These brands know the secret of loyalty—how does it work?

by | Feb 12, 2019 | Public Relations

Loyalty is an increasingly important metric for brand communicators—and consumers are getting more fickle than ever. In fact, new research from brand and customer loyalty and engagement research consultancy Brand Keys finds that consumer expectations increase annually by 25 percent on average.

“Trust has become the connective tissue between brands and loyalty,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president, in a news release. “Expectations for trust are up across all product/service categories and brands an average of 250+ percent year over year. Meanwhile, customer concerns regarding privacy, security, and brand transparency have reached a tipping point.”

Top 10 brands that know the secret of loyalty

“Brands looking for guaranteed profits, can’t do better than loyal customers,” said Passikoff. This year’s 2019 CLEI identified 10 brands regularly #1 in their categories, some from the time the category was established. “The following brands are perennial stars.”

  • Discover Card – Credit Cards: 23 years
  • Avis – Car Rental: 20 years
  • Google – Search Engine: 19 years
  • Domino’s – Pizza: 15 years
  • Dunkin’ – Out-of-Home Coffee: 13 years
  • Konica Minolta – MFP Office Copiers: 12 years
  • Hyundai – Automobiles: 10 years
  • AT&T Wireless – Wireless: 10 years
  • com – Online Retailer: 10 years
  • Amazon Kindle – E-Reader: 9 years

Meeting expectations + brand trust + emotional engagement = lasting loyalty

“Today, loyalty is a fusion of emotional engagement, trust, and an ability for a brand to engage; to meet or exceed expectations consumers hold for their Ideal product or service. The brands on top of this year’s category lists know that,” said Passikoff. “More importantly, they know how.”

Loyalty’s fiscal bottom lines

“Marketers relying on a definition of ‘loyalty’ and ‘engagement’ as something they’ll recognize when it impacts their brands will be disappointed,” said Passikoff. “Brand awareness is not loyalty; satisfaction is not loyalty; entertainment is not loyalty.”

In 2019, and for the foreseeable future, there are three concrete fiscal realities of loyalty and engagement that marketers should keep in mind:

  • It costs 9 to 11 times more to recruit a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • An increase in loyalty of only 7% can lift lifetime profits per customer by as much as 85 percent.
  • Depending upon the sector, an increase in loyalty of just 3 percent is equivalent to a 10 percent across-the-board cost reduction program.

Retail sector loyalty generators

Top brands customers rated highly at creating emotional engagement and loyalty in the Retail categories are:

Online Retail

  • Amazon
  • Walmart
  • Best Buy
  • Apple
  • Ebay
  • Target
  • Macy’s

Department Stores

  • J. Maxx
  • Marshalls
  • Nordstrom
  • Dillard’s
  • Macy’s
  • Kohl’s
  • JCPenney
  • Sears


  • Zara
  • Old Navy
  • Anthropologie
  • Forever 21
  • Levi Strauss

Natural Foods

  • Whole Foods
  • The Fresh Market
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Sprout’s Farmers Market

Sporting Goods

  • Dick’s
  • REI
  • Big 5
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Cabels’s
  • Modell’s

Price Clubs

  • Costco
  • Sam’s
  • BJ’s

Home Improvement

  • Home Depot
  • True Value
  • Lowe’s
  • Ace

Discount Retail

  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Dollar General
  • Dollar Tree
  • Kmart


  • Lego
  • Fisher Price
  • Nerf
  • Barbie
  • Hasbro
  • Mattel

Athletic Footwear

  • Nike
  • Jordan
  • Adidas
  • Sketchers
  • New Balance
  • Reebok
  • Converse
  • Brooks
  • Puma
  • Under Armour

See a complete list of the 2019 CLEI’s loyalty and engagement winners here.

“Decision-making has become increasingly emotionally-driven over the past decade,” said Passikoff. “But the addition of increased expectations for brand trust has radically altered the category landscape. Neither ‘business as usual’ nor ‘more social networking’ will cut it in this new brandscape. Brands have to move loyalty to the top of their to-do lists.”

For the 2019 CLEI survey, 51,673 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. Forty-five (45%) percent were interviewed by phone, forty-five (45%) percent via face-to-face interviews (to include cell phone-only households), and 10% were interviewed online.

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 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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