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Earned Brand 2016
Methodology
A Global Study
In field
April 7 – April 25, 2016

13 countries
Online survey conducted in Australia, Brazil,
Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan,
Mexico, The Netherlands, Singapore, U.K., and U.S.

13,000 respondents
1,000 per country, nationally representative of age,
gender, and region based on most recent country
census data.

Social listening
In U.S., U.K., Germany, India, and China, we listened
to consumer conversations on social media to assess
the impact of 15 recent cause-related brand campaigns
or actions. The analysis focused on the impact these
campaigns had on consumers’ relationships with
the brands, as well as their personal opinions and
behaviors connected to the cause.

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The Earned Brand has a
world view, a belief system,
a purpose, and a reason for
being that define not just how
it communicates, but how it
behaves in all contexts.

How brands can disrupt
The pace of change in marketing and the marketplace continues to accelerate. Unicorn companies are challenging longestablished brands, and categories are being re-imagined.
Upstarts question the safety of ingredients, the integrity of the
supply chain, and the sanctity of long-held business models.
Consumers have new expectations of brands, with 62 percent
saying they refuse to buy a brand if it fails to meet its
obligations to society.
In this context, the 2016 Edelman Earned Brand study identifies and quantifies a new territory for marketers that can augment the classic purchase funnel—where committed consumers themselves will drive new and repeat sales as they advocate
for and defend a brand against these kinds of disruptions.
We asked 13,000 consumers in 13 countries about their relationship with their favorite brand (one they already buy) in one
of 18 categories—from food to financial services—and created
the first-ever measure of the strength of the consumer-brand
relationship. The newly codified Edelman Brand Relationship
Index reveals that the average global relationship strength, by
our measure, is 38 out of a possible 100 points. This suggests
a tremendous, yet-unexplored opportunity for brands to
strengthen their ties with consumers.
Interestingly, the index score is similar across all surveyed
markets (four in Europe, four in North and South America, and
five in Asia, with highest scores in China at 53 and India at 52),
all categories (OTC medicines lowest at 33, cars highest at 43),
and all generations (Matures the lowest at 28, Millennials highest at 44), and gender (Males at 40, higher than females at 36).

Beyond “Involved”
The index confirms that, on average, consumers have reached
what we call the “Involved” stage, but these buyers indicate
they are willing to go much further than simply purchase devotion. In fact, they signaled a desire for a deeper connection –
relationship stages we quantify and define as “Invested” in or
“Committed” to their favorite brand.
Our study shows that a clear majority of consumers who reach
these stages will buy first, stay loyal to, advocate for, and defend their favorite brand. These stronger relationships bring
much-desired benefits: 77 percent will adopt innovation more
quickly; 79 percent will pay a premium price; 82 percent will
recommend the brand through liking and sharing; and, 80
percent will defend it against critics. In short, “Committed”
consumers will work for you.
The good news is that some consumers have reached the
“Committed” stage in all 18 categories we tested, including
low-involvement businesses like utilities. On average, 12
percent of consumer-brand relationships fall into the “Committed” stage. How do we create more of these “Committed”
consumers?

Towards commitment
The data shows that the mix of paid, peer, and owned media
must be reconsidered at every relationship stage. At the early
stages “Indifferent” and “Interested,” consumers need paid
strategies to spark awareness and consideration, but at the
“Involved” stage, we begin to see a significant shift in their
usage of media: peer and owned now are as important to the
consumer as paid. Consumers who are in the “Invested” and
“Committed” phases consistently engage peer and owned media over paid. In fact, the data shows that the 8-point advantage paid has over peer and owned in the earliest relationship

