B.C.’s Most Loved Brands 2022

The top names in our ninth annual ranking prove their staying power, but consumer worries about inflation could spell trouble ahead.

Most Loved Brands

Credit: BC Hydro. BC Hydro held steady in our list of Most Loved Brands.

The top names in our ninth annual ranking prove their staying power, but consumer worries about inflation could spell trouble ahead

When it comes to the COVID pandemic, not all brands are created equal.  

In our ninth annual B.C.’s Most Loved Brands ranking, based on a survey by research partner Ipsos in January and February, the top five names show their staying power in turbulent times. London Drugs claims the No. 1 spot for the first year since 2018, trading places with Save-On-Foods, which finished second. BC Hydro holds steady at No. 3, while YVR moves up one rung to fourth, knocking A&W down to No. 5. 

Looking farther down the list, what do the top 10 brands have in common? “London Drugs, Save-On-Foods, maybe even [YVR] and BC Ferries, Telus and Best Buy, those are really important consumer staple brands,” says Mike Rodenburgh, executive vice-president for Western Canada at Ipsos. So it’s going to be really hard to unseat those strong brands, except if they run into a challenge or an issue that shocks their credibility in some capacity.” 

But with inflation taking its toll on consumers, this is no time for complacency. Six out of 10 Canadians are worried that they might not have enough money to feed their families, according to a recent Ipsos poll. “Our prediction is, those concerns about inflation—and they are very real—and those inflationary pressures are not going to go away anytime soon,” Rodenburgh says. “A lot of the quasi-discretionary consumer purchases will come under pressure. And even the important necessities, people are going to question them.”  

In the case of Telus (down two spots to No. 8), customers will keep closer tabs on their mobile and internet bills, Rodenburgh reckons. “If I were Telus or London Drugs or Save-On-Foods or BC Hydro, I would be looking at the potential impact of inflation on the success of their business,” he says. “And if I were A&W, conceivably it’s cheaper to pack a lunch than to buy one out, or dinner.” 

As a result, those brands may feel pressure that could hurt their overall position, Rodenburgh predicts: “Because obviously, we know that usage and patronage of the brand does have a pretty significant impact on how much you love the brand.” 

As British Columbians fret over their finances, it’s no surprise to see discount retailer Dollar Tree jump from No. 16 to No. 11. “My hypothesis there is inflation and people continuing looking for a deal,” Rodenburgh says. “They’re trying to find ways to scrimp and save.” 

Most Loved Brands

Going places  

For Rodenburgh, some of the reshuffling near the top of the list was unexpected. For example, BC Ferries takes sixth place after finishing 12th last year and 22nd in 2020. “I’m not convinced it’s a pandemic thing, which I think a lot of the other movement that we’ve seen this year is,” Rodenburgh says. “And I don’t think they’ve done any crazy things as it relates to policy or routes or servicing. It’s a bit of a head scratcher.” 

TransLink didn’t fare nearly so well, but at least there’s a clearer explanation. After posting solid numbers from 2018 through 2021, the transportation authority dropped eight places, to 30th. Ipsos’ own polling for TransLink showed that overall rider satisfaction surged during the worst of the pandemic, Rodenburgh says. “A very obvious reason for that is, it’s really easy for buses to remain on schedule when they’re not picking up a lot of passengers and not dropping off a lot of passengers, and there’s lots of space in the buses and SkyTrains.”   

That changed as passengers climbed back on board in COVID’s wake. “All of a sudden you’ve got lineups at the bus stop, and you may have to stand in the bus,” Rodenburgh says of TransLink. “It hurts their scores.”  

After lagging for the past few years, ICBC is enjoying a “rise from the ashes,” Rodenburgh notes. The fifth-biggest gainer on the list, the auto insurer climbed from No. 27 to No. 15.  “They’ve successfully got away from all of that controversy a number of years ago,” Rodenburgh says, referring to ICBC’s financial troubles. It could also help that policyholders have been getting rebates—including a recently announced gas price relief plan that will see many receive $110. “Anytime you hand out money, it can’t hurt you.”  

Most Loved Brands

By contrast, fellow Crown corporation BCLC plunged from No. 15 to No. 26—a result that doesn’t surprise Rodenburgh. Besides bad publicity from the provincial money-laundering inquiry, the gambling purveyor had to contend with the rise of single-event sports betting in 2021. “All of North America’s lottery jurisdictions continue to face increasing competition from relatively sophisticated online gaming sites, and [BCLC’s] comparative online betting solutions through PlayNow.com simply are not as interesting to those who want to bet.” 

Nor did it help that B.C. casinos remained closed for much of last year, Rodenburgh says. “Even though [they] opened in late July/early August, the volume of patrons at the casinos was not really back to normal.” 

