Brands We Love to Love: Familiarity, Quality, Consideration

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By Jane Wells

It takes a long time to build a trusted brand, and that trust can be lost in one fell swoop of a hack attack.

Just ask Target, which suffered a massive data breach last year affecting millions of customers. Yet Target has picked itself up again and won back trust, an amazing feat born out in a new EquiTrend report from Harris Poll.

EquiTrend examined three factors in asking 38,000 consumers about 1,400 brands: familiarity, quality and consideration. Here are the top five brands of the year, which have been tops in their categories for at least five straight years, according to the EquiTrend report.
  • Visa. The credit card giant beat out rivals, and that is good news for Costco customers, as the retailer is dumping American Express and has started accepting Visa in stores.
  • Hallmark Greeting Cards. Looking for the right card for the right occasion racked up $3.8 billion in sales for Hallmark in 2014. The company says it holds licensing agreements for seven of the top 10 most-popular licensed lines, and cards include those branded by Sarah Jessica Parker and Life is Good. Given the brand trust Hallmark has earned, life is good, indeed.
  • Craftsman Tools. Parent company Sears Holding may be struggling, but Americans love their Craftsman tools. In the past the company has been named a Reader's Choice winner by Popular Mechanics, and it has one of the oldest customer loyalty programs, going back to 1991.
  • Subway. Subway beat out Arby's, Blimpie, Jimmy John's and Quiznos in the race for the top quick-service sandwich shop, according to Harris Poll's rankings.
  • Target Stores. EquiTrend says Target is still on target brandwise despite a massive data breach last year. "Consumers are willing to give it a chance to rebound," according to the Harris Poll report.
Honorable Mentions
  • Online. EquiTrend looked at emerging trends, including how quickly online brands have built up the sort of trust it took traditional businesses years to achieve, illustrating "the importance of technology and connectivity in simplifying and enhancing American lives." Amazon, Netflix, Paypal and YouTube score big with consumers. The best brand in news service is Google News.
  • On the news. In media, The Weather Channel is the most trusted brand in TV news. (Perhaps Jim Cantore's muscles are matched by his forecasting skills!)
  • On the road. Toyota is the most trusted auto brand, recovering from a billion-dollar-plus settlement in problems with unintended accelerations.
  • In your wallet. EquiTrend also looked at the emerging players in mobile wallets, and found that this soon in, people trust what they know -- PayPal -- which pollsters say is way out in front of Visa, MasterCard and Apple. That could change. "When one of these brands gets the execution right and merchant acceptance hits critical mass, consumers appear ready to jump on board," noted Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Harris Poll, in the firm's report.
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