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Americans Continue to Be Loyal to National Brands
Source: Roper Starch

According to a recent report for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) by Roper Starch Worldwide shows that brands continue to dominate the shelves of most Americans' pantries, accounting for 80% of total food, drug, and mass merchandisers' sales. And examining the shopping habits and demographic makeup of consumers who buy national brands may provide new insights for brand marketers looking to retain their share of consumer dollars.

According to the report, which explores what types of consumers buy national brands, nearly half of Americans (46%) are "National Brand Loyalists." Defined as consumers who usually buy national brands when making a food or beverage and health and beauty care purchase, National Brand Loyalists are the "ultimate consumer," according to the report, and 44% say "today is a good time to buy." As a group, these shoppers are:

  • Better off economically. Their median household income of $41,700 is 35% higher than that of their store brand-buying counterparts.
  • College educated. One in four (27%) have at least a bachelor's degree (11 points higher than store brand buyers), and 40% hold executive/professional or "white collar" positions (15 points higher than store brand buyers).
  • Married and in two-career households. 59% (versus 54% of store brand buyers) are married; a third of this group are in marriages where both partners work.
  • Homeowners. 68% (vs. 49% for store brand buyers) own homes.
  • Personal computer users. Half of all National Brand Loyalists own a PC or laptop (11 points higher than PC ownership for store brand buyers) and more than a third (37%) have accessed the Internet from home during the past month (10 points higher than store brand buyers).

"Clearly national brands are still king in consumers' eyes," said GMA president and CEO C. Manly Molpus. "Our partnership with Roper Starch on this report provides a wealth of revealing facts about today's brand loyal consumer, who is looking for a level of quality, innovation, and value that only brands consistently deliver."

Beyond demographics, "National Brand Buyers" also tend to recommend brands they use. The report finds that an impressive 64% of National Brand Loyalists have recommended a restaurant to others in the past year, 16 points higher than Store Brand Buyers. This group is also more likely to publicize movies, television shows, cars, magazines, and other products and services they like.

How do consumers choose the products they'll bring home? The report shows that consumers are most likely to feel brand loyalty to brands that differentiate themselves from the other brands within a specific category. The Roper Starch research shows 47% of ice cream consumers say some brands are better, up five points from 1997; likewise, 37% of toothpaste consumers, up two points, and 31% of household cleaner purchasers, up three points, feel the same way. "The common thread in these categories is the fact that marketers have offered innovative or distinctive products," the report says, which adds that improving products with anti-bacterial ingredients, fragrance varieties, cavity fighters, new flavors, and other "benefit bundles" may be the key to winning consumer brand loyalty.

Chronicling the evolution of brands through the decades, the report reveals the resurgence of "power brands" in the mid-to-late 1990s, where brand loyalty and brand differentiation rebounded. From toothpaste (62%, up five points) and deodorant (60%, up seven points), to orange juice (44%, up eight points) and cold cereal (31%, up seven points), more Americans in 1997 than in 1995 had "one favorite brand" of a host of products.

With the economy soaring in the past several years, consumers in 2000 are now more apt to experiment, shopping around a "considered set" of brands and choosing among two or three. In some categories, such as toilet paper, facial tissues, and furniture wax/polish, consumers are heavily gravitating toward brands, with both "one favorite" or "two or three" favorite brands growing. While the economic downturn of the early nineties trained consumers to be savvy, price-conscious shoppers, they're also more likely to try a new product and buy something else if they don't like it, without breaking the bank.

"Today's National Brand Loyalists are the ultimate consumers," said Edward Keller, president and COO, Roper Starch Worldwide. "By understanding what motivates these consumers to buy national brands, brand marketers are in a much stronger position to attract new customers and retain the trust of their most loyal buyers."



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