Sixty brands that consumers found exciting enough to talk about. An analysis of the big three and the dozen following them in afaqs!'s annual buzz-making poll.
In its seventh year now, India's Buzziest Brands must be one of the oldest, uninterrupted public polls in the advertising and marketing space. It has been conducted every single year, without a break. In doing so, it has managed to capture how the nature of buzz has changed. For the uninitiated, buzz in this case is defined as the viral effect that takes place when consumers voluntarily talk about brands as opposed to marketers talking about them.
Few brands achieve this privilege - and privilege it certainly is. Even when brands do create buzz, consumer interest frequently does not last. That is why brands keep entering and disappearing from India's Buzziest Brands. While 103 brands have appeared on the list over seven years, a mere 19 of them have featured every single time. Click here to see the list of top 60 brands.
To illustrate the point, look at Micromax, the handset marketer: it entered the list last year dramatically at No 5 but after a year of stagnant sales, the excitement is palpably diminished and this year is already down to No 39. Or consider the case of the Indian Premier League (IPL), included for the first time in 2010. It came in at No 5, declined to No 15 by last year in the wake of the controversy surrounding it. And now, with the state of Indian cricket being what it is, it has humiliatingly slipped to No 32. Who could have imagined this ignominy? On the other hand, look at the example of Airtel which ruled, crashed, and has conquered the summit once again.
In consistently covering the viral aspect of brand discussion, India's Buzziest Brands has also tracked how change has taken place. At a larger level, it is a reflection of how our preoccupations have altered. In 2006, every fourth brand was of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) variety. This year, only one in nine brands is.
In 2006, there wasn't a single online brand in the list (though, admittedly this had as much to do with the methodology as the state of the medium). In 2012/02, eight of the buzziest brands live online. Even more impressively, six of them feature in the top dozen brands.
If that doesn't reflect how our times have changed, what does?
This is one comeback to beat all comebacks in the Buzzies. Airtel ruled the charts at No 1 in the Buzzies for the first four years in a row, beating the likes of Hutch, Nokia, Kingfisher and Facebook to second place. Then its advertising, a big big factor in its buzz, lost the plot and it plummeted to No 16 in 2010. The account shifted from Rediffusion to JWT, the brand rose to No 9 last year and then the 'Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai' campaign by Taproot hit the waves. It has totally transformed the image of Airtel. In the popular vote, the telecom player was at No 4 behind Facebook, Samsung and Google but five of the six jury members backed it, pushing it to the top spot after a two-year hiatus.
With everybody who is anybody on Facebook, the social networking site is bound to do well on buzz. But wait a minute. If everybody is already on it, how soon before we start taking it for granted? Clearly, this is far from happening with Facebook, which is still No 1 in the popular vote: it drops to No 2 overall because merely two jurors voted for it. However, we do discern that the gap between it and the second most buzzy brand has narrowed. Last year, Tata Docomo, at No 2 in the popular vote, had less than two thirds of the vote that Facebook had. However, the runner up in the public eye this year, Samsung, has more than three fourths of the vote as Facebook. So, the gap is indeed reducing.
It is the outsider that makes the Buzzies so, so unpredictable. Last year, four of the top five brands had not even figured in the poll in 2010. Keeping up the tradition we have Flipkart, the e-commerce site, unknown just a year ago and ubiquitous today. Begun about five years ago, it has frequently been in the news in 2011 because of the massive investments it has been attracting. It is the clear category leader and has managed to generate great word of mouth about terrific delivery. Its standout TV commercials helped too in getting it to No 5 in the popular vote. Four jurors opted for it, too, higher than for any other brand, except Airtel. Let's see if it keeps up the buzz next year, or sinks like many one-year surprises before it.
This brand is other first timer to make it to the top in 2012/02. This is a most unusual story, though. Hero Honda was an advertisement for a successful Indo-Japanese joint venture, emerging as the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world until finally the ambitions of Hero and Honda could no longer be reconciled. Hero, better known for cycles on its own, launched a massive relaunch campaign with a new logo. The advertising was in the usual ra-ra tradition but the exercise seems to have gone down even better with the jury than it has with the afaqs! audience. The popular vote cast Hero at No 10 but three jurors give it a push, taking the brand right up to No 4. Just for the record, Honda is at No 31. Last year, Hero Honda had figured at No 22.
Samsung is one of the big surprises of 2012/02. It used to be in the bottom half of the list in the first three years and began to gather buzz only in 2010, when it got to No 13 before falling to No 18 last year. This year, on the back of its Galaxy range of mobile devices, it's been abuzz - so much so that in the popular vote, it is No 2 only to Facebook and a sliver ahead of Google who it beats to third place. Alas, just like last year, none of the jury thinks the brand is hot and this has ended up pushing Samsung to No 5 in the final rankings.
