In many studies based on consumer polling, brands are ranked on consumer perception, awareness, and various kinds of other sentiments about their social impact, moral rectitude and likability. One study, however, ranks brands on how they fulfill the needs delineated in Maslow's famous hierarchy.
The study, by the three-year-old Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University -- a research and pedagogical division of Fordham's business school -- does a quarterly poll of 1,000 representative Americans on how well major brands (all in the top 100 in financial performance) deliver on those seven needs: basic needs; sense of protection; social needs; self esteem; actualization, experiential needs; and happiness.
Dawn Lerman, executive director of the center, tells Marketing Daily that the ranking reflects the center’s overall purpose: to focus teaching and research on marketing practice that is transparent, ethical, and empowering to consumers. "We like to cite Amazon as an example of how marketing has a positive impact on American life," she says. "Amazon, for example, does well in delivering frustration-free packaging -- it's packaging reduction, less plastic and cardboard."
In the quarterly study’s fourth-quarter 2012 results, Facebook, Walmart, Google, Visa, Amazon, Nike, Coca-Cola, Subway, McDonald's and UPS, in that order, lead overall.
Luke Kachersky, assistant professor of marketing at Fordham, says sheer size impacts the leaders in each of the categories. "We measure the societal impact of a brand, so the greater number of consumers the brand benefits, the greater their rating will be." Also, the pervasiveness of these brands within each consumer's life is a driver. "At Walmart, a person can stock up on Campbell's soup (basic needs) while picking up the latest X-Box video games (experiential needs) and anything else in between." Same with Google and Facebook, he notes.
Visa is a big performer appearing in the top ten of all seven categories, and therefore a major outlier in the financial sector. “We track over a dozen financial services, and all rank in the bottom half of the brand list, particularly on safety and security needs. Ironically, financial messaging is all about security for your future and retirement, but [in consumer sentiment] we find the opposite.”
Walmart leads both in Basic Needs and Protection categories, and then is either second or third place in the rest. Facebook is in the top three in all but the Basic category, where McDonald’s takes the number three spot, and Facebook drops to fifth. Google is first, second or third in all categories.
In consumers' need for Protection, Visa and GE take fourth and fifth place. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the top brand in the Social dimension for the sixth straight quarter. Verizon and AT&T are also near the top just below Google in the third-place spot. In Esteem, Amazon is number four. In the Actualization area, GE, Apple and UPS appear in the top ten, while Microsoft, Yahoo and HP fell out of the top ten.
In the Experiential dimension, Amazon. Apple, Nike, Verizon and AT&T are new to the top-ten list. The two biggest telecom networks are, in fact, the only telecoms to appear in any of the lists. One or the other is also in the top ten in Actualization, Protection and Social because -- per the study -- telecoms offer a high degree of empowerment, consumers' feeling of safety and obviously, social connection.
Finally, in the Happiness area, after the perennial leaders, Amazon, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, Nike, Target and Subway round out the top ten.