’09’s Most Talked-About Brand: Microsoft

Kanye West, Kate Gosselin and Michael Jackson were among the top trending topics on Twitter in 2009, but Microsoft and other tech brands dominated the blogosphere, per Zeta Interactive.

In a report compiled exclusively for Brandweek, the New York-based interactive marketing agency ranked brands based on the volume and number of online posts (through Facebook, Twitter and blogs), as well as the overall tone (positive, negative) of these conversations. Four of the top 10 companies on this year’s list were tech brands: Microsoft, Google, Apple and BlackBerry. Retailers Target and Walmart placed in the fifth and 10th spots, respectively. (See chart below.)

Google displaced Microsoft as the lead last year, but this year, the tech giant took the No. 1 spot due to aggressive advertising. These marketing efforts include the “Laptop Hunters” ad from agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, and a major push ahead of its Bing search engine debut. Bloggers often used terms such as “easy,” “efficient” and “better” in their online discussions about Microsoft, said Zeta Interactive CEO Al DiGuido.

If 2009 was the year of tech, “discount was also king,” DiGuido said. Three of the top 10 brands — Target, Walmart and Amazon — came from this category, which is attributed to increased consumer focus on value. Walmart received the highest positive tone (90 percent) of all brands, though it placed 10th on the list.

Honda was the only auto brand to round out the top 10, reflecting the U.S. auto industry’s economic and financial woes. Two automakers, Ford and Chevy, were among the top 22 last year, but this year’s poor rankings indicate “where [U.S. consumers are] in terms of their view of automakers,” DiGuido noted.

Sony was the brand with the lowest positive tonal rating (71 percent) to make the list. Those that missed the list include Visa (9,505.90 buzz ranking), Verizon (9,493.85), Motorola (9,125.50) and Kmart (9,095.90).

DiGuido, whose firm conducts the annual study, said the results are indicative of which brands are savviest when it comes to using social media and which can effectively channel or generate positive conservations around their brands.

The study gives marketers “a bird’s-eye view of what consumers think of these products, how prevalent it is to their mentality, beliefs and lifestyles,” DiGuido said, adding that, in tough times, brands need more “evangelizers than detractors.”

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