Which Beverage Brands Drive the Strongest Emotional Connections?

Brand engagement at all-time high: study

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NEW YORK -- The interaction of mobile and socially networked consumer empowerment, along with perpetual price promotions, have finally reached saturation-levels, producing the highest levels of emotional consumer expectations for products and services in two decades, and those expectation levels have direct effects to consumer loyalty and brand profitability.

Beer: Crafts Rising

In the alcoholic beverage category, expectations are up nearly 28%, while alcoholic beverage brands have only grown by 5%. This is one of the critical findings in the 18th annual 2014 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, Brand Keys.

For all 30 brands tracked in the alcoholic beverage category, emotional engagement expectations related to "hand crafted" and "craft-like image" exerted the strongest influence on consumer decision-making and engagement with brands, according to the report.

While emotional engagement levels vary by category, brands in the alcoholic beverage category that best met expectations consumers held for the “category-specific ideal” (100%) were:

  • Coors (90%)
  • Sam Adams (90%)
  • Coors Light (95%)
  • Sam Adams Light (95%)
  • Grey Goose (89%)

"We congratulate companies that have created meaningful differentiation and engagement," said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys. "Our validated and predictive metrics prove brands that are able to better meet consumer expectations act as surrogates for added-value and always produce higher levels of engagement and loyalty than those that rely on primacy of product, distribution or a coupon."

Emotional loyalty and engagement rankings for the 2014 alcoholic beverage category are:


  1. Sam Adams/Coors (tie)
  2. Michelob
  3. Busch
  4. Corona
  5. Guinness/Heineken (tie)
  6. Budweiser
  7. Miller


Light Beer

  1. Coors Light/Sam Adams Light (tie)
  2. Bud Light
  3. Amstel Light
  4. Miller Lite
  5. Michelob Light
  6. Natural Light
  7. Busch Light



  1. Grey Goose
  2. Ketel One
  3. Smirnoff/Tito's
  4. Absolut
  5. Chopin
  6. Skyy/Stolichnaya (tie)
  7. Svedka
  8. 3 Olives
  9. Belvedere/Ciroc/Finlandia (tie)


Soft Drinks: Coke Continues to Dominate

In regular soft drinks, Coca-Cola is No. 1, alone in this position for the third year in a row.

Coke met the category's ideal at an 88% level. The brand scores high on the key ideal-drivers taste and formulations/flavors, and importantly, also scores high on "brand appropriate for the whole family," the factor associated with the highest expectations for the regular soda category.

Regular CSDs

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Mountain Dew
  3. Sprite
  4. Dr Pepper
  5. Pepsi
  6. Fanta
  7. 7-UP


In diet soft drinks, Diet Coke is also alone in the No. 1 spot for the third consecutive year.

It met the category's ideal at an 89% level (the ideal drivers for diet are the same as for regular sodas).

Diet CSDs

  1. Diet Coke
  2. Diet Mountain Dew
  3. Diet Dr Pepper
  4. Diet Pepsi
  5. Diet 7-Up


Click here to request the complete listing of the 64 category rankings.

"Meeting expectations for the category ideal always correlates highly with brand engagement, purchase, loyalty and sales," Passikoff said. "The difficult part, of course, is accurately measuring consumer expectations. Many brands don't do that very well." Categories that are more emotionally driven are likely to have higher expectations that grow faster. More rational categories have lower expectations and move more slowly.

For the Brand Keys 2014 survey, 32,000 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, drawn from the nine U.S. Census regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers (top 20%). Seventy percent were interviewed by phone, 25% via face-to-face interviews (to include cell phone-only households) and 5% participated online.

Being attentive to the engagement expectation gap presents brands with a real opportunity, according to Passikoff.

"If you can do something that increases a brand's engagement level you'll always see more positive consumer behavior in the marketplace. Always," he said. "And brands that are assessed as better meeting expectations held for the ideal always have larger market shares and are always more profitable than those that can't. Always."