• January 27, 2022

Brand Keys Sees Consumer-Brand Expectation Gap Widest in 25 Years

Brand Keys research revealed a radically widening gap between customer expectations and brand delivery, as well as an extraordinarily more emotional consumer decision-making process.

The research was conducted as part of Brand Keys' Silver Anniversary Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI).

It found consumer behavior and loyalty now almost entirely governed by emotional values, which represent additional meaning to the customer beyond product function. Emotional value is defined by Brand Keys as how the product or service makes the customer feel rather than what the product does.

In 1997, the ratio between rational and emotional in the retail category was 80:20. Consumers now put more emotional weight into their purchase decisions, and today the ratio of emotional to rational is 82:18.

Twenty-five years tracking brand loyalty makes it clear consumers do not settle for what exists. In the retail sector the net increase since 1997 in consumer expectations for their category ideal has been 35 percent, noted Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys' founder and president. "Retail brands have only kept up by 4 percent, leaving an awfully big gap between consumer desire and brand delivery," he says.

Retailers that best met expectations and engaged consumers in 2022 included the following:

  • Amazon;
  • CVS Pharmacy;
  • Dick's Sporting Goods;
  • Home Depot;
  • Jordan;
  • Marshall's;
  • Sam's Club;
  • TJ Maxx;
  • Uniqlo;
  • UPS;
  • Whole Foods;

"The 25th anniversary of the CLEI seemed an appropriate time to recognize brands consumers have consecutively rated No. 1 when it comes to loyalty," Passikoff said, adding that the recognition is "a testament to these brands' abilities to meet their customers' expectations and generate emotional engagement over sustained periods of time."

The following companies have been rated No. 1 for a decade or more:

  • Discover (25 years);
  • Avis (23 years);
  • Google (22 years);
  • Netflix (20 years);
  • Domino's (18 years);
  • Dunkin' (16 years);
  • Konica Minolta (15 years);
  • Hyundai (13 years);
  • AT&T Wireless (13 years);
  • Amazon Kindle (12 years);
  • Amazon (11 years); and
  • Home Depot ( 10 years).

"Increase brand loyalty and customers are six times more likely to engage with you, buy you, and buy you again. They'll pay more attention to your marketing efforts and your advertising. And in light of the COVID pandemic, perhaps most importantly, consumers are six times more likely to give brands the benefit of the doubt in uncertain circumstances, like product shortages, supply-chain snafus, and even price increases," Passikoff says.

Brand Keys also identified a new trend that it calls value-ownership.;"Brands that meet expectations and emotionally engage will survive. Brands that want to own categories and customers will have to own an emotional value that will differentiate them and be something consumers cede to the brand," Passikoff explains. "Discover has done it using reassurance; Netflix via diversion; Amazon through immediate gratification; Hyundai through altruism; and Instagram by inspiration."

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