The most respected brands in 2014: Who’s up … who’s down.

Brand imageIn recent years, there’s been more press than ever about “brand respect.”  Building on this interest, brand strategy firm CoreBrand decided to use historical survey data to attempt to determine the sentiment behind the world’s best-known brands.

CoreBrand uses proprietary Corporate Branding Index data – 23 years’ worth – that it has been compiling through consumer surveys covering nearly 1,000 of most famous brands.

CoreBrand’s 2014 Brand Respect Study covers the 100 brands (limited to publicly traded companies) in the CBI that chart the highest levels of market familiarity among all of the brands tracked.

CoreBrand’s scoring mechanism is pretty straightforward:  Brands with the highest familiarity and favorability are defined as “most respected,” while brands that have high familiarity but low favorability levels are the “least respected.”

For the record, here are the most respected brands as determined from the 2014 CoreBrand research:

  • #1:  Coca-Cola – the most respected
  • #2:  PepsiCo
  • #3:  Hershey
  • #4:  Bayer
  • #5:  Johnson & Johnson
  • #6:  Harley-Davidson
  • #7:  IBM
  • #8:  Apple
  • #9:  Kellogg
  • #10:  General Electric

In comparing 2014’s results to the previous year, Coke and Pepsi remain at the top of the heap – although they traded places from one year to the next.  Moreover, both brands’ favorability scores declined slightly – perhaps due to the burgeoning “better for you” foods movement that seems to be souring some consumers on soft drinks and related beverages.

New on the “Top Ten” most-respected listing this year are IBM, Apple and GE.

At the other end of the scale, these ten brands came up as the ones that are the least respected – with Delta Airlines earning the Booby Prize as “the worst of the worst”:

  • #1:  Delta Airlines – the least respected
  • #2:  H&R Block
  • #3:  Big Lots
  • #4:  Denny’s
  • #5:  Best Buy
  • #6:  Rite Aid
  • #7:  J.C. Penney
  • #8:  Capital One Financial
  • #9:  Family Dollar Stores
  • #10:  Sprint Nextel

While it’s certainly no fun to be on the “least respected” list, two of the brands – Denny’s and Family Dollar — have actually seen their scores improve significantly this year compared to last.  So at least they’re headed in the right direction.

Two other brands – Philip Morris and Foot Locker – have gone off the list.  In the case of Foot Locker, it’s because its brand favorability ratings have improved significantly enough to lift them off the list.

For Philip Morris, the reason is far more mundane:  it’s simply because its familiarity level has deteriorated so much, the brand no longer even qualifies to be part of the annual CoreBrand Brand Respect evaluation.

And finally … we come to Delta Airlines.  It’s the air carrier everyone loves to hate — and it’s dead last in the brand respect rankings.

There’s some consolation for Delta, though:  The only two other U.S.-based air carriers that qualify for inclusion in the study based on their familiarity levels (United and American) also score on the low end, although they (just) miss being on the “least respected list.”

Evidently, the airlines in general could benefit from earning more brand respect.  Good luck with that.

Boston Consulting Group predicts “the end of consumer marketing as we have long known it.”

Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a survey of American consumers to see how their spending habits and approach to brands differs by age group.

Millennials GenXers Baby BoomersThe results give us a quantifiable measure of the differences in outlook between three major age groups:  Millennials (age 18 to 34), Gen-Xers (age 35 to 49), and Baby Boomers and older consumers (age 50 and up).

The survey findings led BCG researchers to declare that Millennials’ perspectives are characterized by a “reciprocity principle.”  By this, they mean that these younger consumers expect “mutual relationships” with companies and their brands.

This isn’t so very surprising considering the ability of the Internet and social media platforms to provide an easy platform for airing their opinions.

A positive brand experience may prompt consumers to take favorable “public” action on behalf of the brand.

A disappointing experience most assuredly will prompt vocal criticism via product or service reviews, social media, blog posts, and leaving comments.

digital-multitaskingAnd the juicier the commentary, the more likely it is to go viral.

The BCG survey found that younger consumers are far more prone to participate in the world of “reciprocity.”

The differences were pretty dramatic when asking respondents in the different age groups whether they agreed with certain statements:

“Brands identify who I am, and my values.”

  • Millennials:  ~44% agree
  • Gen-Xers:  ~38%
  • Boomers and older:  ~33%

“People seek me for knowledge and brand opinion.”

  • Millennials:  ~51% agree
  • Gen-Xers:  ~42%
  • Boomers and older:  ~34%

“I’m willing to share my brand preferences online or on social media.”

  • Millennials:  ~55% agree
  • Gen-Xers:  ~43%
  • Boomers and older:  ~28%

Evaluating the survey findings, the BCG report posits that Millennials are “the leading indicators of large-scale changes in consumer behavior.”

Rather dramatically, BCG also concludes that this particular generational transition is “ushering in the end of consumer marketing as we have long known it,” and that the linear framework companies have used for decades to manage brand image and engagement is headed out the window.

“… Marketers must embrace the reality that marketing is an ecosystem of multidirectional engagement rather than a process that is controlled and pushed by the company,” the BCG report states.

My personal view is that the Boston Consulting Group’s conclusions are probably on-target … but the question is the degree.

I don’t think many major brands are going to simply cede control of their marketing and messaging to the cyberspace or the social cloud.  They’ve worked too long and too hard on their brand image and identity to give up that easily.

For more on the survey findings and conclusions, here’s BCG’s summary article.