YouGovPolimetrix's BrandIndex, which tracks consumer perception of some 1,000 brands via daily polls, will report on Wednesday that 21 of the bottom 25 decliners during the second half of the year were financial service firms--all victims in one way or another of the year's financial crisis, with AIG, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley filling the bottom five spots.
Yet two financial institutions--Bank of America, which acquired Merrill Lynch, and Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia--actually saw their consumer health increase. "They both came to the rescue of some other brands that were not doing well," says Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager of BrandIndex. And a network that covers finance, Fox Business Channel, zoomed up the list to become the 15th-largest gainer of all brands.
As for the other four in the bottom 25 decliners, two of them--Linens 'n' Things and Circuit City--filed for bankruptcy during the second half of 2008. Another--The New Yorker--still has not been forgiven by consumers for its parody July cover depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists. And The History Channel's slide into the top decliners can only be speculated upon, according to Marzilli--but based on average daily scores for the entire year, the brand still ranked as the second-most-healthy overall, right behind cable network Discovery and ahead of Google, Craftsman and Sony in the top 5.
Wal-Mart did not make the top 50 list for 2008 overall, but showed the biggest improvement over the second half of the year, with Southwest Airlines (#7) and Craigslist (#9) also coming in among the top 10 gainers--the kinds of brands "you would expect to see improving during a challenging economy," Marzilli says.
Facebook and MySpace came in at second and third place, improvement-wise, with YouTube at #6. The social networks, "perhaps helped by the presidential campaign, were legitimized" and introduced to more consumers, Marzilli says.
With the exception of AT&T at #8, the rest of the top 10 improvers consisted of oil companies, with ExxonMobil at #4, Shell at #5 and Chevron at #10, followed by Citgo at #11 and BP at #12. Marzilli attributed the strong showings to those companies' scores "plummeting in the first half of the year" due to soaring gas prices followed by dropping gas prices during the second half.
In addition to Fox Business Channel, four other TV networks were among the top 25 gainers--MTV, Fox, Showtime and CNN.
BrandIndex interviews a sample of 5,000 U.S. consumers--18+ every day--with respondents drawn from an online panel of 1.4 million people.