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Brand Perception — And Purchase Intention — Varies By Age

As baby boomers age, much will change in terms of the products and brands the next generation of consumers will and will not buy.

Some of the changes may seem obvious, such as an expected decline in aftermarket car audio sales, due to diminishing consumer interest and improving OEM options. However, there are equally, if not more important, implications for the brands themselves. You may not have considered it but the perception of brands is changing as well.

The recently completed Coyote Insight Brand Value (CIBV) project revealed, among other things, the reputations among consumers of more than 50 brands in six different product categories. At first glance there were no surprises, with the well-known name brands generally rating higher than the lesser-known brands. But the situation changed considerably when the brands were ranked by age. Consider 50-inch flat- panel TV as but one example.

According to the results, Philips rated 4 percent above average among the total sample of 500 respondents who recently bought or plan to soon buy 50-inch flat-panel TVs, while Yamaha rated 5 percent below average among the same sample. But narrow the focus to consumers under 25 and the ratings change. The younger buyers and those intending to purchase a flat-panel TV rated Yamaha 4 percent above average and downgraded Philips to only 2 percent above average.

The changes were not confined to these two brands. Indeed, the ratings for six brands improved among younger consumers while the remaining 13 declined from the ratings of the total sample. This does not mean that brands which declined are necessarily viewed poorly anymore than we can assume that those which improved were perceived to be better. The changes occurred because the mean rating against which all brands were measured had changed. In the case of 50-inch flat-panel TV, younger consumers rate all brands 6 percent lower than the total sample, an indication that they do not view these companies the same as their older counterparts. Bottom line: When it comes to selling flat-panel TV, do not assume that the attitudes of younger consumers regarding brand reputation will be the same as those of older shoppers. They are not, and this fact can mean the difference between making and losing the sale.

This is all of part of what we refer to as the “brand landscape,” from which consumers choose among all of the brands for all of the products they buy. Their awareness level, how they view the strengths and weaknesses of each brand, and ultimately the brands they will and will not consider, all go into their generally unconscious ranking of the brands you offer. Moreover, as you may realize, there are different brand landscapes for each product group, with subtle yet important differences inherent in product subcategories (auto sound vs. head units, for example). While you could simply assume that all consumers want what you consider to be the better brands, almost without regard for the product being considered, doing so means you will miss sales and, more importantly, incremental profit.

What is your brand strategy, and by that I mean specifically? Do you think about the nuances cited in this article as well as those that weren’t? You should. There is a reason the auto industry cuts its brand strategy as fine as it does — in order to respond to an ever-evolving customer base whose attitudes and opinions differ from those of the generation before them. These are the same people you sell to, albeit with different products. Treat them as if they were alike and watch them find their way to someone who recognizes the differences.