Falling out of love: brands consumers have walked away from in 2018

NewVoiceMedia’s report for 2018 estimates that poor customer service has caused 42% of people to leave a brand. We asked UK consumers two simple questions: which brand have you fallen out of love with in 2018? And why?

At the end of the year, it’s natural to think about the progress you’ve made, and all the wonderful new customers you’ve acquired.

Taking stock of why people have crossed the threshold of your shops or websites to buy your products, or what exactly about their experience made them tweet about their purchase, highlights what you’re getting right.

What it can be less tempting to think about is what’s gone wrong. NewVoiceMedia’s report for 2018 estimates that poor customer service has caused 42% of people to leave a brand. The loss of spend here is enormous: not only are you losing their money, but you also risk the impact of them spreading negative reviews about you to their friends, family and colleagues.

It’s not just customer service that’s driving people away, either. We asked UK consumers two simple questions: which brand have you fallen out of love with in 2018? And why?

Eighty brands were listed overall, and the top twenty brands that we’ve lost faith in this year were as follows.

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Going from left to right, we can see that brand giants Apple, Facebook and Nike take first, second and third place. Apple and Facebook have suffered concerns over privacy this year, and Nike have put themselves out there politically. Could these things be what got them to the top spots for brands people are leaving behind?

The range of reasons that people have gone off these companies was diverse and individual, showing that brands need to treat all areas of their CX as equally important and worthy of careful design. That said, themes emerged and many people’s answer converged (no matter the product or service in questions).

Read on to discover the common patterns found across the most memorable brand slip ups of 2018.

Problems with product

Whatever the surrounding branding and shopping experience, if product is wrong, consumers will leave.

Some of the product related issues cited were…

  • Favourite products being discontinued (Adidas Hi Tops were cited)
  • Making changes to old classics (someone was cross that Aptimil had changed their formula, and people were aggrieved that Cadbury’s chocolate both tasted different and was getting smaller)
  • Products letting them down (Apple’s well-known in-built obsolescence infuriated many, along with poor battery life and degenerating quality)
  • Products failing, even when new (Fitbit were cited as breaking frequently after just a few months)
  • Products not fulfilling their selling point (one person recalled an allergic reaction they’d had to a product listed as being for “sensitive skin”)
  • Products not encompassing all consumers (Topshop’s poor sizing options and labelling were cited)
  • Dislike of a new product direction (some gave the simple reason that they had gone off Amazon because they found Alexa so annoying)
hi top
Hi Tops are firm fan favourites, but many of the classic styles aren’t available any more

What can we learn?

There are two main lessons here. Firstly, if you want to make changes, speak to your core demographic to ensure they’re on-side. These people are your champions, and it’s likely they know your product as well as you do. They’ll notice small edits, so be sure they’ll be popular.

Secondly, trading on quality will be noticed by all. Apple weren’t fooling anyone with their continual updates designed to oust already-purchased products from usability. Value consumers even after they’ve spent money with you; give them a product that stays the course and they’ll return.

Rising costs

Predictably, rising costs were cited by many. However, this is not because consumers are reluctant to spend on brands they like. Often, cost changes were given as reasons in conjunction with a perceived fall in quality. They’re happy to pay, but if what they’re paying for isn’t getting better inline with the price tag, they’ll head somewhere else.

Apple, again, was a frequent offender with their now four-figure iPhone price tags seen as a “rip off.” This affects low-ticket items, too, though: Walkers were seen as too expensive in an increasingly crowded snacks market.

In addition, people disliked the incremental increasing of price in the hope they wouldn’t notice. Virgin Media was seen to be constantly rising in price.

iphone sx
Apple’s iPhone Xs costs over £1000

What can we learn?

Put simply, if you want to charge more, ensure you’re providing more value and communicating effectively what consumers’ extra spend is getting them.

Customer experience

This one is the most emotive. If consumers feel undervalued, or that a company doesn’t want to help them when they run into issues, they are sure to be out the door.

One respondent said of Argos: I spent lots of money with them, the next day they reduced the items but wouldn’t honour the price difference.

Another said of Halfords: They tried to charge me for a repair that wasn’t needed.

