Key Learnings from 25 Years of Tracking Brand Loyalty

Editor’s Note:  Robert Passikoff is a frequent contributor to TheCustomer so we’re more than a little familiar with his work assessing consumer sentiment / brand loyalty across categories.  Today, Robert’s company, Brand Keys announced their 25th anniversary Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (see the full announcement below), which is a huge milestone, not only for Brand Keys, but also for the brands that have been able to consistently “win” in their categories.  Our congratulations to both groups on this occasion.

Brand Keys (, the global leader in brand loyalty and emotional customer engagement, released their Silver Anniversary Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI). The 2022 survey recognizing brands that have held the #1 spots for loyalty for a decade or more revealed a radically widening gap between customer expectations and brand delivery, as well as an extraordinarily more emotional consumer decision-making process.

Consumer Emotional And Expectation Inflation

The survey found consumer behavior and loyalty now almost entirely governed by emotional values, which represent additional meaning to the customer beyond product function how the product or service makes the customer feel, rather than what the product does.

In 1997, the ratio between rational and emotional was about 60:40. Consumers now put more emotional weight into their purchase decisions. The mean, across all categories surveyed, is closer to 80:20, emotional to rational, with rational category values filed under Primacy-of-Product or Price-of-Entry by consumers.

Twenty-five years tracking brand loyalty makes it clear consumers do not settle for what exists. Cross-categories, the net increase since 1997 in consumer expectations for their Category Ideal has been 40%. A lot higher in categories like Tech and Social Networking, noted Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. Brands only keep up by 10%, leaving an awfully big gap between consumer desire and brand delivery.

Brand Loyalty Hall of Fame

The 25th anniversary of the CLEI seemed an appropriate time to recognize brands consumers have consecutively rated #1 for loyalty, said Passikoff, A testament to these brands abilities to meet customers expectations and generate emotional engagement over sustained periods of time.

Brands rated #1 for a decade or more:

  • Discover (credit cards)  25 years
  • Avis (car rental)  23 years
  • Google (search engine)  22 years
  • Netflix (streaming)  20 years
  • Domino’s (Pizza)  18 years
  • Dunkin’ (Out-of-Home Coffee)  16 years
  • Konica Minolta (MFP Office Copiers)  15 years
  • Hyundai (Automobiles)  13 years
  • AT&T Wireless (Wireless)  13 years
  • Amazon Kindle (E-Reader)  12 years
  • (Retail: Online)  11 years
  • Home Depot (Retail: Home Improvement)  10 years

Increase brand loyalty and customers are six times more likely to engage with you, buy you, and buy 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, noted Passikoff.

Owning Value = Owning Customers

Value-ownership, a brand-state that goes well-beyond 20th century differentiation, now defines category leadership. 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, noted Passikoff. Discover has done it using reassurance. Netflix via diversion, Amazon through immediate gratification, Hyundai thru altruism, and Instagram by inspiration.

Brand Keys Loyalty Database Access

The 25th annual survey adds an additional 88,126 consumer interviews to the world’s largest and most-continuous database of predictive brand loyalty tracking metrics, now 4.3 million customer assessments. It provides access and insights to predictive, consumer brand behavior archetypes identifying where category and brand-specific loyalty has come from and where it’s going. Given the economics of loyalty today, noted Passikoff, The database is an atlas that can show brands where loyalty lives, how to acquire loyalty and how to keep customers loyal.

A complete list of the 2022 CLEI brands rated #1 for loyalty in their categories can be found at

For more information about the Brand Keys loyalty data base, 2022 CLEI survey results, contact Leigh Benatar [email protected].

Methodological Framework

For the past 25 years, Brand Keys has interviewed consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions. Respondents self-select categories in which they are consumers and brands for which they are customers.

Brand Keys uses an independently-validated research methodology fusing emotional and rational attributes, benefits, and values of categories to identify four category-specific path-to-purchase behavioral loyalty drivers, the expectations consumers hold for each drivers, and the values that form the components of each driver, including their percent-contribution to brand engagement, loyalty, and brand profitability.

A combination of psychological inquiry and higher-order statistical analyses, the approach has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, with results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. Brand Keys loyalty assessments correlate very highly with positive consumer behavior in the marketplace at the 0.80+ level and have been successfully used in B2B, B2C, and D2C categories in 35 countries.

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