BrandIndex's weekly Brandweek Buzz Report: Burger King, Barnes & Noble, Northwest Airlines

Mayday! Northwest's Buzz Score Crashes

Oct 30, 2009

The domestic airline sector had been the subject of low-flying buzz. But consumer perception took a turn for the worse when Northwest Airlines Flight 188 missed its destination due to pilots who had their heads in the clouds. The pilots were grounded along with the airline’s buzz score, which dipped from 3.3 on the date of the incident (Oct. 21) to -0.5 on Oct. 27.

The Brandweek Buzz Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?

YouGov interviews 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million individuals. A score can range from 100 to -100 and is compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.

This week, the report spotlights:

• Barnes & Noble
• Burger King
• Northwest Airlines

Barnes & Noble Opens New Chapter With Nook
Talk about a brand that needed a pick-me-up. When Barnes & Noble announced the forthcoming release of its Nook e-reader, it was at the end of a weeklong tailspin of buzz. Then Oct. 20 rolled around with the news (see arrow), and the scores went back up, despite some brief initial confusion regarding the product’s Wi-Fi capabilities. The Nook is now the No. 1 requested item at the store and will be released on Nov. 30, setting the stage for a brand battle with Amazon and Sony.

Burger King Gives McDonald's Double Trouble
Burger King has both barrels firing with Double Cheeseburgers, double marketing blitzes and double action, which has distanced the fast feeder from McDonald’s on the value and quality score fronts. By adding a Double Cheeseburger to its dollar menu and launching two new TV ad spots touting its superiority to rival burgers, BK inched its value score from 30 on Oct. 23 (see arrow) to 31.5 on Oct. 27, while McDonald’s slipped from 23.1 to 22.2. BK's meatier pitch seems to be resonating with consumers. During the same period, BK's quality score rose from 13.9 to 15.2, while McDonald’s went from 4.3 to 3.3.

Northwest Airlines Consumer Perception Loses Ground
Consumers haven't been buzzing about the domestic airline industry since the recession began, flight delays piled up, and baggage, holiday and other small fees were tacked onto invoices. One domestic airline, however, got consumers talking last week when Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis flew 500 miles without radio contact and overshot its destination by over 110 miles. The mystery unraveled five days later when the pilots confessed they were distracted because they had brought their personal laptops into the cockpit, so one pilot could teach the other Delta Air Lines’ new scheduling system as a result of Northwest’s recent merger. The airline’s buzz score has dropped significantly since the incident.