Lifestyle choices 

Three of the top five gainers—Lululemon (No. 28), MEC (No. 32) and Arc’teryx (No. 37)—are retail brands that have benefited from the pandemic. “We’ve been working and living in leisurewear in our houses, and so what better to wear than Lululemon?” Rodenburgh asks. “And we haven’t been able to exercise indoors, so we might as well buy some outdoor exercise wear, either Arc’teryx or go to MEC, and do it outside.”  

Lululemon, which vaulted an impressive 21 spots, did much better than fellow clothier Aritzia (No. 69)—a reflection on the work-from-home environment that both brands operated in last year. “At that time, the product mix of Lululemon just made more sense to consumers in a pandemic era compared to a lot of Aritzia’s, which is higher-end fancy workwear,” Rodenburgh says.

“My expectation would be, all other things being equal, that Aritzia should start to see a turnaround in their [Brand] Love scores and probably also their business in 2022, now that it feels like we really are putting the pandemic behind us.” 

The fourth-biggest gainer, Happy Planet, jumped from 63rd to 49th. But that shift was mostly a bounce-back from the food brand’s poor outing in last year’s survey, Rodenburgh maintains. “I don’t think that’s anything other than a recovery as opposed to something related to the pandemic.” 

Pacific Blue Cross made a respectable showing, climbing 11 spots to No. 23. Rodenburgh points to the health insurer’s strong advertising campaign in 2021, which promoted additional benefits products for people not necessarily covered by their employers. “They tried to make a real push into a relatively uninsured market,” he says. “That might have been one reason they moved up a little bit.”  

Most Loved Brands

Credit union crunch 

Among the top five losers, Rodenburgh expresses concern about Vancity (No. 47) and Coast Capital Savings (No. 62), which dropped 12 and 11 places, respectively. “A lot of Canada’s credit unions are continuing to struggle at coming up with a raison d’être that they believe is truly differentiated relative to the big banks,” he says, noting that most credit unions have gained a big chunk of their market share through free chequing and savings accounts. “In recent years, that hasn’t necessarily been enough to drive member growth or growth in assets.” 

For their part, the big banks have reaped the rewards of more sophistication in investment, wealth and other products and services that require scale, he adds. “On top of that, more and more, financial services are being driven by technology-related products and services,” Rodenburgh says, citing robo advisers and money management apps. “Smaller credit unions don’t have the scale to make the same levels of investments. And so my guess is, they’re struggling from a relative perspective a little bit.” 

The fintech trend left Rodenburgh wondering why last-place Mogo didn’t do better. “I kind of expected them to grow in relevance and love, and it’s just not happening,” he says of the personal finance player. “I’m not close enough to the business to know whether they’re seeing any success and growth in new downloads and customer accounts.”  

By contrast, Toronto-based trading platform Questrade has become a significant player among millennial investors, according to syndicated studies that Ipsos has conducted in financial services. “Mogo hasn’t done the same.” 

Once again, old media took a beating, with the Vancouver Sun (No. 36) posting the fifth-biggest loss. “When you look at their trended data over the past six years, it’s an ongoing slide down, down, down,” Rodenburgh says of the Sun and the Province (slipping five places to No. 41). Both papers continue to struggle for relevance as they compete with digital news outlets, he observes. “My guess is, probably those alternative media organizations are picking up where the Sun and Province are not necessarily delivering what the audiences want.” 

Most Loved Brands

Eat, drink and be wary 

In what Rodenburgh calls a fickle business, some restaurant brands got better reviews than others as the industry recovered from the pandemic. Earls Kitchen + Bar (No. 29) and Joey (No. 45) both lost eight points, while Cactus Club Cafe (No. 24) gained eight. “You’ve got to continually reinvest in the actual restaurant itself,” Rodenburgh says. “If you don’t stay on top of that restaurant reinvestment, they do have a tendency to age”—and customers respond accordingly.  

Rodenburgh also found Nude Beverages’ performance noteworthy, pointing out that the booze maker saw dramatic sales growth as the hard seltzer category took off. “The brands were resonating with weight-conscious consumers, many of them female.” But Nude’s ranking has suffered over the past couple of years, leaving it down five points this time around, to 67th. “It makes me wonder if that hard seltzer category has come and gone, or if they can continue to engage consumers with new, innovative flavours.” 

A lesson for brand managers 

So what can organizations that care about their brand equity learn from this year’s ranking? Using the survey results, Ipsos graphed overall scores against how well respondents thought brands have managed during COVID. “You could visually see a remarkably strong correlation between love and pandemic performance,” Rodenburgh says.  

For him, the takeaway is that once brands build a certain amount of equity, consumers perceive them as doing a good job or a bad one. “When you manage a brand and people regard you positively through strong Brand Love scores, it will result in giving you latitude to weather a storm like a two-year pandemic,” Rodenburgh says. “We saw the same thing last year, and it held up again this year. I think it’s an important lesson for marketers and brand owners.” 

Most Loved Brands