How Obama is having an impact on our view of US brands
There are still those who would separate business and politics.
But they are intimately connected. In a study about a year ago using data from YouGov’s BrandIndex and our tracking of attitudes to America, we examined whether the two were correlated. We found that there was indeed a clear link: as opinions of the US dipped (for example around the time of the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict, which many also blamed on the US) and then recovered, so did positivity towards American brands.
So what’s happening now that the main story from across the Atlantic is the Presidential race?
I’ve created two baskets each of nine brands, one American, the other British, as well-matched as I could make them.
We are here comparing ESSO and BP, American Express and Barclaycard, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways (not BA as the big drop in its ratings around the Terminal 5 fiasco exaggerates the effect), Coca-Cola and Cadbury (better a big-brand chocolate than matching the iconic soft-drink with Tizer), Heinz and Crosse & Blackwell, Jeep and Range Rover, Krispy Kreme and McVitie’s, McDonald’s and Wimpy, Superdrug and Boots.
These brands are not always fair matches but that doesn’t matter for our purposes here. We have used enough brands that are sufficiently varied so that we can be confident the trends we see are likely to be based on their common identities.
Just in case, I removed each of the pairs in turn and found no difference to the overall story.
What we see is a clear uplift for brands which have a strong American cultural identity, and it coincides with the hottest period of the Presidential race, during which Obama-mania was shared by the British media.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the two are related, whether it’s the broader effect of seeing the US democratic process at its most open and exciting, or whether something completely different is at play.
The graph shows the two baskets equalised at the start. In fact the actual average scores place the British brands considerably higher than the US ones.
For example the gap between BP and Esso has averaged around 9 points on BrandIndex over the past 2 years. They move pretty much in tandem, but the gap has narrowed to 6 points at the moment.