Study: Is America Sick of Burgers?

America may be the hamburger capital of the world, but consumer opinion of non-burger restaurants is increasing while the brand equity of most burger joints remains flat according to the 2011 Harris Poll EquiTrend study.

Subway is the 2011 Quick Serve Restaurant Brand of the Year, followed by Dairy Queen, Wendy’s and McDonalds. However, the brands whose brand equity increased the most over last year include Domino’s Pizza, KFC restaurants and Taco Bell.

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While this study was conducted prior to Taco Bell’s recent media attention, Domino’s has dedicated an entire ad campaign to their admitted shortcomings and what they’re doing to improve. That strategy appears to be having an impact on consumers, says the study.

“Domino’s improvement shows the impact of transparency on consumer brand perception,” said Jeni Lee Chapman, executive VP of Brand and Communication Consulting at Harris Interactive.

“Consumers are more forgiving with companies that take responsibility and are forthcoming about their efforts to improve.”

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In other categories, Panera Bread is the 2011 Casual Dining Brand of the Year followed by a trio of Italian food restaurants — Carrabba’s, Olive Garden and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

M&M’s Plain Chocolate Candy is the 2011 Harris Poll EquiTrend Sweet Treat Brand of the Year, with Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars ranking second and last year’s highest ranked treat, Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Candy, ranked third.

Among beverage brands, Coca-Cola is the 2011 Harris Poll EquiTrend Carbonated Beverage Brand of the Year, with Sprite making significant improvement to rank second followed by 7-Up.

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Among non-carbonated beverages, Dasani ranked highest among Water brands. Blue Moon Beer was the highest ranked beer brand for the second year in a row, followed by Samuel Adams and Guinness Stout.

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“It’s interesting to note that three of the top six brands in the carbonated beverage category are of the clear variety,” said Chapman. “If ‘sustainable’ attitudes continue to increase, the brand perception of more natural beverages is also likely to improve.”

The EquiTrend study evaluates measures including: Equity, Consumer Connection, Commitment, Brand Behavior, Brand Advocacy, and Trust.

The keystone to the program is Equity, which provides an understanding of a brand’s overall strength and is determined by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality, and Purchase Consideration.

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This year’s Harris Poll EquiTrend study was conducted online among 25,099 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over between January 11 and 27, 2011.

A total of 1,273 brands were rated in 53 separate categories. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 60 randomly selected brands. Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings.

Data were weighted to be representative of the entire U.S. population of consumers ages 15 and over on the basis of age, sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, and income, and data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online.

The findings of the study were released Tuesday, March 29.

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman