Footwear

  1. Skechers
  2. Asics/Nike (tie)
  3. New Balance
  4. Reebok
  5. Adidas/Brooks (tie)

It's kind of hard, on one level, to believe Skechers is number one this year. I mean, you don't immediately think Skechers when you think high-performance shoes with shock absorbers, turboprops in the back and special geometry to make you run like a cheetah. Passikoff points out that Skechers sprinted past Asics partly because it actually has expanded beyond fashion to athletic products. "They have been broadening their stride to span fashion and comfort, to walking and athletics." He adds that personal style is very important in the category. "It's my sense of self and my needs. "It's like buying a mattress years ago. You wouldn't do it over the phone -- you went to Macy's to lie on it." 

Smartphones

1. Samsung
2. Apple
3. Nokia/Sony (tie)
4. Motorola
5. HTC
6. BlackBerry

The big shift is that Samsung knocked Apple out of first spot. "I don't think it's that Apple has reached a precipice, but how Samsung has been positioning itself in the market and focusing on innovation. They have just been able to do it better," says Passikoff. 

Major League Sports

1. National Football League
2. Major League Baseball
3. National Basketball Association
4. National Hockey League

"The NFL did great. They were number two last year," says Passikoff. "They and baseball go back and forth, with the NBA always ending up third." And the NHL's lockout has been devastating. "The NHL is barely a sport any more when the season is 48 games."

Online Travel Site

1. Expedia
2. Orbitz
3. Travelocity
4. Kayak
5. Priceline
6. Hotwire
7. Hotels.com
8. Cheap Tickets

Expedia did a great job in terms of reputation around guarantees, and the peace of mind that such guarantees engender. That quality, says Passikoff, is lacking in some of the other players. "And it becomes a very, very engaging aspect if you can book all travel on one site rather than go back and forth. A lot of the others don't offer that, either. "So Expedia gets rated highly on it."

Consumer Packaged Goods, i.e., Luxury Cosmetics

Cosmetics/Luxury:

1. Clinique
2. Lancome
3. Chanel
4. Estee Lauder
5. Shiseido

That's it. Luxury Cosmetics. The rest are gone. What the hell happened? Passikoff says what happened was the category players turned CPG into a placeholder business by marketing on coupons and other deals. "Aspects of branding got so tiny as to be insignificant, or they disappeared altogether," he says. "Now the drivers for engagement and loyalty are pretty much interchangeable." 

All told, 11 categories are now fossils: OTC Allergy Meds, Mass Merchandise Cosmetics, Facial Moisturizer, Hair Color, Shampoo, Conditioner, Laundry Detergent, OTC Pain Relievers, Paper Towels, Pasta Sauce, and Tooth Whiteners. Passikoff says that by contrast, the Luxury category is driven by brand identity that "makes me look good and feel good, and knows me," plus innovation and value, and effortless transformation.

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