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Nicola Clark September 15, 2009

How long? 6-9 minutes

The Marmite effect: it's better to be a polarising brand that people love
or hate than to be ignored
LONDON - Many British brands can polarise public opinion, provoking implacable
loathing in some, and deeply felt affection in others. However, as exclusive research from
FreshMinds reveals, it is the brands that elicit indifference from consumers that should be
most concerned.

Oscar Wilde once famously suggested: 'There is only one


thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is
not being talked about.'

In an era of blogging and social networking, brands are being


talked about more than ever. Marketers recognise the
importance of nurturing a network of passionate brand
advocates so attached to a particular brand that they are
willing to recommend it to others. However, a brand capable of
prompting a positive response among some consumers can
have the opposite effect on others.
When Marketing has previously run research to identify the
UK's most-loved and most-hated brands, there were many that
topped both lists. In fact, our exclusive research from
FreshMinds into the responses brands elicit from consumers
could be taken to suggest that simply by virtue of being 'much-
loved' by one group of consumers, a brand inevitably alienates
another.

For example, 28% of people who love Tesco say this is


because of its customer service. However, customer service is
also cited by 22% of those who hate the brand as the reason
for their opposing view of the retailer. Coca-Cola faces a
similar split: 27% of those who love the brand say it is because
of its advertising, while 24% of those who hate it find its ads
'irritating'.

As ever, most of the brands at the top of the most-hated list


are highly successful. However, this does not imply that, to be
successful, a brand must put off a sect-ion of its potential
customer base. Heinz, Cadbury and Marks & Spencer, for
example, have remained best -sellers without turning off big
numbers of consumers.

'As a nation, we're famous for our love of the underdog, so


hating big brands is something of a national pastime,' says
Alistair Leathwood, managing director of FreshMinds.
'However, when it comes to doing the weekly shop or getting a
quick bite to eat, consumers still spend cash on the brands
they are proud to hate.'

Top 10 'Marmite'
brands
Brand Love Don't Hate
care
1 Marmite 45% 14% 40%
2 KFC 43% 19% 38%
3 Burger 37% 24% 39%
King
4 McDonald's 36% 18% 46%
5 Pepsi 42% 28% 30%
6 Sky 47% 23% 30%
7 BBC 35% 36% 30%
8 Domino's 29% 40% 31%
9 Coca-Cola 51% 22% 27%
10 Primark 46% 27% 27%

Most-loved and most-hated brands


In an unprompted strand of the research, consumers were
asked to name any three brands they loved and three they
hated. They were also asked to give the reason for their
feelings. In total, 700 brands were mentioned.

What makes a hated brand?

A lack of quality and reliability were the most commonly cited


reasons for hating a brand. Being perceived as 'not good value
for money' was the most frequent criticism made by
respondents. Others included poor customer service, irritating
advertising, instilling a lack of trust and 'only copying what
others do'.

Inevitably, some ubiquitous corporate names topped the most-


hated list. Two of the UK's biggest brands - McDonald's and
Tesco - took first and second place. Some, such as Primark
and Nestle, were singled out for their perceived poor ethical
record. Others, such as Sky and BT, which provide an
important everyday service, arouse consumer anger when
they go wrong.

Top 10 most-hated brands


Brand Mentions Share
1 McDonald's 86 3%
2 Tesco 67 1%
3 Coca-Cola 42 1%
4 Primark 42 1%
5 BT 34 1%
6 Sky 33 1%
7 British Gas 32 1%
8 Marmite 32 1%
9 Asda 31 1%
10 Nestle 30 1%

What makes a loved brand?

Britain's love affair with the kitchen cupboard shows no sign of


abating, and six of the top 10 most-loved brands were related
to food and drink. Moreover, two retailers (Tesco and Marks &
Spencer) ranked highly on the list.

The cliche that a great product is at the heart of every


successful brand was borne out by the research.

In 60% of cases, consumers said they loved a brand because


the associated product or service is 'always perfect'.

It also appears that consumers appreciated consistency over


innovation, with trust, quality and reliability all scoring highly.
Notably, more respondents cited good advertising as a
stronger reason for loving a brand than good customer
service.

Top 10 most-loved brands


Brand Mentions Share
1 Cadbury 111 4%
2 Heinz 103 3%
3 Sony 101 3%
4 Marks & 85 3%
Spencer
5 Kellogg 67 2%
6 Tesco 60 2%
7 Coca- 50 2%
Cola
8 Nike 48 2%
9 Nescafe 43 1%
10 Panasonic 42 1%

What is a 'Marmite' brand?

Brands that combine four out of the five elements below often
polarise consumer sentiment

Familiarity If people are not aware of a product and have never


tried it, they will neither love it nor hate it. This is the reason
finance and travel brands top the 'most-indifferent' brands list.
In contrast, food, consumed by everyone on a daily basis, is a
far more emotive subject.