stage shifts to an advantage for peer (+ 7 points) and owned
(+ 8 points) over paid in the “Committed” stage. “Committed”
relationships require greater brand interactivity, and committed consumers thirst for that interactivity.
Second, the study shows that brands can most easily address
consumer expectation and desire through purpose, storytelling, and listening. The Earned Brand behaviors that scored
lowest are “acts with purpose” (33), “tells a memorable story”
(34), and “listens openly/responds selectively” (35). These
brand behaviors have the greatest potential to unlock a more
committed consumer relationship through strategies that
entail collaboration, participation, shared values, and shared
actions—the difference between presenting consumers with
a campaign and empowering them to join a movement. The
consumer now wants the brand to act, and to be a meaningful
presence in his or her life and in the world.
Although the respondents of our study might be termed
“brand loyalists” (they were asked to volunteer their favorite
brands), it isn’t our intention to wade into the debate, fueled
by Professor Bryon Sharp, over whether or not brand loyalists
count in the final tally of marketing success. Our study is designed to take a sidelong view of the new realities shaping the
consumer-brand relationship, with the goal of helping marketers, who have long studied this connection, to better prepare
for disruption—and be disruptors themselves.
We’ve learned that when a consumer moves from a relationship rooted in “me” to one powered by “we,” a new world of
buying and advocacy opens up for a brand. Instead of worrying about potential disruption, brands can be creative societal
disruptors—because their consumers will be right there by
their side as committed partners in a better life.

Richard Edelman
President & CEO
Edelman

62%
will not buy if a brand fails
to meet its obligations to
consumers, the community,
and society at large

A consumer relationship
powered by “we” opens up
a new world of buying and
advocacy for a brand

Building the Edelman
Brand Relationship Index

18

BRAND
CATEGORIES

7

DIMENSIONS OF THE
CONSUMER-BRAND
RELATIONSHIP

Respondents selected their
favorite brand in a category –
one they already buy.

Embodies a unique
character

They evaluated seven
dimensions of their relationship
with the brand by selecting one
of five statements that best
describes the relationship.

Tells a memorable story

The Edelman Brand Relationship
Index score is an average
of seven dimensions of a
consumer-brand relationship.

Makes its mark

Listens openly, responds
selectively
Inspires sharing and
invites partnership
Builds trust at every
touchpoint
Acts with purpose

2016 EDELMAN BRAND
RELATIONSHIP INDEX BY COUNTRY

32

Canada

Netherlands

33

30

China

53

Germany

32

U.S.

40

U.K.

34

France

Japan

39

Mexico

Singapore

43

Brazil

52

39

Australia

India

BY CATEGORIES

33
OTC
Medicines

34

35

Prescription Household
Medicines,
Products
Utilities

36

37

38

Home
Energy
Management

Beer,
Wine and
Spirits

Mobile
Carriers,
Credit
Cards

38

39

40

41

42

43

Travel,
Personal
Care,
Grocery,
Food &
Beverage

Retailers,
Financial
Services

Luxury
Goods

Fashion

Automobile,
Social
Media

39

32

28

40

36

Boomers
(51-70)

Matures
(70+)

Male

Female

of possible 100
current strength of
the consumer-brand
relationship

BY DEMOGRAPHICS

38

32

44

Generation Z Millennials Generation X
(18-21)
(22-36)
(37-50)

32

The 5 brand relationship stages
Indifferent

Interested

Involved

Invested

Committed

I may buy your
product, but I don’t
really put much
thought into it.

I know a little
about you, beyond
your product. I
am making an
educated choice.

Given a choice,
I would pick your
brand. I appreciate
what you stand
for.

We share common
values and see the
world in a similar
way.

We do things
together and for
each other. We
share a past and a
future.

