New categories in an annual brand-loyalty study produced some newcomers to the list of consumers' most trusted brand names.
But the latest Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index, out this month, is largely unchanged from a year ago, with Avis again on top.
The Index is based on phone interviews done twice yearly with 16,000 consumers. Participants are asked to rate brands they use regularly based on category drivers. For example, wireless service is ranked by criteria such as billing accuracy and clear, uninterrupted connections.
This year, three-quarters of the top 25 brands are the same as last year.
But the study did not lack notable newcomers, some because of changes made to the survey categories.
Starbucks, which was measured for the first time, grabbed the No. 6 spot. "Loyalty to coffee is important in people's lives, however, it isn't just the coffee. It's the environment. It's the whole thing," said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys president.
Starbucks was one of two dozen new brands the New York-based consultancy measured in three new categories: coffee and doughnuts, clothing catalogs and computers.
L.L.Bean, which falls in the clothing-catalog category, was the only other new brand to crack the top 25. It ranked 20th.
Verizon Long Distance saw the single greatest increase among brands, jumping from No. 89 to No. 4, which Passikoff credited to "intense and effective advertising."
Verizon Wireless' "Test Man" campaign was fueled by $660 million in media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Verizon also spent about $60 million in support of its "Make progress every day" branding campaign, as well as efforts for other services.
Meanwhile, it seems the fashion gods are smiling again on Run-DMC's favorite sneaker: Adidas leapt from No. 103 to No. 23. "Nike's getting a little washed out these days," said Passikoff.
E*Trade, which has worked hard to de-emphasize itself as a location for daytrading, has seen a surge. The company's focus on offline offerings like mortgages has garnered a bump in loyalty from its clients—it jumped from No. 98 to No. 42—as well as a surge in its stock price.
On the flip side, Kmart won the notorious honor of ranking last. "When they filed for Chapter 11, the infrastructure fell apart, and Martha Stewart didn't help," said Passikoff.
Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index Leaders List
CLI Rank 2003 Last Year
1 Avis 1
2 Google.com 8
3 Sprint Long Distance 2
4 Verizon Long Distance 89
5 Miller Genuine Draft 13
6 Starbucks Coffee NR
7 Samsung Mobile Phones 3
8 Canon Office Copiers 12
9 KeySpan Energy 10
10 Motorola Mobile Phones 9
11 Nokia Mobile Phones 7
12 Amazon.com 17
13 Marriott Hotels 20
14 Yahoo.com 16
15 PSE&G 11
16 Budweiser 4
17 Ritz-Carlton Hotels 6
18 Texaco 48
19 Hyatt Hotels 14
20 L.L.Bean Catalog NR