Not business as usual for brands

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Not business as usual for brands

By Gina Acosta - 01/23/2018

Retailers and CPG firms face huge challenges as political polarization and viral social movements have changed engagement and brand loyalty, according to a new study.

The Brand Keys 23rd annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index shows that 94% of categories are seeing value changes in how consumers engage.

The index shows that how consumers view a category and how they will compare brands competing in that category changed dramatically in 90% of Retail categories. That shift resulted in a brand engagement and loyalty transformation and a shift in brand leadership of 40%.

“We’ve just never encountered these kinds of value-adjustments before,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. “But then, we haven’t seen this kind of political polarization or social turmoil at the same time since we began taking these assessments either.”

The Retail categories reacting most to values associated with Political Tribalism including Personal Responsibility, Moral Order, Family Values, Fiscal Conservatism, and Established Social Structures, were:

  • Natural Foods
  • Price Clubs
  • Home Improvement
  • Discount Retail


The sectors reacting most to values associated with Social Activism that included Empathy, Equality, Empowerment, Individualism, and Pride were:

  • Athletic Shoes
  • Apparel
  • Department Stores
  • Online Retail
  • Sporting Goods
  • Toys


“The concept of brand engagement is pretty straightforward,” said Passikoff. “Consumers have an Ideal for every product and service; it’s the yardstick they use to measure brands. Defining your category's Ideal is where it gets tricky, as the process is not only more emotionally-based than rational, but is now confounded by newer and nuanced political and social values. And while our most recent Presidential election and its aftermath have raised levels of political debate, it has also raised more contentious issues, more social activism, and has created far more value-infused and complicated paths-to-purchase for consumers.

For the 2018 CLEI survey, 50,527 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine U.S. Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers. Fifty (50%) percent were interviewed by phone, thirty-five (35%) percent via face-to-face interviews (to identify and include cell phone-only households), and 15% online.