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U.S. brands have an image problem
Study: American icons such as Coke, McDonald's and Disney are losing luster with global consumers.
August 12, 2005: 1:07 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Global consumers have spoken: They're not feeling any love for American brands.

That was the finding in a study from market research consultancy Gfk NOP that tracked consumer reaction in 30 countries to top global brands.

"The story isn't different from last year. U.S. brands still face an image problem and they're no longer in the leadership position with consumers worldwide," said Cary Silvers, vice president of research with Gfk NOP.

But what has changed is a resurgence in the favorability of non-U.S. brands, the report showed.

Said Silvers, "I liken it to what happened with the U.S. Olympics basketball team, which used to be the most dominant team on the world stage. Now it's just another competitive team on the playing field."

According to the Brand Power study, which looked at a mix of 29 U.S. and international brands, 12 out of the 16 American brands showed a year-over-year decline in scores based on three key attributes important to consumers: familiarity, likability and the likelihood that consumers would tell others good things about the brand.

Coca-Cola (Research), Disney (Research), McDonald's (Research) and CNN were among the brands that showed the biggest dips in their scores.

CNN is a division of Time Warner (Research), parent company of CNN/Money.

"U.S. brands started to feel a drag in their likability factor when the U.S. decided to enter Iraq," said Silvers, adding that this allowed other global brands to step in and build their credibility with consumers.

The latest results, the study said, suggests that consumers still are less likely to identify the United States with values such as internationalism, open-mindedness, curiosity and creativity.

"U.S. companies can't change U.S. foreign policy but they can still work harder to improve the value of their products," Silvers said. "The problem is that companies already have half a strike against them when consumers feel that these brands are too commoditized and not unique anymore."

Only four U.S. brands out of the group -- Google (Research), MSN, Ford (Research) and Yahoo (Research) -- showed a year-over-year improvement in their scores.

"These are brands that consumers feel still offer them value in terms of service, innovation and differentiation," said Hette Fore, senior research director with Gfk NOP.

The brands with the highest overall year-over-year score increases included Panasonic, Sony-Ericsson, LG and Samsung.

The study was conducted between Nov. 2004 and February 2005 and based on a total of 30,000 interviews with consumers between the ages of 13 and 65.  Top of page


Walt Disney Co.
Coca-Cola Company
McDonald's Corporation
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