Canada’s most influential brands: Tim Hortons out, Samsung back in

Google once again tops Ipsos' annual survey, as two of the country's most notable brands compete to remain in the top ten.

Google

Now in its ninth year, a number of long-term trends have emerged from Ipsos’ annual ranking of the most influential brands in Canada, unveiled today at the Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto.

Conducted by Ipsos and the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), in partnership with Publicis and the CMDC, the annual survey measures the influence of more than 100 brands in Canada. The results take into account five factors that can influence brand favourability – whether it was viewed as leading edge, trustworthy, present in culture, a corporate citizen and engaging with consumers – and are based on a sample of more than 6,000 respondents. In addition to the overall ranking, the survey examines how brands fare among different segments based on geography, age and gender.

Over the years, Canadians’ view of the most influential brands in the country has been remarkably consistent: Alphabet’s Google, once again the number one brand overall, has sustained that position every year since 2012 (the only time it came second to Microsoft). Meanwhile, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, YouTube, Walmart and Visa – a total of seven brands with Google – have made the top ten list every year since the ranking’s inception.

Top 10 Influential Brands in 2019

1. Google (-)
2. Amazon (1) / Facebook (+2)
4. Microsoft (+1)
5. Apple (-2)
6. YouTube (-)
7. Netflix (+1)
8. Samsung (+5)
9. Walmart (-)
10. Visa (-3)

These brands “are dominant, persuasive, important and prominent. They are Canada’s most influential brands. They go beyond simply being a brand, as they possess the exceptional ability to connect with Canadian consumers,” said Ipsos COO Steve Levy in a statement accompanying the results. “This connection allows them to occupy rarefied air in the marketplace, because our trust in them allows them to influence how we live, work and play.”

But even among the country’s most consistently influential companies, a brand may drop one or two spots on any given year, only to rebound in subsequent rankings. Facebook, for instance, which tied Amazon as the second-most influential brand this year, has run the gamut from number seven (in 2012) to number three (in 2014), ranking fourth on three occasions (in 2013, 2015 and 2018).

And two players, Amazon and Netflix (whose seventh-place finish marks its best placement yet), have been on an upward trajectory for a few years, climbing the ladder free of apparent missteps. Amazon started out at number nine in 2015 and has gradually ascended the list, achieving number two for the first time last year. For its part, Netflix has inched up one spot every year since 2017.

There are two notable exceptions to the overall ranking’s relative consistency: Tim Hortons and Samsung.

Samsung4

Since the ranking’s 2012 debut, the coffee chain and tech company have clinched the top-ten list five and four times, respectively. But they rarely share that distinction at the same time. Except for 2014 and 2015, only one of the two brands has made the top ten list in any given year. In 2019, Samsung returned to the top ten after landing in #13 in 2018. Meanwhile, Tim Hortons returned to the list last year in the number 10 spot – only to fall to #16 overall in 2019.

“Brands that have experienced challenges, like Samsung, can and do bounce back if they focus on addressing the right issues,” said Levy. The tech giant made significant gains across various surveys in 2017 and 2018 after having experienced difficulties in 2016 due to certain defects in its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that caused them to catch fire. It rebounded after enacting a strategy to win back consumer trust.

But what led Tim Hortons to fall to the #16 spot on the most recent list, especially after coming off a year of increased marketing investment and various test-and-learn initiatives?

Ipsos points out that a new bar has been set among the top brands. In 2018, the lowest influence score among the top ten brands was for Tim Hortons at 189 points; meanwhile, this year, the lowest score was for Visa at a higher 214 points, suggesting that the competition has gotten tighter at the top.

But there are other factors at play. Prior to releasing the results, Ipsos noted in an email to strategy that the QSR saw significant declines on three influence metrics that translated into a decline in overall influence: the proportion of consumers who marked Tim’s as being “relevant to my life” fell 7.5%, as did the percentage who identify with the brand (down 5.8%) and those who the brand has “changed what I do in my everyday life” (down 4.9%).

Tim Hortons-Introducing Tims Rewards-- a brand new loyalty progr

The Ipsos spokesperson believes the brand suffered “a few missteps in 2019 that didn’t quite resonate with consumers,” such as the introduction of Beyond Meat, whose products the company recently announced it would be pulling from the menu. Other changes, such as the introduction of new cold beverages and sandwiches, may have not yet impacted consumers, Ipsos believes, while some new initiatives targeting young generations – such as the launch of its innovative cafe in Toronto – may not be resonating with legacy customers.

Notably, on Ipsos’ survey, Tim Hortons came in at #10 among Gen Z respondents, but landed at #20 among millennials and #17 for both Gen X and Baby Boomers. Samsung, for its part, ranked #16 with Gen Z, #7 with millennials and Gen X, and #11 with the Boomer population.