Americans love their brands. A branded product gives us a sense of predictability. We know how McDonald's fries taste, whether we order them in LA (Los Angeles) or LA (Louisiana). BMW will always be the "ultimate driving machine." A Disney animated movie is always going to make you cry because someone will lose one or both parents, but you'll end up laughing and come away with tears of joy.
APCO Insight, a subsidiary of APCO Worldwide, a major media relations and lobbying firm, spent years researching global brands and eventually determined which are the most beloved based on what it calls "emotional linking."
This isn’t the kind of study that looks at hard numbers like annual sales or stock performance, nor does it measure consumers' perception of a company's popularity or prestige. Instead, APCO looks at the emotions different brands inspire in people to find out if they provoke curiosity, pride, admiration, empowerment -- that kind of thing.
In all, it surveyed about 70,000 people in 15 major global markets on their feelings about 569 different companies. Questions covered whether each company’s products were considered “accessible” and within their reach, whether they'd be “proud to be associated with this brand” or whether a brand "reflects who you are," and more.
So which companies scored the highest? Here are the top five. Their answers may surprise you.
No. 5 Nestle
N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best ... everything, apparently. The global food giant scored very high with consumers, especially in the relevance category. This is no surprise considering how many products Nestle makes: Nesquik, Arrowhead, Hot Pockets, Butterfinger, PowerBar, Alpo, need I go on? Perhaps the surest sign the company is well liked: Nestle revenue last year topped $100 billion.
No. 4 Sony
Yes, Sony is more beloved than Apple. Sony’s the older brand—but that also means it’s well known. It gained particularly high scores from survey respondents in Asia. Apple, which ranked No. 9, is often seen as an “aspirational” brand—one whose newest, hippest products are priced beyond many consumers’ reach. Sony, on the other hand, is viewed as more accessible. Concerns about employment policies at Apple's Foxconn manufacturing facility in China may have also contributed to Apple's lower ranking, says APCO.
No. 3 Google
Sure the search giant follows your every move, and is probably taking photos of your house as we speak, but Google's cool! It's making Google Glass and driverless cars! APCO said Google scored very highly with consumers in the "pride" category. As in, I'm proud to be seen outside my house wearing underwear on Google Street View. Kidding! Sorta.
No. 2 Yahoo
While Yahoo did well in the "understanding" category, meaning people understand what the brand is all about, Yahoo was especially strong in the "approachability" stakes, meaning it hits the mark in the “accessible, within my reach" category. APCO suspects that Yahoo’s been around so long (in dotcom years) it’s had the time to build a strong emotional connection with consumers.
No. 1 Disney
Well, of course it's No. 1. Disney represents fantasy, fairy tales, fun. The company that Walt Disney created nearly 91 years ago has worked hard to protect and expand a brand that has remained amazingly bulletproof. Its strongest emotional link to consumers? Understanding. Yep, we know what Disney stands for, and that's one reason why it hauled in $45 billion in revenue last year.
Disclosure: APCO Worldwide provides consulting services to Nestle Waters North America, but does not work for its parent company, Nestle S.A.