GfK: Brands considered ‘best friends’ boast 3x more positive word of mouth and 2.5x the recommendations

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — GfK Consumer Experiences North America on Thursday released its GfK Brand Benchmark Study, which assessed US consumers’ relationships with hundreds of products and services in 48 categories, and found stark disparities in what different generations value in a brand. For example, while both Generations X and Y value a product’s functionality, Gen Y also cares strongly about a brand’s image and notoriety. 

“It is essential for brands to create positive and memorable experiences to build strong consumer-brand relationships," stated Jo-Ann Osipow, EVP of GfK’s Brand and Customer Experience team. “Our study shows that negative or even casual brand relationships result in low market share and low price premiums. Bolstering a brand’s reputation as having the qualities of a true friend – with a clear understanding of customers’ needs and a presence in their social world – can be a win-win for both marketer and consumer.”

GfK has also found that brand relationships can translate directly into revenue. Brands thought of as "Best Friends" enjoy a share of wallet up to several times greater than average.

Best Friend connections — one of the most desirable brand relationships — can be found in diverse categories, from food and beverages to cosmetics. To be a Best Friend, a brand needs to be seen as trustworthy, understanding of consumer needs, reliable, and committed. Brands considered Best Friends by 20% of category users have an average of five times the share of wallet of brands with less than 10% Best Friends. Further, high-ranking Best Friend brands have three times more positive word of mouth and 2.5 times the recommendations, compared to those with low Best Friend rankings.

By contrast, Star and Guru relationships require that a brand be perceived as being of superior quality, unique and more visible than other brands. Buzz is key for this relationship type. Star and Guru relationships drive not only high market share, but also premium pricing. Brands that are seen as Stars by over 5% of category users achieve an average of three times more share of wallet compared to brands with a Star rating under 2%. They also receive three times as many recommendations from customers, and have six times as many consumers calling them “favorite brands.” 

The study shows that Gen X – dealing with the multiple demands of family and career – respond to brands in a pragmatic way, seeking out products that meet needs and help them gets things done faster. They focus on quality more and style/design less compared to other generations: over 90% equate product quality with value, while fewer Gen Y consumers make that connection.

Based on online surveys among 17,000 consumers, the GfK US Brand Benchmark study yielded results for the total market (ages 18 to 65), Generation X (35 to 48), Generation Y (18 to 34), and Baby-Boomers (49 to 65), in addition to other demographic sub-groups. The categories included packaged goods, technology/telecom, automotive, retail/restaurants, hospitality, media, financial services and government.



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