COVID creates ultimate loyalty stress test—which brands are thriving?

by | Feb 8, 2021 | Public Relations

While the COVID-19 pandemic claimed many business and brand fatalities, customer loyalty was not among them. Despite imposing a severe stress test on brands, loyalty has survived the impact of the pandemic, according to the 25th annual 2021 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) from brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy Brand Keys.

The ultimate loyalty stress test

“The new CLEI survey found 2020 marketplace rigors created two loyalty challenges for brands,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, in a news release. “First, how to enhance brand-to-consumer emotional engagement and, second, how to leverage brand values to best meet customers’ expectations.”

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.

Loyalty positions in the electronics sector

The 2021 survey examined 94 categories and 855 brands. Electronics brands (in 8 categories: tablets, laptops, e-readers, TVs, headphones, MFP Copiers, & smartphones) representative of each of the quadrant values loyalty include:

COVID creates ultimate loyalty stress test—which brands are thriving?

COVID creates ultimate loyalty stress test—which brands are thriving?

The loyalty map multiple

Each quadrant on the map represents a combination of values related to predictive loyalty drivers: Emotional Engagement and Meeting Customer Expectations. “Ideally,” said Passikoff. “You want consumers to feel your brand engenders high emotional engagement and meets their expectations as completely as possible. Brands able to do that are six times more likely to create loyal customers, and loyal customers are six times more likely to give a brand the benefit of the doubt in tough circumstances.”

Customer desire and brand delivery

“Emotional engagement, the result of effective marketing communications that increases a brand’s equity, results in customers behaving more positively toward the brand,” noted Passikoff. “Consumer expectations, a key dimension of customers’ brand belief-systems, are unconstrained customer desires. Expectations increase on average 22 percent a year, yet brands typically manage to achieve only a seven percent increase—a big gap between customer desires and brand promises to deliver.

Broken supply chains = lack of availability, not lack of loyalty

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has altered how, when, and where consumers shop. “And also, what we buy,” said Passikoff. “Lockdowns and sheltering-in have drastically altered modern life. Increased use of telecommuting for work, education, and leisure has led to a surge in demand for electronic products.” Desperate times have called for desperate choices due to lack of product availability.

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 that their expectations be met,” noted Passikoff. “But lack of product availability does not denote a decline of brand loyalty. Yes, being in-stock matters as regards sales, but loyal customers are 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.”

“What’s incontrovertible is that the 2021 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index confirms brands that best meet consumers’ expectations, and are capable of sustaining emotional engagement relationships, always see enhanced loyalty – and the market share and profits that come with it,” added Passikoff.

See the complete list of 94 categories—and the brands exhibiting the highest loyalty focus in each—here.

For the 2021 CLEI survey, 75,804 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US 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 sixty (60%) percent were interviewed online.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at; @BulldogReporter


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