Looks like Apple has fallen just a little bit from the tree: Amazon has bumped the iPhone maker as the No. 1 retail brand, according to Brand Keys’ 100 annual brand loyalty survey, released today.
“Apple has been No. 1 for years,” said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff, in an interview with CMO.com during which he also observed that Apple’s quality leadership remains intact. “Amazon has been very high in the rankings for years, but Amazon now has a broader base from which brand loyalty can be developed. Amazon is all things to all people.”
Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (full results here) assesses 528 brands across some 79 categories based on figures from U.S. Census regions and from telephone and face-to-face interviews with consumers. While noting that brand loyalty has “always been primarily driven by emotion,” Passikoff said the new survey makes it clear that consumers are now seeking to “emotionally connect with brands that actually stand for something.”
The branding survey also contains a hint of a warning for Amazon, which has been rumored to be considering opening its own stores. Amazon would have to be “very careful” if it decides to migrate away from what people directly ask for, Passikoff said.
While the positions of Amazon and Apple in the vanguard of brand loyalty remain secure, at the same time Samsung is the survey’s “loyalty MVP,” according to Amy Shea, Brand Keys’ executive vice president for brand development. Samsung won favorable mentions in four categories: cell phones, computers, smartphones, and HDTV technology. “When we talk about brands standing for something meaningful, Samsung is the perfect example,” Shea told CMO.com. “They’ve organically come to stand for quality, leading-edge technology.”
Other technology firms that garnered high positions in the Brand Keys index included Facebook, Google, LG, Microsoft’s Bing, Sanyo, and Sony Ericsson. “Nothing today is better at fueling a consumer connection than technology,” Passikoff said.
However, in order for some brands to rise, others must fall. Tech brands that scored lower in the new index included Nokia and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry. Both firms have been losing cell phone market share, particularly in the high-end smartphone category.
The Key Brands survey also tracked brands that have fallen off a cliff and even one that has picked itself up after a big fall--Starbucks. The coffee brand jumped from No. 432 last year to No. 100 in the latest survey. “They had walked away from the brand,” said Passikoff, who noted the company introduced new products like espresso and energy drinks while nurturing the company’s existing offerings. “Starbucks has done a great job in revitalizing and reinventing the brand. They’ve been moving back, but they fell a long way.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Bank of America plunged in a free fall to the No. 519 position from a position near the top that it had occupied for years. Borders, which has filed for bankruptcy, finished in last place: No. 528.
Brand position is important for many reasons, Passikoff said. “It’s an axiomatic truth that if consumers believe more in you, then you ought to make more money,” he added.