Social, Digital Brands Lead 2014 Loyalty Index

Apple, Amazon, Whats App, Google, YouTube and Kindle are the top dogs in consumer loyalty this year. In Brand Keys' 2014 Loyalty Leaders List, an annual survey in its 18th year that gauges how connected consumers feel to 721 brands in 65 categories, 36 of the top 100 are new brands or categories. 

Most new arrivals are around social and digital, including tablets, smartphones, and social networks. On the top of the list are instant messenger WhatsApp, Netflix, Amazon's video streaming, Instagram, and PayPal. Non-digitals on the list include fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, and Chick-fil-A; insurance brands like USAA; credit cards Discover and American Express; and beer brand Sam Adams. 

But the only non-digital or social brand that rates the top-20 list is Dunkin’ Donuts, which has risen seven spots since 2013. Brand Keys CEO Robert Passikoff said DD's customers have for years rated them as the top out-of-home coffee category.



The top 20 this year are, in descending order: Amazon; Apple smartphones; YouTube social networking; WhatsApp; Amazon tablets; Google search; Kindle; Samsung smartphones; Dunkin' Donuts for out-of-home coffee; Facebook social networking; Netflix video streaming; Beats by Dr. Dre headphones; Call of Duty: Ghosts for major league gaming; Amazon online retail; Zappos online retail;  Apple computers; Instagram social networking; PayPal online payments; Twitter social networking.

The study says 45% percent of the top 100 brands deal in consumer outreach and engagement via cellular and social networks, and the phones, smartphones, computers, and tablets needed "to meet the ever-increasing expectations related to outreach and personal connectivity that the consumer uses as a yardstick to measure brands," said Passikoff. 

Down from last year are personal care brands, now only 13% of the top 100 brands versus 20% last year. "The emotional engagement that women share with their favorite beauty brands can be very powerful, but again consumers are looking harder for a reason to believe and a reason to engage with and buy one brand versus myriad me-too products," said Passikoff. 

Traditional retail brands were down 50% because, per Passikoff, they have been hurt by online buying, and the inability of many retailers to differentiate beyond low-lower-lowest pricing strategies. The five retail brands remaining among 2014’s Loyalty Leaders include: J. Crew (#50), The Gap (#80), Macy’s (#88), Victoria’s Secret (#75) and T.J. Maxx (#92).

Among automakers in the top 100 are Hyundai (#23), Ford (#26), Toyota (#48), Jeep (#70), Nissan (#94), and Kia (#99). Ford and Toyota moved up the list by 12 spots and Jeep by 11. Nissan is on the list for the first time. GM, with 75 recalls this year alone, is off. 

Analysis last month included assessments from 43,238 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, drawn from the 9 US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers. Seventy-five percent were interviewed by phone, 20% via face-to-face interviews, and the remainder via online surveys.

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