Executive Education

Brand Keys 2019 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index: Verified Trust = Brand Success

Rising costs and Wall Street’s focus away from last year’s tax-fueled earnings boosts have investors and CEOs concerned about a slowdown in corporate growth. Brand Keys 24th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® (CLEI), conducted by the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy (brandkeys.com) has definitively identified “loyalty” as a profit-generator for brands that know how to create it and market it.

That, in and of itself, is difficult enough for most brands. But growing concerns regarding privacy and data security have reached a tipping point, driven by an astonishing increase in consumers’ expectations for trust and transparency in the brands they purchase.

“Trust” – an engagement factor in every product and service category – has become the indispensable connective tissue between brands and customer loyalty. Consumer expectations for that single value have increased across every category and brand we track, on average by 250+% since 2018. Consumer expectations increase each year – normally in the 2% to 25% range. This is an unprecedented spike. Unprecedented, but it shouldn’t be unexpected.

It isn’t just Facebook’s, Google’s, Twitter’s and other social networks’ failures to address privacy, security, and transparency that are responsible, although their CEOs actions and inactions have been making significant contributions to the paradigm shift. Charges of hacking – foreign and domestic – and misuse of data have raised consumers’ emotional hackles.

Data breeches in the past year alone – along with failure to disclose – by brands like Macy’s, Saks, Adidas, Delta, Panera and Under Armour, have significantly increased the gap between what consumers expect and what brands deliver – especially when it comes to “trust.” There’s a new brand ‘yardstick’ for every category. It’s gotten a bit longer this year.

This year the Brand Keys CLEI examined 90 categories and 822 individual brands. Virtually all showed significant increases in consumer expectations for the value of “trust,” some categories significantly more than others. In the Digital and Online categories, the expectation for “trust” has increased 111% YOY. In B2B sectors expectations for “trust” have increased 72%. Across all the categories Brand Keys tracks, expectations for trust have increased 250% YOY.

Seventy-nine (79) of the 90 categories tracked have seen significant values shifts in how consumers assess brands. More importantly, how consumers buy brands. Consumers may still shop for products and services, but they’re increasingly distrustful of brands and far warier of the brands they shop. CMOs need to pay attention to that aspect of their businesses  – and their brands.

Individual attributes, benefits, and brand values make specific contributions to consumer brand engagement and loyalty. In 2019, the online and digital sector, categories and B2B categories that showed the largest increases in consumers’ expectations for the value of “trust,” included:

  1. Social Networking: 300%
  2. Credit Cards: 160%
  3. Instant Messaging: 180%
  4. Ride-Share Apps: 123%
  5. Online Payments: 117%
  6. Smartphones: 105%
  7. Search: 100%
  8. File Hosting: 100%
  9. Wireless Carriers: 99%
  10. Banks: 99%
  11. Tax Preparation: 99%
  12. Computers: 86%
  13. Tablets: 77%
  14. Wireless Carriers: 53%
  15. MFP Copiers: 26%
  16. E-Readers: 10%
  17. Parcel Delivery: 2%
  18. Printers: 2%

Technology, digital, online categories have all transformed. Values related to B2B and B2C loyalty and emotional engagement have been converging. It’s showing up in the consumers’ desires for more personalized, customized service, with B2C response times attached to everything “business-related.”

Top brands customers rated highly at creating emotional engagement and loyalty in the Digital and Online sectors are:

Social Networking

  1. Instagram
  2. YouTube
  3. Facebook
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Reddit

Streaming Video

  1. Netflix
  2. Amazon
  3. Hulu
  4. iTunes
  5. HBO Go
  6. YouTube


  1. Google
  2. Yahoo
  3. Bing
  4. Baidu

Instant Messaging

  1. Telegram
  2. WhatsApp
  3. Facebook Messenger
  4. Line
  5. Viber

Ride-Share Apps

  1. Lyft
  2. Uber
  3. Gett
  4. Juno
  5. Curb

File Hosting

  1. Dropbox
  2. Box
  3. Sabercat
  4. Google Drive
  5. One Drive

Online Retail

  1. Amazon
  2. Walmart
  3. Best Buy
  4. Apple
  5. Ebay
  6. Target
  7. Macy’s

Online Brokerages

  1. Schwab
  2. Vanguard
  3. Fidelity
  4. E*Trade
  5. Ally

Online Payments

  1. PayPal
  2. Google Wallet
  3. net
  4. Amazon Payments
  5. Dwolla

Online Travel

  1. com
  2. Trip Advisor
  3. Yahoo Travel
  4. Expedia
  5. Priceline
  6. com
  7. Travelocity

Online Music

  1. Slacker
  2. Spotify
  3. Amazon Prime
  4. Apple Music
  5. Deezer

Parcel Delivery

  1. FedEx
  2. UPS
  3. USPS
  4. DHL

Credit Cards

  1. Discover
  2. American Express
  3. Capital One
  4. Chase
  5. Visa / Mastercard


  1. Chase
  2. Citibank
  3. PNC
  4. Bank of New York
  5. Capital One
  6. TD Bank
  7. Bank of America
  8. Wells Fargo

MFP Copiers

  1. Konica Minolta
  2. Epson
  3. Canon
  4. HP
  5. Brother / Dell


  1. HP
  2. Canon
  3. Epson
  4. Brother
  5. Dell / Lexmark


  1. Samsung
  2. Apple
  3. HTC
  4. LG
  5. Nokia

Tax Preparation

  1. Turbo Tax
  2. H&R Block
  3. Tax Act
  4. Liberty Tax

File Hosting

  1. Dropbox
  2. Box
  3. Sabercat
  4. Google Drive
  5. One Drive


  1. Microsoft
  2. Apple
  3. Samsung
  4. Asus
  5. Acer


  1. AT&T
  2. Verizon
  3. T-Mobile
  4. Sprint
  5. US Cellular

Today, loyalty is a fusion of emotional engagement, trust, and an ability for a brand to engage; to meet or exceed expectations consumers hold for their Ideal product or service. The brands on top of this year’s category lists know that. More importantly they know how.

Marketers relying on a definition of ‘loyalty’ and ‘engagement’ as something they’ll recognize when it impacts their brands will be disappointed. Brand awareness is not loyalty; satisfaction is not loyalty; entertainment is not loyalty. Consumers’ behavioral maxim has become “verify first, then trust, then buy.”

In 2019, and for the foreseeable future, there are three concrete fiscal realities of loyalty and engagement that marketers should keep in mind:

  • It costs 9 to 11 times more to recruit a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • An increase in loyalty of only 7% can lift lifetime profits per customer by as much as 85%.
  • Depending upon the sector, an increase in loyalty of just 3% is equivalent to a 10% across-the-board cost reduction program.

A complete list of the 2019 Brand Keys loyalty and engagement winners can be found at: http://brandkeys.com/portfolio/customer-loyalty-engagement-index

 Decision-making has become increasingly emotionally-driven over the past decade. But the addition of increased expectations for brand trust has radically altered the category landscape. Neither “business as usual” nor “more social networking” will cut it in this new brandscape.

Successful CMOs will move loyalty to the top of their 2019 to-do lists.

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Robert Passikoff
Robert Passikoff, Ph.D., Founder and President of Brand Keys, Inc, is a recognized brand loyalty & engagement thought leader. Robert is a regular contributor to the CEOWORLD magazine.