MOST of the time, our data shows that events in the political world have little impact on the public’s view of brands. Sometimes, however, they intertwine in unexpected ways.
For example, towards the end of last year we saw Herman Cain’s candidacy for the Republican nomination for US President change perceptions of Godfather’s Pizza, the company he ran fifteen years earlier.
As allegations of impropriety hit Cain, there was a significant deviation in BrandIndex Index scores between Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans’ views of Godfather’s Pizza were unchanged, but Democrats became significantly more negative towards the brand.
Similarly, over the last two weeks, we have seen a UK political story affecting a major brand.
The addition of VAT to hot food like pasties (where the VAT applies to the product if sold hot but not if sold cold) has caused plenty of controversy since the Budget.
For example, a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times last weekend revealed that 69 per cent of the public opposed the planned changes to the VAT levy.
In terms of big names, the brand most often mentioned in relationship to “Pastygate” has been Greggs, the bakery chain.
As you would expect, such controversial publicity has led to an increase in people hearing news about Greggs – hence the BrandIndex attention score rising from 24 the day before the Budget to 31 earlier this week.
The relationship between buzz and index is interesting to note in this instance, with buzz having fallen slightly from +13 to +8, while the index score (a composite of the six key BrandIndex image measures) has gone in the opposite direction, from +14 to +17.
This is an unusual phenomenon, but it makes perfect sense: although people are hearing bad news about Greggs (due to potential price increases), they pin the blame on politicians rather than the bakers – and perception of the brand has actually improved over the last week.
A key question for Greggs will be how long this positive impact lasts, and where perception heads once the VAT becomes a reality and pasty prices rise for real in the autumn.
Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov