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Kmart, Sears, American Apparel Top List of Least Engaging Brands

No retailer wants to make the list of “least engaging brands,” but Kmart, Sears and American Apparel each managed to earn themselves a top spot in a round up of brands that don’t resonate with consumers.

Research firm Brand Keys recently released a report on “The Least Engaging Brands of 2014” that looked at how well certain brands do at meeting the expectations of an ideal brand.

Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president said, “A brand can’t do well in today’s marketplace if it can’t engage consumers, no matter how many ads are run, and no matter how much social networking one does.”

Brand Keys surveyed 32,000 consumers between age eighteen and sixty-five from the nine U.S. Census regions, selected specific purchasing categories like retail, automobile, cosmetics and outlined certain brands for participants to choose from.

Researchers then looked at how the consumers compare brands and how they engage with the brand, buy and remain loyal. Brand engagement was defined as the degree to which a brand is seen to meet the expectations consumers hold as “ideal” for a respective category and, according to Brand Keys, is a leading indicator of positive consumer behavior and brand loyalty.

Blackberry was the least engaging brand of 2014 with a score of 52 percent–where 100 percent is an ideal brand–followed by sandwich chain Quiznos with 57 percent.

According to Brand Keys, validation studies have shown that the benchmark for brand success is something higher than 85 percent. “Below that, you are generally looking at a brand in trouble,” Passikoff said.

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And considering Kmart’s struggles of late, its position at third from the bottom of the least-favored brands with an engagement ranking of 59 percent, may not come as a surprise. Sears finished sixth from the bottom with 64 percent followed by American Apparel with 65 percent.

Both Kmart and Sears have battled against lackluster sales and have gone through a series of store closures in a fight to stay alive. American Apparel has been fighting weakening sales and last month the company enlisted lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP to aid in restructuring efforts.

“Brand engagement correlates very highly with positive consumer behavior, sales, and profits. All you have to do is look and see how the brand is doing in the marketplace to confirm customer assessments,” Passikoff added.

“Where engagement is high consumers behave better toward a brand and the brand sees more sales and, along with that, should also see increased share and profits. Where engagement is low, the reverse happens,” Passikoff said. “Always.”