The 28th annual study awards the strongest brands in nearly 100 categories across the media, travel, financial, automotive, entertainment, retail, restaurants and household industries, based on consumer response.
Measuring brands’ health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors – Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration – that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. Brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their respective categories. This year, more than 97,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,800 brands (including 78 travel brands), across nearly 500 categories.
“Destinations are fundamentally aspirational and consumers desire a reasonably full line of amenities, contributing to full service and luxury hotel brands’ equity leadership,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Nielsen, which owns the Harris Poll. “Travel brands with strong equity also tend to be brands that offer broad scope loyalty programs, such as Marriott and Hilton. Overall, consumers feel a stronger connection, or an emotional bond with hotels, compared to the airlines they fly or the cruise lines they sail.”
The Harris Poll study finds that overall, the travel industry’s brand equity tends to be stable (up 2.3 percent since 2014) but it ranks high compared to other industries assessed, trailing only retail, consumer electronics and television media. Within travel, nine of the top 10 brands are hotel brands.
However, “fast risers” in equity cut across the different travel categories. These include: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotels & Resorts, SpringHill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard Marriott, JetBlue Airways, Virgin America Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Priceline.com, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line. These brands have increased more than five percent in equity since 2014 – a significant increase given the tendency for equity to resist rapid movement.
Hilton Brands Top Charts in Three Hotel Categories
Harris Poll’s study shows that Hilton brands demonstrate the strongest brand equity in three of five hotel categories: extended stay, full service and mid-market. Additionally, Hilton ranks high on loyalty, and within the full service category, is highest in purchase consideration, most loved and most trustworthy. Hilton, along with Courtyard by Marriott, places among Harris Poll’s top ten percent of all brands assessed.
“Free benefits, such as breakfast and evening social hours, an upscale atmosphere and a top loyalty program all help raise consumers’ perceptions of the Hilton brand, said Sinopoli. “The W Hotel and Resorts, known for a contemporary and modern feel, appeals to younger, luxury-seeking consumers and helps the brand reclaim its top spot for the first time since 2012.”