How Britain’s 50 most valuable brands score emotionally

Alex Batchelor
Alex Batchelor

Market research agency BrainJuicer has polled 6,000 consumers to rate this year’s 50 most valuable British brands on emotions such as happiness, sadness, contempt, disgust, anger, fear, surprise or neutrality. BrainJuicer chief operating officer Alex Batchelor reveals the results.

Following last week’s Marketing Week cover feature on Britain’s 50 most valuable brands, BrainJuicer has repeated the emotional analysis on Britain’s most valuable brands it conducted in 2009.

Despite the economic crisis there has been an overall increase in happiness around Britain’s top brands and a corresponding reduction in more negative emotions, such as contempt, disgust, anger and fear.

Supermarkets remain among Britain’s most positive brands – with happiness up across the board and strong gains for Waitrose (up 22 points), Co-op (+15) and Morrisons (+9). There were also less feelings of neutrality, and apart from Morrisons and Co-op, some low level increases in disgust and anger – mainly driven by price and perceptions of dominance for the big three.

The good picture for retail was supported by a good year for M&S (+9 for happiness) and the only significant negative change in the sector was for Next, with a negative shift from happiness to neutrality of 11 points.

The BBC is still ahead of Sky, BT and Virgin Media as the leading media brand – but Sky has posted good gains, with happiness up 15 and contempt down by 11. BBC should not be complacent however, as although happiness is high and unchanged, there is a significant increase in contempt, disgust and anger, caused by concerns over waste, senior management pay and the license fee.

In telecoms the picture is much more stable; the only real losers being Vodafone (happiness down 12) and BT, noting a reduction in neutrality and an increase in contempt, particularly driven by perceptions of price and service.

Some welcome stability is returning to financial services. Most brands have a very stable picture, but Lloyds have done well, with an appreciable increase in happiness. However, the two main Scottish banks still have some way to go in repairing their image, with Bank of Scotland’s happiness scores down 8 points and RBS showing increases in contempt, disgust and anger.

Most utilities and accountancy/advisory firms have relatively low bases in the sample, so it can be harder to make bold statements based on the data – however the picture looks stable in these categories.

The strength of public opposition to smoking continues to grow with an increase in negative emotion for Benson & Hedges.

Some important British brands have been affected this year. For both Cadbury’s and British Airways the significant increase has been in sadness. For Cadbury’s a 16 point increase in sadness, with respondents noting concerns that “we have sold a traditional British company to an American one”.

For BA, the changing relationship is best epitomised by the respondent who said “shame the staff who earn good salaries and are running it into the ground by striking” – which is certainly not the reaction the union leadership were hoping for when they started industrial action. Virgin is the main beneficiaries, with a reduction in negative emotions and a 9 point rise in happiness.

With BP the situation is more complex. Disgust (+6), anger (+17) and sadness (+18) are all significantly up and happiness is sharply down (-16). The perception that they traded safety for profits will be hard to redress. It would appear that the troubles affect the wider industry, as Shell also has a reduction in happiness, although this is offset by corresponding low level reductions in anger and contempt.

The story is positive overall, but people feel genuine sadness when brands with which we have a strong emotional attachment suffer.

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