Wireless Handset Puts Search Engines and Cosmetics on Hold

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See complete 2009 rankings: http://www.brandkeys.com/awards/leaders.cfm

NEW YORK NY October 19 -Wireless handset brands iPhone (#1), Samsung (#2),
and Blackberry (#4) accounted for a third of 2009’s top 10 Loyalty Leaders,
in the 13th annual survey by Brand Keys (www.brandkeys.com), the New
York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement consultancy.

“This year’s findings indicate that customer values intrinsic to technology
brands were seen to best meet, and even exceed, customer expectations for
their categories,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president.

This year’s Loyalty Leaders List includes 440 brands in 63 categories.
their brands in the top-10 included: Google (#3), Wal-Mart, Grey Goose, Mary
Kay, Avis, Apple, and Amazon.com (#’s 5 through 10, respectively).

“It’s worth noting that of the top-25 Loyalty Leaders, nearly a third
represented cosmetic brands like Mary Kay, Maybelline, Estee Lauder,
Clinique, and Lancôme. The ’emotional engagement’ that women share with
their favorite beauty brands is very powerful,” said Passikoff. “At a time
when many brands are becoming commodities and turning into category
placeholders, creating strong emotional bonds is the only way they can
guarantee continued loyalty.”

Retailers Post Strong Showing
Sixteen percent (16%) of the top-25 Loyalty Leaders represented retailers
(bricks, clicks, and catalog). Wal-Mart was rated #5 and J.Crew took two
places, one for clothing catalogues (#11), the other for retail apparel
stores (#23). “They’ve done all the right things in terms of the store
experience,” said Passikoff. “And the Obama-factor only helped add value to
the brand.”

Of the top-25 brands, 28% included technology brands, which, in addition to
the wireless handsets leading the list, included Google, Apple, and Sanyo,
as well as Verizon for top-rated Wireless Carriers.

Car Brands Out of Gas- except Hyundai
Only two car brands made the top-25: Toyota, a perennial category loyalty
leader, and Hyundai, which moved up from #295 on the 2008 Loyalty leaders
List to #24 this year. “This increase in loyalty is largely due to
significant increases in product quality, the success of its new higher-end
models, and it’s innovative and resonating ‘Assurance’ campaign, their
one-year promise to buy back Hyundais from any customers who became
unemployed,” noted Passikoff. “Brands that can communicate they truly
understand customer values always engender higher levels of loyalty.”

McD’s Perks Up with McCafe
In addition to Hyundai’s significant increase in loyalty, McDonald’s perked
up loyalty and profits with an enormous increase in the Coffee category.
Moving from #156 last year to #16. McDonald’s move into premium coffee,
mochas, and lattes helped the fast-food chain increase their number of loyal
customers. “McDonalds expansion under the McCafé brand, has been both a
successful product and strategy that has captured more customers has won
customers from other coffee chains,” said Passikoff.

McDonald’s success is predominantly to Starbucks detriment. Ranked #191 on
the 2008 Loyalty Leaders List, it now ranks #428, in the bottom dozen
brands. This fall has forced them to defend a weakened brand with fewer
loyal customers, and after introducing new brews, a couponing campaign, an
instant coffee, and a defensive ad campaign, Starbucks had announced it
expects to report negative comparable-store sales for fiscal 2009.

Laggards – GM, NHL, Taco Bell
General Motors, the National Hockey League, and Taco Bell were the national
brands ranked last (#’s 439 to 437, respectively).

“Some segments have suffered because of the economy,” said Passikoff.
“But brands that understand that the old ‘price-value’ equation has been
transformed to one that’s a customer-driven ‘value-for-dollar’
assessment of brands, will have also realized that the brand can be a
surrogate for value. Smart brand marketers will leverage those values for
all they’re worth.”

The study updates the January Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index
conducted among 26,000 consumers in September, 2009. Eighty-five percent
(85%) of the interviews are conducted on the phone, and the remaining 15%
are conducted via central location intercepts to account for the increasing
number of cell phone-only households.

Unlike economic use models, which rely heavily on historical data and
profitability conjecture, the Brand Keys Loyalty Model and rankings are 100%
consumer-driven, and are predictive leading-indicators of brand and
corporate profitability. “The good news is that loyalty is understandable.
The better news is it can be quantified and predicted,”
said Passikoff. “In these economic times, that’s an important difference.”

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