Some blue-chip brands see loyalty drop precipitously during pandemic, survey finds

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Twenty percent of the brands on Brand Keys’ Loyalty Leaders List are new to the annual survey’s top 100, the most newcomers in the poll’s 24-year history, according to a press release shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Brands such as Disney+ (in the No. 7 position), Clorox (No. 30), Purell (No. 41), Charmin (No. 74), Zoom (No. 48) and Ben & Jerry’s (No. 61) made their first appearance on the list while the biggest gainers among brands that previously appeared include Smirnoff, Dollar Tree, Geico and YouTube. Additionally, 18 brands disappeared from the list, such as McDonald’s, Expedia, Under Armour, LinkedIn and Delta, while Avis, Ford, T.J. Maxx and Uber saw their ranking drop precipitously.
  • Winning consumer loyalty during the first few months of the pandemic was a matter of “‘who showed up?’ and ‘who delivered,'” said Brand Keys President Robert Passikoff in the press release, as consumers spent more time at home amid medical and economic uncertainty.

Dive Insight:

As consumers absorb the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brand Keys’ Brand Loyalty Leaders List suggests perceptions are shifting around which brands deserve loyalty and attention. Many companies providing a product or service that offers a tangible benefit during the prolonged pandemic saw a boost in their ranking, while those whose purpose seems less urgent took a hit.

In a possible reflection of just how disruptive the pandemic has been to brand loyalty, more new companies entered the Top 100 in 2020 than any other time in the survey’s history, per the release. Twenty percent of the brands on the list are new and positions shifted drastically for many of the remaining 80%.

Newcomers to the list as well as some of the biggest gainers this year reflect the country’s changing priorities and product usage during the pandemic, when consumers have been embracing digital content, home products and comfort food.

On the whole, categories such as travel, automotive, fast-casual restaurants and apparel retail were hardest hit in this year’s survey. However, while loyalty reflects consumers’ allegiance to brands, the report emphasizes the need to recognize that 2020 is an abnormal year marked by significant changes in consumer behavior. Last month, McKinsey reported 77% of consumers were trying new shopping methods, including buying from new brands and retailers, with many saying they would continue those behaviors in the long term.

To maintain or grow customer loyalty during the pandemic, brands should emphasize their essential purpose and remain intently focused on meeting consumers’ needs and expectations throughout the crisis.

“Even during these difficult times, consumers won’t settle for a hearty, ‘We’re in this together’ message,'” Passikoff said in a statement. “Consumers demand their expectations be met. Some brands delivered, others didn’t. Consumers acknowledged brands that showed up and snubbed the no-shows!”

Brand Keys’ Loyalty Leaders analysis included more than 52,000 assessments from consumers between the ages of 16 and 65. Surveys were conducted during August and September 2020, and respondents were asked to assess 1,121 brands across 109 categories.

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