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Apple, Amazon, Samsung, YouTube and Twitter lead the 2012 Top 100 Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders List, an annual survey conducted by Brand Keys, the New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement research consultancy. “This is our 16th year aggregating the brand loyalty leaders, and it’s the first time we’ve seen such a seismic shift in loyalty leadership in terms of new categories and brands making their appearance in the top 100,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Brand loyalty has always been primarily driven by emotional engagement, and the rankings on this year’s list make it crystal clear that connection is everything.”
With 598 brands in 83 categories for consumers to rate, there’s a lot of competition for the top 100 spots. “This year certain categories rose to the top because of the high levels of engagement that consumers show, and what they deliver versus consumers’ expectations,” said Passikoff.
The top 10 Brand Keys loyalty leaders rank:
Last year, beauty and personal care brands accounted for nearly a third of the top 100, but this year represent only 18% of the top 100 brands. “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 bond—and buy—one brand versus myriad ‘me too’ products on store shelves,” said Passikoff.
Retail brands were down nearly a third—looking at bricks and clicks providers—on this year’s list. “We believe the inability for retailers to provide meaningful differentiation—beyond low-lower-lowest pricing strategies—has seriously eroded loyalty levels in the retail category,” said Passikoff.
Amazon.com is still high on the list (#4), but emotional bonds have weakened across the retail category. Zappos (#6 last year) moved down the list to #19 this year; the next ranked retailer is Target, at #36.
Twenty-three percent of the top 100 brands account for consumer outreach and engagement via cellular and social networks, and the phones, smartphones, computers and tablets needed for the “instant gratification access consumer expectations cry out for,” said Passikoff.
Sephora (+60) was one of the brands that showed the greatest loyalty gains this year, among other climbers such as Starbucks, Ford, Costco and Samsung. “Some brands suffered losses because of the economy as consumers shifted to less-expensive brands that still held some degree of meaning,” said Passikoff. “Some of the shifts are due to the creation and adoption of new categories that help to better meet—or even exceed—customer expectations. But brands that understand that real emotional connections can serve as a surrogate for added-value will always top the list—no matter the state of the economy.”