Our annual ranking of the province's top brands reveals a stark divide in loyalty between millennials and older consumers—and some differences along ideological lines
If your audience isn’t getting any younger, start looking for ways to stay alive. That’s one of the key takeaways from our sixth annual ranking of B.C.’s favourite brands, which includes five new names, bringing the total to 70. Besides creating separate Brand Love scores for three age groups—18-34, 35-54 and 55-plus—BCBusiness research partner Ipsos broke down the results by respondents’ political leanings: left, centre and right.
There’s a new No. 1 this year: BC Hydro moves up seven spots to unseat London Drugs, which falls to second place. Why? Mike Rodenburgh, executive vice-president for Western Canada with Ipsos, has a theory. The public utility has shed some of the controversy around the Site C dam project, Rodenburgh says, and the survey took place just after a winter power disruption on Vancouver Island and the coast. “When BC Hydro saves the day like that, they almost always get a bump in positive public sentiment.”
In another notable upset, Save-On-Foods slips from No. 2 to No. 4. YVR holds steady at third, and A&W drops one spot to finish fifth.
The brand with the biggest spread between survey respondents aged 18-34 and the 55-plus crowd is Lululemon (No. 47). The yogawear giant’s Brand Love scores for the two groups: 140 versus 43, which doesn’t surprise Rodenburgh. “It’s a very youthful brand,” he says. TransLink (No. 23), Herschel Supply (No. 61) and newcomer Saje, debuting at No. 65, also skew heavily toward the 18-to-34 crowd, Rodenburgh notes.
Herschel only moves up one spot, but it finishes second among Brand Love score gainers. “I feel like I see more product in stores,” Rodenburgh says of the bag maker. “They seem to be getting much better distribution, and there’s a phenomenon in marketing that brand awareness and love for your brand very often follows improvements in your distribution.”
Likewise, BCAA, which climbs three places to No. 8, posts big Brand Love gains. That performance could have something to do with its Evo car-sharing service. “Today’s more urbanized millennial youth doesn’t own cars as frequently as the previous generation did, and so I think launching Evo helped them resonate with a demographic that was atypical for BCAA at the time and likely breathed a little bit of life into the brand.”
Although Save-On-Foods took a tumble, the grocer makes the top 10 lists for all age groups. “Save-On-Foods still has a really, really big presence across the province,” Rodenburgh says. “A brand like that is not going to fall hard and fast.” However, the chain faces growing competition from Amazon, which sells a vast range of products, and its Whole Foods Market subsidiary. “While they have done a pretty good job at rolling out their digitally driven home food delivery service, Amazon’s a giant to compete with.”
Meanwhile, London Drugs has the highest Brand Love score among those 55 and older. “If I were the CEO of London Drugs,” Rodenburgh says, “I’d be looking at that data point and going, OK, I might have a really successful business right now, but what does that say about my business in five to 10 years, when more millennials start to become parents?”
Among left-leaning respondents, businesses with Brand Love scores much higher than the average for the survey group as a whole include Granville Island Brewing, Earth’s Own and MEC. “No surprise that people who lean left have more of an affinity to those brands that either have strong community or draw roots from community types of businesses,” Rodenburgh says.
For those on the right, three of the top five names with scores higher than the survey average are restaurants: Boston Pizza, Moxie’s Grill & Bar and A&W. Brands favoured by this group are mostly mainstream, Rodenburgh says. He also thinks they’re often stronger in suburban and rural areas, which tend to be more conservative.
But if there’s a correlation, that doesn’t mean there’s a cause and effect, Rodenburgh stresses: “It’s more reflective of where some of these businesses have decided to focus their marketing energy.” For him, it’s about affinity. “Maybe it’s a better idea for a brand that leans heavily left to choose a social cause that’s consistent with the patrons that frequent your brand.”
Brands that skew younger, like Happy Planet, Lululemon and Nature’s Path, bring a strong social conscience to their marketing, Rodenburgh notes. “It’s reflective of what millennials care about in some respects,” he says. “It’s telling us that those brands are wisely choosing the marketing activities to make sure that they resonate with that audience, but it also is perhaps an indication of how those brands might grow in the future.”
No matter who they’re trying to reach or what they sell, brands should remember that old habits die hard, Rodenburgh says. “Attitudes and opinions and behaviours of consumers, they change slow.”
How our survey worked
■ Ipsos conducted the Most Loved Brands study from January 3 to 11, 2019
■ This online survey consisted of interviews with 1,400 British Columbians aged 18-plus
■ Ipsos measured 70 brands that are B.C.-led and/or based in B.C.
■ This year’s survey included 47 attributes, and each respondent was shown
a random selection of
■ 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 brand receiving a score of 100