PILLSBURY ON THE UPSWING, CHEF BOYARDEE NOT SO HOT
With the economy wreaking havoc on consumers' normal purchasing behavior re: brand loyalty versus the need to economize, which leading food and beverage brands are winning and losing the consumer perception battle?
Based on daily consumer feedback on seven key indicators of brand health -- as measured by BrandIndex -- Pillsbury, Campbell, Quaker, Nabisco and Betty Crocker are out ahead in this horse race. Snickers, Planters, Lay's and Oscar Meyer are hanging in there, while Lean Cuisine and Chef Boyardee appear to be rubbing consumers the wrong way.
BrandIndex is the brand-health monitoring service of YouGovPolimetrix. This marks the first time that BrandIndex, which has been active in the U.S. since 2005, has publicly released results about the more than 1,000 consumer brands, spanning 40 industries/markets, that it tracks.
BrandIndex gathers opinions on seven brand-health indicators on a daily basis from 5,000 U.S. adults drawn from an online panel of more than 1 million. The seven brand indicators measured are general impression; quality; value; satisfaction; loyalty; corporate reputation; mindshare; and buzz. These seven are then rolled up into an overall brand-health index score.
Here are the current (as of Oct. 1) overall brand-health index rankings for 11 of the leading U.S. food brands tracked by BrandIndex, and their rankings three months ago:
1. Pillsbury (previously #3)
2. Campbell's (previously #4)
3. Quaker (previously #1)
4. Nabisco (previously #2)
5. Betty Crocker (no change)
6. Snickers (previously #7)
7. Planters (previously #6)
8. Lay's (no change)
9. Oscar Meyer (no change)
10. Lean Cuisine (no change)
11. Chef Boyardee (no change)
Leading food brands' rankings--as opposed to brands within more volatile industries, such as oil or airlines--generally don't change dramatically within a few months' time, unless some unusual factor or event crops up, such as a product recall or other widely publicized piece of negative news, notes Ted Marzilli, SVP and general manager, Brand Group for YouGovPolimetrix.
However, particularly in the current economy, something like a noticeable price increase can have a "fairly dramatic" negative effect on a brand's value perception, and therefore its overall index ranking, Marzilli says.
The "value" and "quality" rankings are probably the most critical of the seven measured factors in terms of influencing short-term changes in a brand's overall perception (barring unusual events).
And while consumers' ranking of brands on the quality and value factors are often "inversely related," the rankings of each of these 11 brands on quality, value and overall health are quite similar, Marzilli points out.
For instance, the top overall-indexed brands score high on quality and value, while Lean Cuisine and Chef Boyardee score low on both. The exception is Planters, which was rated high on quality, but lower on value.
How do value versus quality perceptions affect overall brand perception? There seems to be no obvious, clear-cut answer, but here's how each brand's rankings changed on these two factors:
1. Pillsbury: No change in quality ranking; -1 on value ranking
2. Campbell's: +2 in quality ranking; +2 in value ranking
3. Quaker: +3 on quality ranking; -3 on value ranking
4. Nabisco: -3 on quality ranking; -2 on value ranking
5. Betty Crocker: -3 on quality ranking; +4 on value ranking
6. Snickers: -1 on quality ranking; +2 on value ranking
7. Planters: +1 on quality ranking; -2 on value ranking
8. Lay's: +1 on quality ranking; no change in value ranking
9. Oscar Meyer: no change in either ranking
10. Lean Cuisine: no change in quality ranking; +1 in value ranking
11. Chef Boyardee: no change in quality ranking; -1 in value ranking
BrandIndex also breaks out perceptions on each of the seven factors by various demographics.
Looking at the value factor for the two brands with the highest overall BrandIndex rankings and the two with the lowest overall rankings, here are a few highlights. Each ranking number below represents the difference between the percentage of consumers who rated the brand positively on the factor and the percentage of those who ranked it negatively on the factor, meaning that a zero score would indicate that the same percentages of consumers gave a positive and negative ranking.
- Pillsbury: Women, +49; men, +34.8. Households with income over $25,000, +44.2; households with income under $25,000, +39.6.
- Campbell: Women, +47.3; men, +31.6. Households with income over $25,000, +43.5; households with income under $25,000, +29.1.
- Lean Cuisine: Women, +14.4; men, -7.6. Households with income over $25,000, +2.7; households with income under $25,000, +6.9.
- Chef Boyardee: Women, +8.2; men, -4.5. Households with income over $25,000, +5.1; households with income under $25,000, +4.0.
The bottom line? "The leaders in the overall brand health index should feel good relative to their positions versus competitors, and Chef Boyardee and Lean Cuisine should be concerned about their positions," sums up Marzilli.