PwC US Tracks Shift in Consumer Attitudes Towards Brands


Between 1999 and 2014, 47% of brands fell off the top 100 “leader brands,” according to a PwC US study. The number jumps even higher to 72% when the leader brand set is expanded to include product brands. While the list used to be led by media companies, today, electronics and technology companies are flourishing. Millennials are powerful drivers of this shift, elevating these companies to the top, whereas boomers have a higher regard for government institutions and historical brands. This is according to the firm’s new Consumer Intelligence Series (CIS) report and research project, Bonfire of the Brands, which examined data on 6,700 global brands and 200,000 consumers, surveyed 4,000 consumers in the US, UK, China and Brazil; incorporated findings from New York and San Francisco thought leader discussions, and captured social chatter to conduct an in-depth analysis of brand leadership over the past 15 years with a focus on technology, entertainment, media and communications (EMC), retail and consumer goods, and financial services industries.

In today’s highly social, interconnected and transparent world, consumers look at a number of factors to determine a brand’s likability, including everything from who the company is to what the company does – well beyond a quality product/service, a striking logo and a riveting ad campaign. PwC’s study shows that over the past 15 years, brands that consumers consider leader brands have grown in value at nearly five times the rate of the average S&P 500 company. Among the top attributes of leader brands are trustworthiness, authenticity, transparency, a focus on privacy, being visionary, and dedication to employee well-being.

To fuel brand equity, companies will need to understand the new rules of leadership in order to develop a roadmap to future success. Among the considerations for companies seeking brand relevance and dominance are:

  • Consumers admire companies with a distinct culture, one that can be bettered from within, with a management system that allows for the distribution of authority.
  • Also, diversifying diversity to include both “inherent” diversity (i.e. a mix of age, gender and other demographics) and “acquired” diversity (i.e. varying life experiences) will allow for the creative combustion of opinions and ideas and bring about true innovation and disruption.
  • From insight to farsight, companies shouldn’t just benchmark themselves against industry competitors; they should measure themselves against human imagination.
  • Leader brands are the ones that commit heresy, consistently questioning conventional wisdom, and actively looking for rules to break and obstacles to leap.
  • Across age and regions, PwC found that when consumers have favourable perceptions of company leaders, it translates directly to favourable perceptions of the brand, so companies should put a face on it.