When people have already spent their money, it’s easy for brands to stop caring. But when you no longer need to secure someone’s spend, good customer service just for the sake of being helpful is where you can make enormous differences!

NewVoiceMedia found that the number one way to make people feel emotionally connected to any brand is to be contactable by any channel (31% of people). It’s about being on-hand to help, when something’s gone wrong, that counts.

What can we learn?

Good customer service can right the wrongs of a faulty product. This is your chance to make customers loyal for life. Don’t stop caring after the initial sale; think about the bigger picture and be willing to spend a little more time and money making sure people feel cared for, and you’ll likely get it back when they next come to make a decision between your brand and someone else.


A wide range of ethical issues were cited by consumers as reasons they no longer liked a brand.

Amongst the offending issues were…

  • Canada Goose’s use of fur
  • Facebook and Apple’s data handling and security, as well as Facebook’s tax evasion and the perceived cover-up of the Cambridge Analytica scandal
  • Mac’s animal testing
  • Next’s supporting of fake influencers
  • Pret’s inability to safely label their food
  • Ted Baker’s sexual misconduct allegations
  • Under Armour’s sponsoring of animal hunting
  • Virgin chief, Richard Branson’s anti-Brexit stance (here, founders affect brand perception)
  • Volkswagen’s cover up of their high carbon emissions
  • Amazon’s poor treatment of employees
ted baker
Ted Baker sales fall as founder is accused of harassment

What can we learn?

In a climate of public call-outs, and growing ethical awareness, it is much more difficult to keep bad behaviour covered up. Keep your core mission at the centre of your mind, and follow your brand principles. The morally right route may be little more expensive in the short term, but ultimately will keep your brand perception out of trouble when it comes to consumers, and lead to longer term value.

Improvements from competitors

Perhaps your brand is getting everything right, but if someone’s doing it even slightly better, you can still expect to lose out.

Coca-Cola was deemed less tasty than Pepsi by some; eBay was left for Amazon, whose delivery was free with Prime; and M&S was seen as “old fashioned” compared to other stores. One consumer had gone off Puma, because it was seen as lagging directly behind, and therefore copying Adidas in its designs.

What can we learn?

Speak to your consumers about which areas of your brand could be improved. Ask them about their pain points, and what could still be quicker or easier for them. Trying to anticipate the next big thing is significantly easier if you know the issues people are still not satisfied with.

In-store experience

When so much is online, and every day sees more headlines dominated by the falling footfall on the high street, it’s easy to forget about the brick-and-mortar shop experience.

Costa lost one consumer this year “because the stores near me have got worse, their cleanliness in particular.” Meanwhile M&S disappointed due to their failure to provide disabled loos.

Done right, the shopping experience can be something to remember for the right reasons

What can we learn?

Walk every part of your in-store journey through, from the perspective of all segments of your audience. Ask yourself, does it cater to the convenience shopper, the leisurely browser, the shopper with children, or the disabled shopper?

Branding opportunities

There were also several complaints to do with brand. M&S’s recent advertising campaign was seen as “wasteful”; Gymshark’s recent Black Friday sale was, in some people’s eyes, “awful”; and someone had had enough of Gucci because their designs are so well-copied that it’s now difficult to distinguish between fakes and the real deal.

What can we learn?

Speaking to consumers about individual branding events, or your branding strategy more generally is crucial. Find out how discounts go down, find out how campaigns are received, and which messaging lands. Even more importantly, ask them why? This qualitative data is the only way you’ll really know what people are thinking, and give yourself the guide you need to craft a strategy that will make the real people buying your brand happy. 

Next steps

The ways in which you lose a customer can be inherently personal. There’s no one quick route to ensuring you step over all the potential pitfalls that lead people to wave goodbye to your brand. This is precisely why it’s vital to be in regular communication with a large pool of people who are both customers of, and new to, your brand.

Find out what you’re getting wrong as you go, and patterns will quickly emerge. This insight can direct your strategy to the winning formula that will retain customers already with you; stop others from leaving; and potentially give you hints as to how to win ex-customers back.

Get in touch with us today to ensure your brand’s not on this list in 2019!


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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