What Are the Strongest Brands?

Top brands on Harris 2014 EquiTrend poll leverage ‘entertainment’ values to carry the day

NEW YORK -- While watching Netflix’s original series “House of Cards,” maybe a viewer is quaffing a Sam Adams Light beer while popping Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn or Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzels. Perhaps they also consume Häagen Dazs ice cream or a Dannon yogurt during the show.

What’s the correlation? These food and beverage brands, as well as Netflix, were among those securing a position on the 2014 Harris Poll EquiTrend Brands of the Year list.

Consumers who love their brands have a tendency to bundle them together during an occasion, according to Harris. Thus, it’s not uncommon for consumers to eat or drink favorite foods and beverages while engaged with other brands that comprise their brand pantheon, from snacks to electronics.

The 26th annual brand equity study, which measures and compares the “brand health” of more than 1,500 unique brands across 170 categories, selects the winners based on bonds created with consumers.

Some of the brand equity metrics encompass values such as familiarity, quality and consideration, and also measure consumer engagement/consumer connection and brand momentum. The objective poll pulls input from what Harris calls “advocates/saboteurs” and users/non-users, and generates metrics that examine co-branding.

In the food and beverage industry, multiple Hershey’s brands including Hershey Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, plus multiple M&M’s brands as well as Oreo cookies, occupied six out of the 10 top overall positions in the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index.

The classic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bar was noted for acquiring equity at an “unusually fast pace over the last two years,” according to the poll.

Wawa, meanwhile, was named c-store brand of the year.

Let Us Entertain You

Brands associated with delivering the “entertainment content consumers want and when they want it are rapidly increasing their brand equity positions,” according to findings from Harris EquiTrend.

“Something these brands have in common is their ability to connect on a very deep level with the consumers they seek to attract,” said Joan Sinopoli, senior vice president and solutions consultant at Nielsen Consumer Insights (formerly Harris Interactive), in a statement. “They are all brands that consumers are passionate about.”

Netflix, for instance, is regarded as “a market disruptor,” said Sinopoli. “[Netflix] addressed a consumer need for convenience and variety when it took on brick-and-mortar video stores.”

The poll showed the resilience of some brands to recover from missteps, something that should encourage food and beverage brands by demonstrating that strategic or tactical errors can be rectified with hard work. Netflix “stumbled with its fee restructuring, took corrective action to restore consumer trust, and is taking advantage of the trend toward individualized entertainment. It's now embarking on developing its own content, such as ‘House of Cards,’ ” according to Harris.

Sinopoli said that food and beverage brands with a lot of equity pair well with Netflix: “You have to eat something while bingeing [on] your favorite series.”

Top 2014 Harris EquiTrend Food & Beverage Brands

Convenience Store: Wawa
Pharmacy: CVS
Mass Merchandiser: Target Stores
Value Store: Dollar Tree
E-retailer: Amazon
Beer: Blue Moon
Light Beer: Sam Adams Light
Chocolate Candy: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars
Non-chocolate Candy: Reese's Pieces Candy
Premium Chocolate: Ghirardelli Chocolate
Coffee: Dunkin' Donuts Ground Coffee
Energy Drink: Full Throttle Energy Drink
Fruit Flavored Drink: Kool-Aid
Fruit Juice: Bolthouse Farms Juice
Potato Chip: Lay's Chips
Pretzel: Snyder's of Hanover Pretzels
Tortilla Chip: Doritos Chips
Popcorn: Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn
Diet Soft Drink: Diet Coke
Soft Drink: Coca-Cola
Hot Tea: Lipton Tea
Bottled Water: Ice Mountain Bottled Water
Cookie: Oreo Cookies
Frozen Pizza: Jack’s Frozen Pizza
Ice Cream: Häagen Dazs Ice Cream
Yogurt: Dannon Yogurt