Loyalty comes when a brand – a product, or a service, even a TV show – is better able to meet (even exceed) the consumer Ideal for the category in which it competes. But, of course, to do that you have to have a real fix on what that Ideal really is. What the consumer really thinks is the Ideal, not what they say they think.

We specialize in predictive loyalty and engagement metrics so we think about it all the time, but it was more than just another days’ work for us when we read that CBS was replacing every member of the weekday anchor team on “The Early Show,” its perennially third-place morning program.

They’re actually 5th on our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, which currently ranks Morning News shows – and which correlates very highly with viewership, thank you – like this:

1. Today (NBC)
2. Good Morning America (ABC)
3. Fox and Friends (FOX)
4. American Morning (CNN)
5. Early Show (CBS)

Loyalty always correlates with positive consumer behavior, so we weren’t surprised to learn that to date The Early Show has only averaged 2.7 million viewers, down slightly from the same time period in 2009, while NBC’s Today averaged almost twice as many viewers — 5.3 million, and ABC’s Good Morning America averaged 4.3 million.

The new lineup is due to debut on January 3rd, but the truth is that consumers expect more from their Morning News show than appealing hosts and a new set. Note to producers: nobody – we mean nobody – is waking up and thinking “let’s see what the new CBS Early Show set looks like.” OK, maybe the set designer’s family, but nobody else.

Everybody else is thinking, ”Let me turn on a program that is more like me than, say, a housewife in Iowa.” Or they’re thinking, “Do I really trust they guys (and gals)?” Or “the guests these guys have on each morning are really cool!” Oh, and “why can’t they get the weather report right? Can’t they forget that Doppler stuff and just look out the window and see it’s raining!?” That’s the kind of yardstick Morning News shows have to measure up to. If you can’t do that you’re at a real disadvantage.

But as John Stewart commented about his own show, “of course, our show is at as disadvantage compared to the new sources we compete with. For one think, we are fake. They are not. So in terms of credibility we are, well, oddly enough, actually about even.”

Which is pretty funny, but when you are perennially in 3rd place, that’s nothing to laugh at!