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From Brand Intimacy to Indifference

In our latest Brand Intimacy research, we’re looking at what every other brand study ignores: brand breakups. We call it indifference and it’s when a consumer no longer has any feelings toward a brand they once used and had a strong connection to.  

Our new data on indifference builds on over a decade of studying how people build bonds with brands and leverages findings from our next-generation Brand Intimacy Study, which adds big data and artificial intelligence to our proven methodology.

Serious Brand Damage

Consumers leave brands for various reasons and at different times in their relationship with the brand. Focusing on breakups may not seem significant; however, when there are major issues and many leave a customer base, the consequences can be grave.

The business implications are clear: when consumers leave brands behind, it affects the bottom line and the brand’s reputation.


$887B Future revenue businesses risk by mishandling complaints.
74% of customers report product and service problems.
32% of customers post dirt on social.

Wait, They Broke Up??

We’ve learned that indifference occurs in consumers across demographics and in brands across industries. The vast majority of consumers surveyed report having broken up with a brand at some point, and they named names.

what people are saying

Most Experience Indifference infographics
Breakup Brands quotes from social media

Big Bad Brand Breakups

A woman's face with the words 'happened overnight' and emoji stickers

Average “tweets” fall 25%

Following a change in ownership, an unexpected and rocky rebrand, and a series of rapid changes that left users questioning the platform’s direction, the media described Twitter’s owner as committing “an extended act of cultural vandalism.” The abrupt shift in the brand identity to a darker, more exclusive feel wouldn’t have helped.

“What are tweets called now?”

— @SawyerMeritt

A woman's face with the words 'holiday scandal' and emoji stickers.

7% drop in Balenciaga’s quarterly revenue

Balenciaga’s unfortunate and inconsiderate 2022 holiday ad campaign featured children posing with its “Plush Toy Bag,” which includes teddy bears in BDSM gear. Widespread backlash followed; TikTok was flooded with videos showing substantial markdowns on Balenciaga products in stores, with many questioning if they would continue to buy the brand.

“Disgusted and outraged.”

— Kim Kardashian

A man's sad face with the words 'We messed up' and emoji stickers.

Southwest loses $350M in sales

This brand’s 2023 winter kerfuffle ended with more than 16,700 canceled flights and 2 million stranded passengers. They admitted to causing “a tremendous amount of anguish, inconvenience, and missed opportunities for our customers and employees” as social media erupted with angry posts.

“I’m open to dating another airline.”

 — Hillary Chang on NPR

Indifference Occurs Frequently, and is Often Rapid

Interestingly, a large number of consumers broke up with brands before the three-year mark. After that time, they seem more likely to stick with the relationship. We also found nearly half of consumers surveyed ended relationships with multiple brands they were close to during a 10-year period.

what people are saying

46% of customers reported breaking up with more than brands over the past 10 years.
40% of breakups happen before the 3 year mark.

Grounds for Separation

What are the main factors that lead to brand breakups?

Declining quality stood out as the leading factor, followed by differing values. Disappointment was the most common emotion consumers felt leading up to the breakup.

what people are saying

A diagram showing the reasons for indifference
A diagram showing the reasons for indifference
A diagram showing the percentage of breakup emotions.
A diagram showing the percentage of breakup emotions.

Taking Brands Back

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve learned that indifference isn’t the end. A majority of consumers surveyed say they think brands can still repair the damage that was done and regain their interest.

Improved quality was the top factor reported that would help a brand regain their interest. Other factors included addressing customer concerns and improvements to reliability.

what people are saying

Can a brand win you back? infographic.
What it takes to improve customer satisfaction infographic,

Some Relationships Endure

Although brand indifference can have serious business impacts, it’s notable that intimate brands that have invested in strengthening customer bonds are more immune to waning affection.

what people are saying

Brands people could never breaking up with.
Brands people could never breaking up with.

How to Create Stronger Relationships That Last

Understanding the causes and outcomes of brand breakups provides valuable information that can help companies prevent these costly missteps. Although unexpected issues and perception-damaging events could happen at any time, a strong emotional foundation is your best defense.

Couple's counseling infographic.
Couple's counseling infographic.


* “Historic National Customer Rage Survey: Record level of product and service problems incite surly customers to yell more and seek revenge for their hassles.” By Cision PR Newswire

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Staying Clear of Brand Indifference

It's over. What went wrong?.


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