Dominance This is both a cause and an effect - polarising


opinion helps a brand make an impact and become successful
as a result. However, too much success inevitably angers
some people.

A product people can taste In a brand survey, respondents


inevitably equate the product with the brand, and food is the
ultimate personal experience.

Cheapness This drives a wedge between those who like


savings and those who do not want to look poor or stingy. The
research suggests that cheapness is more polarising than
expensiveness.

The power of marketing The final element is a bold marketing


strategy, which deliberately provokes a strong response in
consumers, for good or ill.

Brands we don't care about

While a focus on the UK's most-loved and most-hated brands


may make for good headlines, the real concern for marketers
is avoiding consumer indifference. Far worse than a brand that
polarises opinion is one that fails to ignite any interest at all.
Notably, seven of the top 10 most-indifferent brands are in the
finance and insurance categories.

Despite the catastrophic downturn in the economy, most


investment banks have, in contrast to their high-street
equivalents, escaped public scorn. They may have pumped
millions into promoting their brands, but they have failed to
make a dent on the consciousness of many consumers.

Brands we don't care about


Brand Love Don't Hate
care
1 UBS 6% 75% 19%
2 Morgan 7% 74% 19%
Stanley
3 JP 4% 72% 24%
Morgan
4 Hyatt 25% 69% 6%
5 Bank of 4% 68% 27%
America
6 AIG 8% 68% 25%
7 STA 17% 68% 16%
Travel
8 Goldman 5% 67% 20%
Sachs
9 ING 19% 66% 15%
10 Four 26% 66% 8%
Seasons

Media

Despite the phenomenal growth of social networking sites in


the UK, Facebook and Twitter provoked the greatest number
of negative responses, with 42% of respondents 'disliking
somewhat' or 'hating' them. This may be a result of consumers'
fears of 'cyber-stalking' or their waning enthusiasm for being
virtually updated on their friends' activities every minute. TV
channels ITV and Paramount were the most-loved media
brands with 74% and 67% of consumers either 'liking
somewhat' or 'loving' them. BSkyB was the most polarising
brand in the sector. It is notable that, as consumers get older,
their attitudes to media brands become more negative. Of the
consumers who said they hated media brands, 76% were over
65, while 70% of those who loved them fell into the 18- to 25-
year-old age group.
Food and drink

Of all the sectors, consumers felt most strongly about food and
drink. The two most-loved food brands were Heinz and
Walkers.

A total of 77% of respondents said they loved or liked the


Heinz brand while 74% of respondents liked Walkers. The
least-loved food and drink brand was Red Bull, with 51% of
respondents stating they either disliked or hated it.

Supermarkets were generally viewed positively, with


Sainsbury's being the most popular. Waitrose was an
exception to this, eliciting high levels of indifference from
consumers. Respondents from the South were more likely to
like or love premium brands and dislike or hate economy
brands, such as Asda and Burger King, than those in other
regions. There were also gender divisions, with 41% of women
loving or liking the Evian brand compared with 27% of men.

Travel

Somewhat surprisingly, travel brands failed to provoke strong


emotional responses in respondents. While the traditional
week in the sunshine has remained sacrosanct for the British,
despite the downturn, the lack of daily contact between travel
brands and consumers may go some way to explaining the
indifference. Despite the fiasco surrounding the launch of
Heathrow's Terminal 5 last year, British Airways remained one
of the UK's most-loved brands, with positive views expressed
by 51% of respondents. This positive attitude extended to
other premium airline brands, but budget carriers attracted
more negative opinions: easyJet (24%) and Ryanair (36%)
were least popular.
Fashion

Two brands from opposite ends of the price spectrum - namely


Primark and Burberry - topped the most-hated list in this
sector, attracting the opprobrium of 27% and 28% of
respondents respectively. Primark, which has been widely
slated in the press for its ethic-al record, polarised consumers,
as it was also the most-loved brand. There were strong
differences between male and female responses to fashion
brands. For example, men do not share women's fondness for
premium fashion. While 57% of female respondents loved or
liked Chanel, just 25% of men felt the same about the
notoriously expensive label. Fashion brands, particularly those
based on the high street, also showed signs of putting older
consumers off.

For example, 59% of respondents over the age of 55 were


indifferent to H&M compared with 26% of 18- to 34-year-olds.

Technology

The negative emotion elicited by social-media brands does not


extend to other examples of cutting-edge innovation. Indeed,
according to the research, brands in the wider technology
sector seem un-likely to fall prey to the 'Marmite effect'.
Despite the hype surrounding Apple's pro-ducts, Micro-soft
came out as the UK's most-loved technology brand. The least-
popular brands in this sector all fell into the mobile-phone
category.

Automotive

The automotive sector elicited predominantly positive feelings


from consumers, but men were more likely to be positive about
car brands than women. The one brand in this sector about
which women were considerably more positive than men was
Rover. While 35% of female respondents liked or loved the
dormant British marque, just 21% of male respondents felt the
same way.