We had once speculated that Google would one day start dropping in the rankings because haven't we all begun taking it for granted? However, the-one-that-we-cannot-do-without has been in the top 10 ranking every year (except in 2010) because of the constant flood of innovations. So what's new this year? It is the fact that Google has been voted to third place, the highest spot ever in the popular vote. This is almost certainly because of the social networking effort under the Google+ banner. None of the jury members is impressed, though.
Deal sites are less fashionable than they used to be about a year ago before the accounting practices of the American leader, Groupon, came into question. Still, they have created a lot of buzz and Snapdeal is the clear leader among them in India. It is also a first-time entrant to the Buzzies list, thanks in no small measure to its 'Yamraj' TV commercials currently on the waves. It comes in at No 7 among the voters and, with one jury vote, retains that rank in the final analysis.
At the cost of repeating ourselves, we have to remind readers that Cadbury is the only FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brand to have done consistently well ever since the Buzzies came into being in 2006. Last year and this one have been the best yet with the brand featuring at No 8, almost entirely on the back of some superlative advertising. According to the voters, the brand stood at No 14 but - like last year - two jury members granted it favour, bolstering it to a final No 8.
The iPhone featured in the list for the first time only last year, when it ended up at No 23, somewhat above the midway mark. This year the handset brand has shot up dramatically to No 6 in popular perception, presumably on the back of incessant conversation about the apple brand in the wake of founder Steve Jobs' death in October, 2011 and the release of his biography. None of the jury voted for it.
This is one brand that has somehow done less impressively among people whose business is brands than one would have imagined. When it appeared for the first time two years ago, it was No 4 in the popular vote, sliding to No 12 last year and to No 19 now on that parameter. It is only because two jurors are impressed with the micro blogging brand that it manages to make it to the top 10 at all.
Vodafone is the only other telecom services brand other than Airtel that has consistently figured well in the Buzzies. The best it did was in 2010 when it got to second place on the back of tremendous excitement and buzz created by the Zoozoos, the funny little eggshell characters. That year, it had in fact beaten all brands in the popular vote but had lost to Facebook on taking the jury figures. This year, it does No 12 on the public vote and climbs another step after jury consideration.
At No 12 now, this is the best the brand has performed in the three years that it's featured, the worst being No 24 last year. The last two times, it suffered because none of the jury members helped it, sending it lower on the charts. This year, apart from the popular position at No 13, a single jury vote takes it a rung higher to No 12.
BlackBerry entered the Buzzies with a bang last year at No 2, enabled by a popular vote that brought it in at No 3 and backed by five of the six jurors, the greatest 'aye' for any brand. This year the reverse has happened. The voters have placed BlackBerry at No 8, a pretty strong performance still. However, none of the jurors find it worthy of support, sending it reeling to No 13.
Pepsi and Coke have had a close contest since the Buzzies began. Between 2006-08, Coke ran ahead every time. Ever since then, the lead has switched from one to the other. The two often end up getting close scores on the popular vote and which one leads is determined by the jurors: last year, one opted for Coke and took it ahead - this year, two press the button for Pepsi, which helps it improve dramatically on last year.
Has Nokia's downward slide stopped? The brand was in the top 10 during 2006-10 before sinking to No 13 last year. As if that wasn't bad enough, upstart brand Micromax entered the Buzzies at No 5.
Nokia is two ranks lower again this time but the market is beginning to respond to large-scale changes the Finnish brand is effecting: it does No 9 in the open vote but gets no jury aid. A big consolation for Nokia would be that Micromax has fallen through the floor on buzz, dropping all the way down to No 39.
The shortlist on which afaqs! readers as well as the jury voted was made up of two sources:
- Forty five of the brands feature from among the most searched for based on the more than 2.7 million searches carried out on afaqs! in 2011.
- The remaining 15 brands were chosen by an afaqs! editorial committee based on their perception of the excitement that surrounds different names. Many of these are either media brands or brands with a powerful digital presence because of which they are unlikely to be searched on afaqs! at all. The fact that many of these 15 have done exceedingly well suggests that our choice tends to be more right than wrong.
- Visitors to afaqs! were asked to choose five brands from the shortlist of 60 that they felt had the greatest 'buzz' in the year gone by.
- To eliminate digital ballot-stuffing, voters had to click on a link sent to their email account. The poll was carried out from January 30-February 7, 2012/02. In all, 2,058 visitors participated and valid votes amounted to 1,540.
- To create balance and gain a potentially different perspective, six well-known names from advertising, media and marketing were invited to choose their favourites from the shortlist. The popular:jury vote weightage was 70:30.
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