38
Indifferent
0-6

Interested
7-26

Involved
27-43

Points of purchase
One way to think about the five relationship
categories we have established is to compare
them to shopping behaviors. At the Indifferent
level, shoppers buy without much thought. At
Interested, they might choose a brand over
competitors based on their recall of a review or
a logo. By Involved, consumers actively scan the
shelf for the brand. But the real commitment
comes in the last two stages, where the consumer
mindset moves from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ At Invested,
the consumer believes the brand shares his or

GLOBAL EDELMAN
BRAND RELATIONSHIP INDEX

Invested
44-69

Committed
70-100

STRENGTH OF RELATIONSHIP WITH
THE FAVORITE BRAND CONSUMERS
BUY IN A CATEGORY

her values, and might try to convince another
shopper not to buy a competitor. Finally, at the
top of the scale, the relationship truly becomes
about shared benefit—the consumer will take
action with and for the brand. Even in seemingly
low-involvement categories like utilities, brands
have achieved commitment with some consumers.
It’s also important to note that in each category,
consumers reported relationships in each of the
five stages.

Some consumers are already in Committed relationships
with their favorite brands in all categories
17%

c

Social
media

nT
e
m
t
i
oMm
hIn
I S wi t

h
c
A
e
R

14 %
Automobile

13 %

13 %

13 %

13 %

13 %

Financial
services

Mobile
carriers

Fashion

Grocery
stores

Credit
cards

12 %

12 %

12 %

12 %

12 %

12 %

Travel

Personal
care

Retailers

Food &
beverage

Luxury
goods

Beer, wine
& spirits

10 %
Utilities

10 %

10 %

Prescription
Home
Household
meds
energy mgt. products

8%
PERCENT OF RELATIONSHIPS IN EACH CATEGORY
THAT ARE IN THE COMMITTED STAGE

10 %

OTC
medicines

The untapped opportunity

80

60

A clear majority of
committed buyers will

% OF BUYERS WHO
WILL BUY FIRST, STAY
LOYAL, ADVOCATE
FOR AND DEFEND

buy first, stay loyal,
advocate for
and defend your
brand

40

20

Indifferent
0

Interested

Involved

Invested

Committed

RELATIONSHIP STRENGTH

A new way to build brand equity
Strong relationships drive and protect the bottom line
As the consumer-brand relationship strengthens,
so do the actions consumers will take on behalf
of the brand. Once they are in the Invested and
Committed stages of the relationship, a clear
majority will reliably buy, stay loyal, advocate
for and defend the brand. Committed consumers
are far more likely to pay a premium, buy the
brand exclusively, stick with the brand even when

faced with disruptive competitors, recommend
the brand, and stand up for it against critics—
behaviors with direct impact on a brand’s revenue,
cost per acquisition, loyalty, and retention rates.
These behaviors bring tangible, powerful benefits
that simply don’t exist at a substantial level
without a committed relationship.

Buy First
“I am one of the first
to try the brand’s new
products.”

Advocate

Stay Loyal

“I advocate for this
brand even when I am
not directly asked for
advice.”

“I will stick with
this brand even if a
competitor is more
innovative.”

Defend
“I defend this brand if
I ever hear someone
criticize it.”

You can’t buy commitment
Consumers change media usage
as the relationship deepens
To help brands understand where consumers
interact with them at each relationship stage, we
explored their engagement with their favorite
brands across paid, peer, and owned media. As
expected, early in the relationship, consumers
engage the most with paid media as it works to get
their attention. At the Interested stage, consumers
use all three media at relatively the same level.
What is striking is the change in engagement
across the three channels when the relationship
moves from Involved to Committed. While paid
media engagement jumps 8 points, that pales in
comparison to the 18-point jump in peer media,
and the 21-point jump in owned media engagement.
At the Invested and Committed stages, which prove
most beneficial to brands in today’s volatile world,
consumers turn to media and owned media more
than paid. Marketers who tailor their media mix
across each stage can expect to reach more of the
consumers they desire to engage.

