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Apple, Amazon make consumers’ loyalty VIP list

Electronics and social networks continue to lure loyal, engaged consumers as Apple, Amazon, and Twitter snagged leading spots among the top 10 brands on the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Leaders 2012 list. Apple and Amazon comprised the top five brand spots alone.

“I was surprised that so many of the social media and the electronic outreach, like tablets, showed up so high so fast,” says Robert Passikoff, president of customer loyalty and engagement research organization Brand Keys. “This is our 16th year doing the Loyalty Leaders list. You’re not so surprised when Apple shows up in the computer category because they’ve been around a while…but when all of a sudden you find that you’ve got basically three to four categories that are occupying the first 10 spots, it’s just a surprise to see. It shows how those particular categories are best meeting consumers’ expectations because that’s what loyalty and engagement is all about.”

Samsung, Call of Duty, and Halo filled the remaining spots on the top 10 list. To achieve the coveted ranking, brands need to understand what customers want and deliver it in a way that establishes a preferred emotional connection that keeps customers coming back for more, Passikoff says.

“Most brands haven’t incorporated the kind of emotional engagement measures that they need so they can understand how to actually leverage the brand,” Passikoff says. “Just knowing a brand and just being aware of the brand really isn’t enough anymore. The brand itself needs to resonate with certain values…. You want engagement and you want loyalty because that’s going to guarantee profitability.”

Brand Keys assembled the list by surveying more than 49,000 men and women ages 18 to 65 from nine U.S. census regions and measuring the number of brand mentions from each of the 83 categories.

“[Brands] have to be mentioned by the consumers enough times to be included in the study. On average, there are probably six or eight brands in each one of the categories that gets mentioned enough,” Passikoff says.

However, the category “ideal,” a combination of the emotional and rational factors that make up a category, is what Brand Keys truly analyzed, says Passikoff. “We look at the order of importance and then we look at levels of expectations, which are different from one another because somebody can be very important to you, but you don’t have high expectations.”

(Click on the image at left to view the full list.)

Passikoff says Apple earned its first-place ranking for the tablet category by receiving a 96% ideal ranking. Amazon received a 94% ideal ranking for the same category, he says.

“Kindle set the category on fire. Apple just shook the category to its core,” Passikoff says. “Those two brands are best at meeting the expectations that people hold for the ideal in the category and that’s how things sort out.”

Passikoff says measuring consumers’ current category ideals serves as a strong indicator of consumer behaviors and how it will change over time. “Measuring the ideal in the category is so important for us to be able to gauge how people are going to behave because those ideals will shift as new entries come into our marketplace, new technologies come into the marketplace, and new customer expectations make themselves felt.”

However, when it comes to Pasikoff’s recipe for loyalty, it’s just a combination of understanding the categories and meeting the expectations.

“The secret sauce is knowing how people look at the category, knowing what they expect in the category, and being the brand that best meets or is able to exceed those expectations for the category.”

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