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Loyalty is Royalty: Brand Loyalty Engagement


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By Suresh Dinakaran

I was taking a look at the recently published Report - Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Leaders 2011 (edition 15) which gives the loyalty rankings for the top 100 brands. This was culled out of the 528 brands and assessed in 79 industry categories. There are some familiar tales and some real surprises.

No prizes for guessing the A listers in the list with Amazon & Apple right at the top of the heap but what is heartening to note is the tectonic shifts made by brands like Ford and Starbucks. Significant progress witnessed in these cases. From rankings of 323 in 2010 to 86 in 2011 for Ford and from a really distant 452 in 2010 to 100 in 2011 for Starbucks. Clearly the rubber has hit the road and caffeine shots have given these brands the much needed reverb.

What is also notable is the presence of brands like Twitter (20) and Facebook (3) on the list when they were not even on the list the previous year. These brands have become so socially contagious and omnipresent in people's lives that them not featuring in the list would have been well, sacrilege anti social ! Ireckon these brands will stay on for a few years more because of the vast universe of users they are adding on at unrealistic speeds. So at all times, there is a chance for these brands to create delightful engagements with their newer base of customers while parallely the experience fatigue may be hitting the early adopters and influencers. Good position to be in, isn't it?

In these days of people being connected, always, anywhere, anytime, anyplace what may not be connecting well would be Nokia's fall from the hallowed grace. From a respectable 21 to a rather not so noteworthy 84 is highly conspicous to miss out. Surely they have a lot of calling to do to get back lost pride and customer attention. This year around they seem to have missed the call though. They do have a lot of catching up (read ‘Smart’ thinking) to do.

The hero of the show to me is Zappos, the online portal now firmly ensonced within the Amazon embrace. Zappos has significantly and meaningfully changed the customer service landscape. In a day & age where technology and connectivity are creating as much emotional distances as they are creating virtual intimacy, here's a portal that has got its balance just right. Fables are always circulating about the service standards that this brand has set and that sure is going to be some benchmark to stand upto. Die hard customer loyalty for this brand therefore is a given. Zappos brilliantly exemplifies what we at Ideas Stragegy Design Global call the power of the CLAP (Customer Love Affair Plan). Without a mention in year 2010, the brand is at a regal 6 in the pecking order of customer brand loyalty. No surprises there, I assure you. Customers have been well and truly Zapped !

Skechers scaling up from a lowly 388 in year 2010 to a respectable 99 in 2011 shows they have gathered a lot of foot soldiers for the brand. Am sure the heart and sole errr soul of both the brand and their customers are in the right place. And this in a year when none of the bigwigs of the sports shoes/sports wear eco system like Nike, Adidas etc find a mention.

So what is that some of these brands have done (or not done) to deserve their loyalty ratings? Its the time for serious introspection for the likes of Nokia, Blackberry (down to 60 from No 9 in 2010) and celebration time for the likes of Skechers, Zappos, Ford.

There is a surfeit of availability and a surfeit of emotional triggers that dictate regular, consistent consumption. Brands that stay tuned into to ever changing, always demanding needs and desires of customers, will mount the victory podium. For the others, the finishing line is some distance away.

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