Brands With the Most Customer Loyalty
It’s often been said that customers don’t actually buy products so much as they buy the brands behind those products, and if that’s so, the companies here are in particularly good shape.
BrandKeys, a research group that probes consumer behavior, surveyed Americans 18-65 years old to find the brands that speak most to them. The group’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) ranks more than 500 different brands across dozens of product categories ranging from fast food restaurants to auto companies, based on which inspire the most loyalty from their customers.
“Brand value has increasingly been defined not through the narrow lens of price, but in terms of the total experience of consumer-brand interaction. This year’s results demonstrate that concept has truly taken hold,” Robert Passikoff, founder and president of BrandKeys, wrote on the company’s blog.
While BrandKeys’ index does not attempt to rank the best brands overall, it does provide a useful glimpse at the standout companies in each sector. Moreover, BrandKeys notes that the results should reasonably be able to predict which brands will have the strongest customer loyalty for the next 12 to 18 months, no small thing for companies looking to build their customer bases in an uncertain economy.
MainStreet pulled the best brands from select categories featured in the report, and if you have a different idea of which brands have the most loyal customers, let us know in the comments section!
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Best Company for Laptops, Cell Phones: Apple
It should surprise as little surprise Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) ranks high for customer loyalty. After all, any company that can inspire thousands of people to line up outside stores for the launch of each and every new product certainly isn’t lacking too much in loyalty.
Apple ranked as having the strongest brand in the laptop category and the smartphone category, according to BrandKeys, and indeed Apple seems to be the shining example a company that builds loyalty by consistently pleasing its customers with innovative products and a unique customer experience. BrandKeys’ survey found that Apple ranked second overall in terms of its ability to delight consumers.
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Best Quick-Serve Restaurant: McDonald's
Say what you will about McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD), but the company has consistently ranked high on BrandKeys’ annual standings. This year, McDonald’s beat out other major fast food chains like Subway and Burger King to hold onto the top spot, and ranked seventh of all the companies surveyed for its brand’s ability to delight customers. In fact, McDonald’s has invested billions in renovating thousands of its stores to improve the bathrooms, add plasma televisions and updating menus, all of which are changes that will impact the consumer in positive ways.
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Best Online Retailer: Amazon
Every year, countless new businesses start up online, but even with the added competition, Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) continues to rank first among online retailers for customer loyalty. For Amazon, the secret is certainly due in part to its competitive prices, but perhaps more than that, the store maintains its following by offering one of the best customer service experiences of any company – online or off.
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Best Coffee Chain: Dunkin Donuts
Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX) may be world’s largest coffee chain, but according to BrandKeys, it’s still second to Dunkin Donuts when it comes to customer loyalty. But perhaps Starbucks’ new logo will help the company’s brand to resonate more with customers going forward.
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Best Airline: Southwest
While most other airlines have been busy increasing existing fees and adding a few new ones on top, Southwest (Stock Quote: LUV) has chosen to keep fees low and use this as a way to appeal to more consumers. And clearly it’s working, as the company tied for first for brand loyalty among the major airlines, after having come in second the year before. Of course, to be fair, the company tied with Delta, which seems to imply that consumers are torn between companies that charge little in fees, and companies that are transparent about charging a lot in fees.
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Best Wireless Phone Service: AT&T
AT&T (Stock Quote: T) may get a bad rap for having reception problems, particularly with the iPhone, but at the end of the day, it still ranks first among wireless carriers for brand loyalty. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why sales of the Verizon iPhone, once thought to be a major threat to AT&T, have been somewhat less robust than expected.
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Best Bank: Wells Fargo
In the wake of the financial crisis, there may really be no such thing as a beloved bank, but some are doing better than others. According to BrandKeys, Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC) tops the list of major U.S. banks for customer loyalty, while Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) and CitiGroup (Stock Quote: C), both of which received public bailouts, rank at the bottom. That’s certainly good news for Wells Fargo, but the bank should be careful: If it continues to ramp up fees and pay out lavish salaries and bonuses to executives, it could chip away at its strong relationship with consumers.
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Best Automotive Company: Hyundai
According to BrandKeys, no car company inspires more customer loyalty than Hyundai. The company ranks fifth overall for its ability to delight customers, and it’s not hard to see why: Hyundai’s cars are consistently affordable, come with an incredible 10-year/100,000 mile warranty and, unlike many of its competitors, the company has not really been set back by recalls in recent years.
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Best Discount Retail Store: Wal-Mart
In the world of big box discount retailers, Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) is king, not just because of its size, but because customers continue to be enthusiastic about shopping there. Wal-Mart beat out competitors like Target and Kmart in this category for having the most customer loyalty.
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Best Social Networking Site: Facebook
Just because a company doesn’t physically sell things doesn’t mean that company has no brand power. Of all the social networks online, the Brandkeys report concluded that Facebook has the strongest customer loyalty, beating out competitors like MySpace and Twitter. In fact, previous studies have shown that Facebook has a stronger retention rate than these sites, and users spend significantly more time there than on competing sites, in what may be the most tangible proof of any company on this list about the power of a good brand to attract customers and keep them coming back for more.
Photo Credit: Apple.com
What Does It Mean for Investors?
When it comes to Wall Street, investors are especially interested in brands that have a very loyal customer base. Here are five stocks with brand power.
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