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Survey: Wal-Mart Among Best 'Value' Brands

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NEW YORK A recent survey by YouGovPolimetrix revealed that the slumping economy is having a significant impact on how consumers perceive brand value. Budget brands like Wal-Mart and Old Navy were ranked highest by consumers, while more upscale brands and financial services firms ranked lowest, reflecting a loss of consumer confidence.

To examine the value of brands, YouGovPolimetrix collected data between Sept. 1 and Oct. 27 from a sample of the U.S. population age 18 and over. The "BrandIndex" survey drew responses from an online panel of over 1 million consumers. Ted Marzilli, svp, general manager at YouGovPolimetrix, said this time frame was chosen specifically to examine the impact of an economic crisis on brand perception.

The five brands with the highest consumer perception value were Craftsman, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Google and Rubbermaid. Brands with the worst perception of value were MTV, Hummer, Red Bull, AIG and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Additionally, the survey found that over the past two months, value perception scores have increased for Microsoft, Starbucks, Verizon Wireless, Folgers, and Bath and Body Works, but scores decreased for AIG, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Foot Locker and Merrill Lynch.

"There's a common theme here," said Marzilli. "In the case of financial services, consumers see these brands as irresponsible in the way they handled their own finances and how they handle the finances of consumers." For that reason, Marzilli said, quality, reputation and image scores (measured in a separate survey) for financial services firms also dropped significantly during this period.

Good news for agencies, perhaps, is that advertising seems to be having a positive impact in terms of boosting brand perception, despite the economic downturn. "Brands that have launched campaigns in the last 60 days are having significant success in how consumers perceive them, with Microsoft and Folgers being two prominent examples," Marzilli said.

"BrandIndex" also measured the brands with the best and worst value perception in 19 categories and found that:
 
--Domestic airlines: Southwest ranked as "best," while United ranked as "worst."
--International airlines: Virgin Atlantic, best; Air France, worst.
-- Coffee/non-carbonated beverages: Lipton, best; Perrier, worst.
--Beer: Samuel Adams and Corona, best; Milwaukee's Best and Icehouse, worst.
--Spirits: Jack Daniels and Bacardi, best; Wild Turkey, Ballantines and Sauza, worst.
--Domestic cars: Chevrolet and Saturn, best; Hummer, worst.
--International carmakers: Toyota and Honda, best; Infiniti and Audi, worst.
--Women's clothing stores: Lane Bryant, best; Juicy Couture and Wet Seal, worst.
--All other clothing stores: Old Navy, best; Abercrombie & Fitch, worst.
--Computer equipment: HP and Sony, best; Lenovo and Acer, worst.
--Consumer products and goods: Clorox and Crest, best; Schick, worst.
--Department stores: Target and Wal-Mart, best; Neiman Marcus, worst.
--Grocery stores: Kroger, best; 7-11, worst.
--Insurance: AAA , best; AIG, worst.
--Credit cards: Visa, best; Discover, worst.
--Specialty retail/home improvement: Home Depot and Lowe's, best;  Brookstone and 99 Cents Only, worst.
--Specialty retail/drugstores: Walgreen's, best; Long's Drugs, worst.
--Amusement parks: Sea World, best; Six Flags, worst.
--Hotels: Best Western and Comfort Inn, best; Motel 6, worst.

The findings show that there's a real focus among consumers on bargain brands, as opposed to more expensive, high-fashion brands. "Some of the other performers [like Home Depot, Lowe's] are brands that have been around a long time," said Marzilli. "In times of a crisis, people tend to go to brands that they're comfortable with and that are dependable."