According to Brand Keys’ latest Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, customer loyalty is undergoing a massive sea change, with 95% of brands showing significant “expectation gaps.”
That’s cleared the way for a whole new crop of winners, with Disney+, Traders Joe’s, Levi Strauss, Corona Extra and Booking.com rising to the No. 1 spot in their categories for the first time.
Also, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Samsung, the NFL and Colgate battled their way back to the top spots in their categories.
The New York-based consultancy, which specializes in loyalty and predictive brand equity, says it saw shifts in 91% of the 110 categories it tracks, encompassing close to 1,000 brands.
“Two and a half years after the pandemic upended life, the marketplace is normalizing,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, in the announcement. “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.”
These customer expectations, which tend to be emotional and subjective, are significantly different than they were in 2019.
“Brands that best meet consumer expectations always have the most loyal customers,” he said. But because people have begun making judgments and decisions more emotionally, “brands have difficulty identifying and tracking their customer desires,” accounting for the upheaval.
That said, the index validates that some companies have a lock on their customers’ hearts. Discover Card has taken the No. 1 spot among credit cards for 26 years, for instance, while Google has ruled search for 23, and Domino’s has dominated pizza for 19. Dunkin’ (17 years), Konica Minolta (16), Hyundai and AT&T Wireless (14), Amazon (12) and Home Depot (11) are all “hero brands that pretty much ‘own’ the #1 spot in their categories.”
Brand Keys interviewed 113,550 consumers aged 16 to 65 who self-select the categories and brands they use.
Interesting that loyal customers at places like Trader Joe's are not offered any loyalty premiums.