Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Toyota get the best word-of-mouth of all global brands, not just automakers, a new study concludes.
The NOP World consulting company of New York surveyed consumers in 31 countries, including the United States, last year. The study says most of the three automakers' customers are "active brand advocates" who recommend the companies' vehicles to friends and relatives.
Ford finished ninth among the 43 brands included in the study. Spokespersons for the automakers did not respond to requests for comment.
More than 90 percent of Americans say word-of-mouth is their best source of information about products and services, NOP says. Personal testimonials are twice as important to those consumers as advertising or editorial content, NOP says.
Vehicles tend to inspire more brand loyalty than other consumer products because they are expensive, the study suggests. In addition, it says, buying a car or truck is likely to be both time-consuming and exciting.
"People are emotionally tied to their car," says Tim Wragg, global director of NOP World's customer management center.
NOP World's "advocacy multiplier" study is designed to measure consumer commitment to various brands. The research defines four levels of commitment:
1. Indifferent: The customer has little or no brand loyalty.
2. Fulfilled: The customer is willing to consider buying the brand again.
3. Committed: The customer is predisposed to the brand.
4. Active Brand Advocate: The customer is a walking advertisement for the product.
Wragg says word-of-mouth promotion is a significant measure of a brand's success. Customers who talk up a brand are most often repeat customers, he says. They also tend to spend more money with the companies they advocate, Wragg says.
Companies that inspire referrals sell high-quality products and make every effort to resolve customer complaints, he says.
Automakers can encourage word-of-mouth promotion by engaging customers in car clubs and offering special events such as road rallies, Wragg says. Such marketing, he adds, will "keep customers talking about your brand."
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