Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

I AL­WAYS FIND BRAND SUR­VEYS less than ad­e­quate and, as usual, I have some is­sues with the an­nual Top Brands sur­vey con­ducted by Marki­nor for the Sun­day Times. This year’s favourite brands are Coca-Cola, SA Brew­eries, Nike and Vo­da­com. But how can Eskom be South Africa’s fifth favourite, level with Pick n Pay? Af­ter its ev­i­dent fail­ure to plan ahead, its in­ad­e­quate power sup­ply, its load shed­ding, the huge bonuses shame­lessly paid to its ex­ec­u­tives and im­pend­ing price rises? A litany of fail­ure.

Be­hind it came Nokia, MTN, Toy­ota and BMW. Come on, now!

First thing to re­alise is that only 53 peo­ple noted Eskom down as a favourite. That’s 1,5% of 3 500 sur­veyed. When sam­ple sizes are so small the mar­gin of er­ror gets big­ger.

The sec­ond ex­pla­na­tion, I sug­gest, is that the re­sult is re­ally a mea­sure of aware­ness rather than ap­pro­ba­tion. The or­di­nary Joe Schmo doesn’t al­ways at­tribute the same mean­ing to the words used as do the re­searchers. Take, for ex­am­ple, the word “cool”. For to­day’s av­er­age young con­sumer it’s a vague word of ap­proval. It be­comes a sub­sti­tute for con­cepts as di­verse as “yes”, “trendy”, “I’m glad”, “OK” and “that’s won­der­ful”. It also has the old-fash­ioned lit­eral mean­ing: a lower tem­per­a­ture than the things around it.

So when asked to name SA’s coolest brand, which of those mean­ings does the sub­ject use? Your guess is as good as mine. Nike was the coolest this year, which is cred­i­ble; but what was Co­caCola do­ing in sec­ond spot? Al­most by def­i­ni­tion, a mass-mar­ket prod­uct can’t be called cool in the sense in­tended, which im­plies ex­clu­siv­ity. Or were they think­ing of the tem­per­a­ture in those re­frig­er­a­tors?

I could go on, but I’ve run out of space.

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