86%
rely on

peer sources
for learning
about brands

“I rely on my peers
to reassure me.
Because their
experience is my
evidence.”
Earned Brand 2015

From Involved to Committed stages,
consumers’ use of earned and owned
media grows twice as fast as use of paid

PERCENT WHO HAVE USED EACH TYPE OF MEDIA TO ENGAGE
WITH THEIR FAVORITE BRAND IN THE LAST 90 DAYS

Paid
Media

57

63

65

Peer
Media

54

66

72

Owned
Media

52

64

73

Invested

Committed

Involved

44

Brands falling short on
purpose and engagement

33

2016 EDELMAN BRAND RELATIONSHIP INDEX,
AND THE AVERAGE STRENGTH OF EACH
DIMENSION OF THE BRAND RELATIONSHIP

Embodies unique
character

Acts with
purpose

Makes its
mark

38

42

38

34
Tells a
memorable
story

Builds trust at
every touchpoint

39

35

Invites sharing,
inspires
partnership

Listens openly,
responds
selectively

Best bets for a brand
When we look at the seven relationship
dimensions that determine the global Edelman
Brand Relationship Index score, it’s clear where
brands are falling short. While marketers get
credit for creating brands that are trusted and
unique, we fare more poorly in acting with
purpose, storytelling, and listening. What
marketers can take away from the drivers that
have the most impact on those scores is that
we simply need to be more interesting. Be a

force for good in the world. Share content and
tell stories that grab the attention. Collaborate
more and worry less about control of the brand.
Coupled with a shift in the media mix to reach
more consumers at each relationship stage, it’s
clear that we need to deliver on our consumers’
expectations on social media — we have the
mandate and the freedom to be a bit cheekier,
certainly more fun, and absolutely a more
inspiring daily presence in their lives.

Brand attributes that strengthen
the relationship through purpose,
listening and storytelling

Be
interesting

Be
personal

Be reliable

Stay
engaged

Be
aspirational

Collaborate

Make a
difference

Be
authentic

Spotlight
your leaders

The 4 consumer behaviors
that increase the most from
Involved to Committed
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PERCENT OF INVOLVED
CONSUMERS WHO WILL TAKE AN ACTION AND THE
PERCENT OF COMMITTED CONSUMERS WHO WILL
TAKE THE SAME ACTION

48

+

I participate
in creating the
brand’s content

38

+

I like/rate what
the brand is saying
on social media

Involved

35

+

I am happy to
share personal
data with this
brand

Invested

35

+

I am one of the
first to try the new
products/services
of this brand when
they come out
Committed

Earning their commitment
The deep, shared connection between brands
and consumers at the most committed stages
of the relationship brings about a virtuous circle
in which brands are acting and consumers
are engaged—but also the reverse. When the
relationship is committed, consumers also take
action on a brand’s behalf, and expect the brand
to engage as well. Earned Brands understand

the power and potential of this relationship, and
listen, engage and respond to consumers, but also
inspire them to be advocates on their own. When
brands are hitting hard on all these drivers and
acting like Earned Brands, they can benefit from
more consumer behaviors that stem from their
desire to be a partner in the brand’s success.

K EY

Consumers will
give your brand
the license to
disrupt if they are
in it with you

E
TA K

As you pursue a broader
consumer base, engage
committed consumers who
will defend your brand, drive
sales and advocate for you

S
Y
A
AW

You must reconsider
your brand’s marketing
mix at each stage of the
relationship to reflect
your consumers’ desire
for engagement

th e

ed
e a rn
d
br a n
The Earned Brand’s story is not simply told, it is
demonstrated and experienced; and, to do that, brands
can’t operate with a style guide alone.
The Earned Brand has a world view and a belief system, a
purpose and a reason for being—one that defines not just
the communications, but how the brand behaves online,
offline, and in all contexts.
An expressed set of values informs which products are
made, which language is used, how customers are
treated, and ultimately the legacy the brand
leaves in the communities it serves.

Earned Brand 2016 research was conducted
by Edelman Intelligence, the global integrated
research, analytics, and measurement consultancy.
Design by FLOK, Berlin
© 2016 Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

Edelman is a leading global
communications marketing
firm that partners with many of
the world’s largest and emerging
businesses and organizations, helping
them evolve, promote and protect
their brands and reputations.
Edelman.com
#EarnedBrand