Corporate Eye

The Most and Least Engaging Brands of 2014

blackberrySince 1997, Brand Keys has conducted an annual study to examine customers’ relationships with brands. The 2014 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index ranking was compiled based on results from a survey of over 30,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18-65. As part of the survey, respondents self-selected the categories they shop in and the brands they shop for or engage with in some manner. It’s a comprehensive study that included telephone (70%), in-person (25%), and online (5%) surveys throughout January of this year.

As you would expect, Brand Keys reports that brands which actively engage with consumers experience better sales results than brands that have little engagement with consumers. To be considered a successful brand for the purposes of this study, brands had to score 85% or higher in the engagement index. This year, Brand Keys analyzed 555 brands in 64 categories. Scores are determined using a proprietary fusion of psychological and statistical analyses, including both rational and emotional factors that influence behavior.

The Brand Keys report explains, “The brand whose drivers come closest to meeting (or even exceeding) those of the category ideal is always the one whose customers will demonstrate the highest levels of engagement and loyalty over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Following are some of the brand winners and losers of the 2014 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index:

Most Engaging Brands of 2014 by Category

Following are brands that had the highest engagement rates for a select group of the 64 categories included in the study.

  • Airline: JetBlue
  • Athletic Footwear: Nike
  • Automobile: Ford and Hyundai (tie)
  • Bank: JP Morgan Chase
  • Computer/Laptop: Apple
  • Ereaders: Kindle
  • Instant Messaging Apps: WhatsApp
  • Online Music: Pandora
  • Online Payment Service: PayPal
  • Online Retailer: Amazon
  • Online Travel Site: Expedia
  • Online Video Streaming: Netflix and Amazon (tie)
  • Quick-Service Restaurant: Subway
  • Retail Store (Apparel): Victoria’s Secret
  • Search Engine: Google
  • Smartphones: Apple
  • Social Networking Sites: Facebook and Twitter (tie)
  • Soft Drink (Diet): Diet Coke
  • Soft Drink (Regular): Coca-Cola
  • Tablets: Apple and Amazon (tie)

Least Engaging Brands of 2014 Overall

Following are the 10 brands that ranked as the least engaging in the Brand Keys study. The least engaging brand overall is listed first below.

  • BlackBerry: 52%
  • Quiznos: 57%
  • Kmart: 59%
  • Sony E-Readers: 60%
  • WOW Search: 60%
  • Sears: 64%
  • American Apparel: 65%
  • Budweiser: 70%
  • Coty Cosmetics: 71%
  • Volkswagen: 79%

For comparison, the least engaging brand, BlackBerry, scored 52% in the Brand Keys index while the most engaging smartphone brand, Apple, scored 81%. The second least engaging brand overall, Quiznos, scored just 57%, which is far below the score achieved by the most engaging brand in the quick service restaurant category. The top spot went to Subway with a score of 90%. Similarly, the Sony E-Reader scored 60% in the brand index while the most engaged E-reader brand, Kindle, scored 96%. Interestingly, two brands owned by Sears Brands, LLC (Sears and Kmart) appear in the list of the least engaging brands of 2014.

What do you think of the rankings of the least and most engaging brands? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image:  Karlis Dambrans

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.