Half of 2015’s Best-Perceived Brands Predate the Web

Amazon rules, but traditional companies still thrive

Americans might spend a third of their time on social media, and 78 percent of us might regularly shop online, but when it comes to the brands we most trust and admire, half of the top 10 are old-line companies that predate the Web.

That's one of the findings of BrandIndex's semiannual survey of America's best-perceived brands. The research house queried about 1.2 million adults over age 18, asking them to rate brands according to quality, satisfaction, overall impression and other attributes. And while the latest list of best-perceived brands includes digital behemoths like Apple and Netflix, half of the names are companies like Ford, Lowe's and Subway (the recent Jared Fogle controversy notwithstanding).

"It is interesting that, in the Internet age, we still have about half of the top brands being more traditional [companies]," Ted Marzilli, CEO of BrandIndex, a division of YouGov, told Adweek.

Among the other surprising findings: Ford came in at No. 9, and General Motors was the biggest gainer in terms of perception—this despite both companies making news in 2014 for extensive recalls.

"Recalls happen fairly frequently in that industry," Marzilli said, "and the subsequent recalls have not had the same impact as the first large one." GM recalled nearly 2.2 million vehicles in March 2014, with Ford recalling some 440,000 of its own in May. But with 28 percent of shoppers vowing they would buy only American cars in a recent Cars.com survey, the regenerative power of Detroit shouldn't come as a surprise.

Another interesting wrinkle: Cancer Treatment Centers of America isn't just a new name in the top 10, it came in at No. 4. Founded in 1988, CTCA has grown in a national network of accredited hospitals that consistently outranks national averages in terms of patient satisfaction. "This is a brand that is in the business of helping people and their families battle through a very difficult time, and it receives high marks for that," Marzilli said.

Meanwhile, Web-driven brands held down the other five spots in the survey. Among them was Netflix, which climbed from fifth to second place, making it a big perception gainer. Amazon held the No. 1 spot for the second year running. Given consumers' unstoppable shift toward shopping online, Marzilli said, Amazon's top-dog status comes as little surprise. "Amazon continues to expand its offerings," he said. "It's not easy to hold the No. 1 position for multiple years, no matter who you are."