Boston Consulting Takes On Bain In Brand Buzz Business, Names iPhone No. 1

Boston Consulting Group Takes on Bain's Net Promoter Score in Battle of Buzz Barometers

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Boston Consulting Group is entering the brand health metrics fray with its own Brand Advocacy Index which ranks the public perception of brands.

The ranking is its take on the Net Promoter Score popularized a decade ago in part by rival Bain & Co. but using a more complex survey that Boston Consulting Group says correlates better with sales growth.

Among the big winners in the first BAI report for the U.S. include iPhone, supermarket chain Trader Joe's, financial services firm USAA, mobile telecom firm Virgin and auto brands Kia, Honda and Hyundai, all of which led their industries. The report, set to be released Decc. 2, didn't name industry laggards.

The BCG team behind the Brand Advocacy Index includes Steve Knox, a former Procter & Gamble Co. executive who for years led that company's Tremor unit, which ran the eponymous word-of-mouth marketing program for teens and a similar Vocalpoint program for moms.

BCG says companies ranking in the top two in their industries in the advocacy index had annual sales growth 10 percentage points ahead of their industries, while those in the bottom two had sales growth 17 points below industry averages. The difference was most pronounced among smart-phone manufacturers, with an 84-point spread between top performers and laggards.

The BAI is based on a survey of 32,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Spain, which also found that people consult friends, family and online opinions far more than traditional media when making purchase decisions – two to 10 times more often depending on the category and country.

BCG said its index differs from other advocacy measures in part by focusing survey questions on what people have actually done in advocating for, or against, brands, rather than asking their intentions. Unlike Net Promoter Score, BCG's surveys also cover both people who have been customers of brands and those who haven't to include "everyone talking about a brand."

Net Promoter Score, a system launched in 2003 by Bain, software Satmetrix, and researcher Fred Reichheld, asks people to rate their intention of recommending a brand on a scale of one to 10.

The BAI survey also asks people their reasons for advocating or not advocating a brand. BCG found emotional factors were key in helping separate Trader Joe's and USAA from competitors for example.

In the latter case, "the USAA way," or the brand's association with the U.S. military, highlighted heavily in its advertising, was decisive. But Trader Joe's and Spain's Mercadona, the leading international grocery retailer in the BAI ranking, do no media advertising.

Mercadona, which has been adding 50 to 100 stores annually and generating 5% annual comparable-store sales growth in recent years despite a Spanish economy mired in deep recession, built buzz in part by bringing 500,000 women to stores for sampling and demonstrations to launch new cosmetics sections.

Brands with Best Brand Advocacy
Automobiles (Non-luxury) Smart phones Grocery retailers Mobile telecom Finance (retail banking)
Kia: 63 iPhone: 54 Trader Joe's: 49 Virgin: 43 USAA: 44
Honda: 63 Samsung: 43 Wegmans: 48 TracFone: 35 Ally: 24
Hyundai: 63 Motorola: 38 Publix: 42 Verizon: 27 American Express: 23
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