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What’s in a Brand Name? Apparently, a Lot Less Than We Think

Buyers see little difference, shows Consumer Reports study.

by on Jan.30, 2012

Products like the new Prius C have helped build the Toyota brand name, but a new study says its image has slipped sharply.

Manufacturers spend millions – in some cases, billions – to get customers to focus on their brands.  And traditional auto industry research suggests that there are few things more valuable than a good brand image.

Or is there?

That may have been true in years past, but a new study by Consumer Reports magazine suggests “the difference between the top car brands and the challengers is shrinking.  While two Japanese importers and two Detroit marques still lead in overall perception, the gap is smaller than ever.

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That’s the sort of data that can send a chill through the corridors in an automaker’s marketing department, as it opens up the possibility that upstart competitors can gain a leg up with a good new product and a particularly creative ad campaign.  Kia’s hamsters anyone?

“Smaller companies have benefitted from the shift,” reports the non-profit publication, “illustrated by the small electric-car builder, Tesla, breaking into the top 10” in terms of brand perception.