Study: Consumers Value Traditional Attributes In Online Brands
While Google remains consumers' favorite online brand, Yahoo and Amazon are not far behind, according to a new report from Forrester Research.
"In the minds of their fans, the top online brands exhibit very traditional attributes such as trustworthiness, helpfulness, and relevance, all at the expense of more-predictable tech-friendly characteristics such as innovation and speed," reads the report authored by Forrester analyst David Card.
According to the report, direct-to-consumer brands in categories including media, retail, financial services, and travel -- and consumer electronics, given its technology angle -- should position themselves against competitors' weaknesses, and deliver their brand messages through site experiences that complement offline marketing.
For the report, Forrester surveyed more than 4,823 U.S. consumers about their favorite online brands or companies; what brand attributes make them popular, and how brands can make themselves more online-friendly.
Online and off, Google recently ranked seventh in an annual brand value study conducted by BusinessWeek and Interbrand. Coca-Cola topped that list for the ninth year running. Online, however, Google has gained ground in the past two years, with 44% of online adults rating Google their favorite in 2009 compared with 36% in 2007.
Two years ago, Yahoo held a strong second place behind Google, with a clear gap between it and third-place Amazon. While Yahoo has lost a little luster -- dropping from 32% to 27% -- it's nothing like MySpace, which has faded dramatically from 13% to 5%.
Back in 2007, meanwhile, Facebook was just gaining momentum, and Forrester didn't even offer it as a choice. Now it's three times as popular as MySpace.
Google is the favorite brand for each of the age groups Forrester examined. Among young adults ages 18 to 24, Facebook ranked second at 36% to Google.
MySpace triples its share with young adults at 16%, but can't match Yahoo, at 23% -- or YouTube, at 18%.
With the exception of Facebook, the other top five brands all do well with older age groups, maintaining or modestly bettering their share. Notably, Microsoft's popularity directly correlates with age, ranging from a low of 5% among young adults to a high of 24% among seniors (65 and older).
Among the wealthy, Google is by far the most popular brand. Indeed, 55% of those making more than $100,000 name Google their favorite. Amazon, at 31%, is next -- and more weighted to higher-income households than eBay.
Facebook fared evenly in the space -- which Forrester found surprising, given that it's largely considered a "youth brand."
"Trustworthy," "helpful," and "relevant" are the top brand attributes, according to Forrester. Analyzing the phrases consumers assigned to their favorites revealed four tiers of characteristics. The most popular brands did a good job on the first tier: establishing trust, helpfulness, and relevance to their fans.
They also did well with the next tier, which comprised value, fun, and quality. The seemingly online-friendly characteristics fell into a third tier of attributes -- and things such as prestige, authenticity, and "cares about the customer" either didn't move the popularity needle or have been neglected by the top online brands.
More than half of the consumers who called Amazon one of their favorites said it was trustworthy; 40% of Microsoft's "fans" used the same description. Google, Yahoo, and eBay also did well in that attribute, which combined to drive "trustworthy" to the top of the charts.
Half of Google's fans believe it to be helpful, compared with 42% of Yahoo's. The two shopping brands -- Amazon and eBay -- do well on value, while Facebook and MySpace are both social and fun.