Putting love back in the spotlight for our annual ranking of British Columbians’ favourite brands, we learn that bigger is better
“Love conquers all; let us too surrender to love.” The Roman poet Virgil wrote that line more than 2,000 years ago, but it helps explain why we switched back to love from influence for our fifth annual ranking of the top B.C.-based brands. For anyone building a brand, nothing beats an emotional connection with consumers.
BCBusiness research partner Ipsos again conducted the survey for the ranking, creating separate Brand Love scores for three age brackets: 18-34, 35-54 and 55-plus. With legalization looming, it also asked survey respondents if they use cannabis.
One thing stood out for Mike Rodenburgh, executive vice-president for Western Canada with Ipsos. “The stronger brands generally improved, and the weaker brands declined,” Vancouver-based Rodenburgh says. “We’re in a place in the business environment today where scale matters. And it’s easier to improve when you’re larger, and therefore it becomes harder for a smaller brand.”
For that situation, thank a cluttered consumer landscape that has left people busier and more distracted than ever, Rodenburgh notes. “If you’re a larger brand, you can afford to continue to spend money and break through that clutter,” he says. “If you’re a smaller brand, it’s proportionately more difficult.” Digital advertising is often the only option for such brands, Rodenburgh adds.
To arrive at its Brand Love scores, Ipsos asks two main questions: How close do you feel to this brand, and to what extent does it serve your needs? Brands that did especially well this year included London Drugs (No. 1 again) and BC Ferries (No. 12, up six spots), which has the personable Mark Collins, a marine engineer by training, at the helm. “It always helps when you have a charismatic leader who understands the business that they’re leading,” Rodenburgh says. “They can create profile, or hurt the profile if they’re not good.”
Another standout is restaurant chain A&W, moving from No. 5 to No. 4. “They’ve done it partly by resonating with millennials,” Rodenburgh says, adding that the company’s Brand Love score is highest with the 18-to-34 age group. “They had a very strong heritage with boomers that they had to adapt to deal with millennials, and so their marketing campaign and their product strategy turned that business around demonstrably.”
Among Crown corporations and similar entities, BC Hydro drops from No. 2 to No. 8, while TransLink (No. 24) gains 16 spots and ICBC falls 21 places, to No. 36. Projected to lose $1.3 billion this fiscal year, insurer ICBC has seen better days. “The Crown corporations, even if they do good things for the province or for the communities in which they operate, their brand can be positively or negatively impacted as a result of what happens in Victoria,” Rodenburgh says.
The marijuana factor reveals a generational divide. “In most cases where we see brands that resonate higher among high people, they tend to be brands that would resonate with younger audiences,” Rodenburgh explains, pointing to the Vancouver Canucks (up a notch to No. 26) and the PNE, which vaults 10 places to No. 13. YVR (No. 3, a three-place gain) is also a hit with cannabis users, he observes, joking, “Hopefully they’re not taking it through the airport.”
By contrast, some brands speak to the older, pot-eschewing crowd. “BCAA, for example, resonates much, much more with people who don’t smoke cannabis, and go figure, they also have a lot higher Brand Love score for people over the age of 55,” Rodenburgh says. “The same pattern exists for BCLC as well as FortisBC.”
To gauge how much people from the three age groups agree or disagree about a particular brand, Ipsos took a standard deviation across them and expressed it against an average. Where London Drugs, Save-On-Foods (No. 2) and YVR came up low in that metric, contact lens and eyeglass specialist Clearly (No. 58), bag maker Herschel Supply (No. 62) and clothier Kit and Ace (No. 65) clocked in at the high end.
“What that’s suggesting is people of different age groups have significantly different opinions of how much they love those brands,” Rodenburgh says of the last three. For example, international sensation Herschel, which he calls “a bit of a hidden success in the local marketplace,” skews strongly younger.
“What’s the path to getting a better Brand Love score?” Rodenburgh asks. “Being bigger allows you to have greater muscle from a marketing perspective, but it also really helps if you are universally loved as opposed to being a niche brand.”
How Our Survey Worked
■ Ipsos conducted the Most Loved Brands study between February 7 and 15, 2018
■ The online survey consisted of 1,301 interviews with British Columbians aged 18-plus
■ Respondents were asked to rate 65 B.C.-based brands across a wide variety of dimensions
■ Brand Love is a proprietary composite metric based on several questions. Ipsos uses it to determine how much a brand resonates with consumers at an emotional and a functional level
■ Ipsos standardizes all Brand Love scores against each other, with the average B.C.-based brand receiving a score of 100