NEW YORK: Volkswagen, American Apparel and Aéropostale are among the brands registering the lowest "emotional engagement strength" scores with US shoppers, according to a new study.

Brand Keys, the market-research consultancy, asked 42,792 adults about whether they shopped in specific categories, and then to assess the particular brands the were customers of.

And having compared these brands with the category "ideal" – quantified by a potential maximum rating of 100% – automaker Volkswagen recorded the lowest total, on just 29%.

BlackBerry, the telco, came next on 30%, with fashion specialist American Apparel on 38%, fast-casual restaurant chain Così on 39% and apparel group Aéropostale on 41%.

Sears' department stores followed on 42%, with Kobo's ebook reader posting 43%, Budweiser beer registering 49%, retailer Sports Authority logging 50% and high-end grocery retailer Whole Foods on 53%.

"The fundamental reason these brands were rated so low for consumer engagement is because they were unable to meet the high, and ever-growing, emotional expectations consumers bring to the marketplace," Robert Passikoff, President of Brand Keys, said.

"These are the critical values consumers use to compare brand options when they shop. If a brand performs poorly, consumer displeasure not only shows up on the list but harshly in the marketplace. And, shortly thereafter, on profit-loss statements."

As evidence of how popular "displeasure" can impact a brand, the analysis pointed to revelations about Volkswagen using software to mask diesel emissions in official tests.

Whole Foods, it continued, has been "accused of price rigging their own brand, along with corporate hubris", while American Apparel and Aéropostale have both "suffered badly at the hands of corporate management".

As beer consumption habits rapidly evolve, Budweiser also witnessed a 9% drop off in engagement year on year. "A 5% move is indicative of a significant change in emotional engagement strength," said Passikoff.

Data sourced from Brand Keys; additional content by Warc staff