Magazine article Marketing

Brands: Brands We Love

Magazine article Marketing

Brands: Brands We Love

Article excerpt

No quibbles: being loved is good for sales. But being hated does not necessarily mean failure - it's vital consumers have a strong opinion of your brand. Jane Simms reports.

No brand sets out to be hated. But being on the receiving end of consumer contempt is often better than being ignored. Year after year, Marketing's Brands We Love and Hate survey, in association with Joshua G2, finds that some of the most successful brands are also the most loathed - 2007 was no exception.

The findings of the survey (see box) offer valuable insights into what motivates consumers to buy, and provide pointers for brands seeking to boost their popularity, but they also prove that it does not necessarily matter if a brand is disliked.

Pot Noodle, McDonald's and AOL topped the most-hated list in 2007, but no one could say they have not been successful; polarising opinion can work in a brand's favour. Manchester United is a prime example - it's near the top of the most-hated list, but its fervent and widespread support has built it into one of the most valuable sports brands in the world.

Similarly, being loved is no guarantee of success - sometimes it can set expectations that a brand can struggle to match. The airlines sector is a case in point. British Airways appears toward the top of the most-loved list and bottom of the most-hated list. Yet its image has taken a battering over the past year due to issues with baggage handling and a price-fixing scandal, and it has only recently improved financial performance after cost-cutting. By contrast, its no-frills competitors Ryanair and easyJet, both of which appear only in the most-hated list, have posted big profit increases this year; more than 56%, in easyJet's case.

'Those in the most-loved list tend to be aspirational, whereas those in the most-hated list tend to be functional or niche,' says Malcolm Wilkinson, partner at management consultancy Deloitte. 'It is arguably better to have a clear positioning and make money, than be a brand that people cannot afford.'

So the least-popular brands, such as TK Maxx and Pot Noodle, or those that polarise opinion, such as IKEA or Dyson, may be among the most successful. 'These brands excel at targeting and forging a strong connection with their market, so their lack of popular appeal is irrelevant,' says Wilkinson. 'If people have a strong opinion, even a negative one, that is important. It is much easier to turn a strong negative into a strong positive than to create something from nothing.'

Technology brands continue to make a strong showing in the most-loved list. 'Those that combine technology and service - Google, Amazon and eBay being obvious examples - are highly engaging,' says Dorothy MacKenzie, chairman of brand agency Dragon. 'They have almost created a new type of brand that is friendly, warm and outgoing, but part of their appeal is that they don't have to push themselves at people.'

Matthew Howells, director at Joshua G2, believes the results also illustrate how traditional favourites have been welcomed back into the fold by consumers. 'The most-loved list comprises brands that build emotional rapport, and that lasts,' he says. 'This means there are fewer significant changes than in the most-hated list. But there has been a drift toward 'heart-and-soul' enduring brands, such as Heinz and Sainsbury's.'

A lack of correlation between adspend and favourability has become even more pronounced over the years. Brands in some of the highest-spending sectors - notably financial services and mobile networks - achieve no standout, and have become commoditised in many consumers' eyes.

The lessons are clear: brands that want to be loved need to get their product, customer service, values and communications right. But brands that are hated can take consolation from the fact that they do not have to be loved to be successful.

TOP 50 - LOVED (%)

Rnk (06)   Brand          Ttl vote    Gender (%)  Place of residence (%)
                           % share   Male Female  Midlands  North  South

1   (1)    Google             68. … 
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