Hyundai, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Kia are among the automotive brands that have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and are faring well in terms of loyalty, per Brand Keys.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mazda, Volkswagen, Buick, Volvo and Chrysler were among the brands with low emotional engagement and a low level of meeting expectations.
The national survey found that while the pandemic claimed many business and brand fatalities, customer loyalty was not among them.
In the auto sector, used vehicle sales gained business due to a lack of new car inventory as a result of factory shutdowns.
“But whether a new or used model, loyalty matters,” says Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Desperate times calls for desperate choices due to lack of brand and model availability, and purchase of ‘new’ or ‘alternative’ brands represents need, not a lack of customer loyalty.”
During pandemics consumers will compromise, but they still continue to demand their expectations be met, Passikoff says.
“But lack of product availability does not denote a decline of brand loyalty,” he says. “Yes, being on the lot matters for sales, but loyal customers are six times more likely to stick with their favorite brands through difficult times -- and, in a more stable marketplace, will wait for them or will actively seek them out.”
This year, to graphically illustrate brand loyalty rankings, Brand Keys created a series of emotional engagement/expectation quadrant maps to delineate brand loyalty positions in the marketplace based on the two stress-test dynamics.
Each quadrant on the map represents a combination of values related to predictive loyalty drivers: emotional engagement and meeting customer expectations.
“Emotional engagement, the result of effective marketing communications that increases a brand’s equity, results in customers behaving more positively toward the brand,” Passikoff says. “Consumer expectations, a key dimension of customers’ brand belief systems, are unconstrained customer desires.”
For the 2021 survey, 75,804 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine U.S. Census Regions, self-selected categories in which they are consumers and brands for which they are customers. This year Brand Keys examined 94 categories and 855 brands. Forty percent were interviewed by phone and 60% were interviewed online.