BrandIndex's weekly Brandweek Buzz Report: Nationwide, burger wars, Palm

'Greatest Spokesperson' Boosts Nationwide

March 26, 2010

In a sector with weak consumer perception, Nationwide has traditionally maintained above average buzz scores, although it has trailed behind category leaders Geico and Aflac. In hopes of standing out from its competitors, the insurance provider kicked off “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson In The World” campaign, which, so far, has worked favorably for the brand, according to market research firm YouGov's BrandIndex report.

The Brandweek Buzz Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: The scores are based on weighing positive and negative perceptions of a brand. A +100 score is positive, a -100 score is negative, and a rating of zero means that the score is neutral.

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.

This week, the report spotlights:

• Burger King, Wendy's, McDonald's
• Nationwide Insurance
• Palm

Nationwide Push Gets Consumers Buzzing
Taking example from Dos Equis’ successful campaign, dubbed “Most Interesting Man in the World,” Nationwide introduced “The World’s Greatest Spokesperson In The World” earlier this moth month. The opening spot introduces the insurance company's long-lost spokesperson in a cabin in the woods. Nationwide brings him out of hibernation "to speak passionately on behalf of consumers." The follow-up ad shows Nationwide sending its minions out by helicopter to retrieve the spokesperson, who insists he needs “a list of everyone with insurance . . . and a blue phone.”

"The World’s Greatest Spokesperson in the World" seems to be working in Nationwide's favor, having sent its buzz score upwards from 6.5 to 9.5 since the campaign began. Meanwhile, the sector average has budged from 4.9 to 5.4.

Burger Wars Continue
Burger chains have been fiercely courting customers with value propositions since the recession began. The economy may be getting better, but the promotional wars are as competitive as ever. Since mid-February, Wendy’s and Burger King were neck and neck in buzz among men 18-34. Then, in mid-March, they ran into a wall when Michelle Obama appeared in a Newsweek cover story blaring the headline, “Feed Your Children Well.” Rallying parents to cook at home more as part of Obama's childhood obesity campaign, Burger King lost traction and fell from 16.5 to it current -2.8 buzz score, while Wendy’s dropped from 21.5 to 13.9. Burger King also began rolling out its beer-serving Whopper Bars, which keep the under 21 crowd out.

McDonald’s has been averaging lower buzz scores also, and sometimes traveling into negative perception territory. Yet, the fast feeder didn’t feel the Obama brunt as badly as Burger Kind and Wendy's. McDonald’s even rebounded recently, to the point where it's closing in on Wendy’s with a score of 10.3.

Palm at a Crossroads
In a sense, Palm is right back where it started on June 1, 2009, when the PDA company reintroduced itself to the mobile arena with the Pre. Palm received mostly favorable reviews, but the euphoria was short-lived. Buzz scores peaked at 7.3 on June 9, and then drifted down to 3.7 through the end of September. Even at its peak, Palm was nowhere near Apple’s mid-30s scores and BlackBerry’s high 20s. Palm made a modest comeback to 6.2 last fall, only to tumble even further than before, hitting a score of 1.9 in Feb. 2010.

Palm's recent financial reports have shown lots of back inventory of unsold goods, with a recent analyst estimate of 800,000 units. Palm has given up all of its stock gains from last year. The only bit of good news it that in addition to selling its Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on both Verizon Wireless and Sprint, AT&T will soon carry the devices. Palm’s current buzz score is 3.8, which is exactly the same as it was in June 20009.