Consumers Don’t Strongly Identify with Brands

March 15, 2010

Although consumer demand for quality brands and products remains strong, consumers generally do not strongly identify with brands, according to global video interviews conducted by consumer insights firm

Cell Phones Trump Cars
The vast majority of consumers around the globe said they would choose their cell phone if they could only keep either their cell phone or their car. Reasons given included that cell phones are “more practical,” as well as many variations on how important cell phones are to communication.

At the end of the video, reveals the interviews were conducted during 2004, when cell phone penetration rates, especially in the US, were much lower than today. One mitigating factor is that most of the interviews appear to have been conducted in urban areas, where both walking and public transportation are more prevalent than in suburban and rural areas.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness
Although the video showing responses to the question “what makes you happy?” begins with a montage of global consumers saying money, as well as similar answers such as nice cars and/or houses, quickly the video reveals that most respondents said something else. Love, friends, family and faith were all popular answers. Some non-monetary answers were less wholesome and included alcohol, cigarettes and general vices.

Brands Not Seen as Caring
When asked “what brands care about you?,” not a single global consumer said they believed any brand cared about them, except as a source of profit. When asked what brands they love, more consumers answered Apple than any other brand. However, many consumers said they love no brand and even find loving a brand unnatural.

Large chain retail brands led the category of brands consumers hate, with more respondents mentioning fast food chain McDonald’s than any other brand. Wal-Mart, Gap and Starbucks were also mentioned. In addition, some consumers said they generally hate brands which engage in practices such as using child or cheap foreign labor.

Most Cell Phone Users Can’t Name Their Brand
Most global cell phone users cannot name the brand of their cell phone without looking at it, according to consumer interviews. And cell phones are not the only industry with brand differentiation problems. When shown photos of shopping malls located in Tokyo, Dubai and Istanbul, virtually all global consumers misidentified where the malls were located. This included several Japanese consumers shown a photo of a Tokyo shopping mall.

Many, Not All, Consumers Think Spending Will Rise
Approximately two-thirds of global consumers said they think spending will rise in the future, with about one-third saying they think it will fall. However, it is worth noting that consumers who think spending will rise generally cited negative reasons such as materialism, the emergence of a “throwaway” society, the US squandering resources, and consumers in developing nations not having the products they need. In contrast, consumers who think spending will fall generally said it will be a sign of improvements in society and human nature.

Consumers Seek Functionality
In a further sign that brand identification is not strong, earlier research from indicates that consumers want products and services which are simple, small and/or cheap, with a dash of sustainability. calls these products and services “functionall,” or providing function for all. Often designed for lower-income consumers in emerging markets, they also have broader crossover appeal for more affluent consumers in mature markets. Look for brand manufacturers to produce more of these products, and for more global brands to try to penetrate mature economies.

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