The Most Recommended Brands 2015

By Dag Fredrik BjørnlandCyrus DitzelJody VisserSteve KnoxVictor Sánchez-Rodríguez, and Pedro Esquivias

BCG’s Brand Advocacy Index (BAI) shines a spotlight on the companies that have achieved the pinnacle of word-of-mouth recommendations: brand advocacy.

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To learn about where companies stand, we surveyed more than 227,000 consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the U.S. (See the exhibit “Brand Advocacy Index Rankings of Brands, by Country and Industry.”)

The results highlight pockets of superb performance across markets. For example, the nonluxury automotive industry has an average BAI score of 52 percent—well above the average levels in other industries. Brands such as Toyota and Volkswagen perform well across multiple countries, often outside their home markets. Toyota was in the top three brands in five of the countries we surveyed. Because customers tend to have strong emotional connections with their cars, the cars are often topics of conversation.

However, we have noticed that, in many cases, the biggest or most commonly known brands do not always score the highest in advocacy in a market. Consider retail grocery or retail banking, for instance: the top three most recommended brands include many fairly small, focused players that provide an excellent experience despite their lack of scale. In some cases, they do so by providing relatively good value for money (such as Lidl and Aldi in retail grocery) or strong emotional connections (such as Trader Joe’s and Costco).

Some bigger brands do not show up on our list of most recommended brands for several reasons. BAI measures relative scores among customers and noncustomers, so even with a low BAI, a company might have more advocates in absolute numbers. Small brands also typically create a loyal fan base, often helped by their specific positioning or unexpected excellence compared with large brands. In addition, established large brands sometimes simply have fewer new things to announce, giving people less reason to talk about them.

Wide differences in scores among countries on the list typically result from the overall sophistication and standards of any given nation’s industries, led by key players in the market. For example, Mutua Madrileña’s high score pulls up the entire car-insurance industry in Spain. Wide differences among industries often reflect varying levels of sophistication of customers’ experiences in a given industry, as well as customers’ levels of interest in a particular product or service.

In all industries, however, we have found a large gap between the highest- and lowest-performing companies. The results show that advocacy is relevant in every industry and can be improved. (See the exhibit “Wide Variations in Brand Advocacy Exist Across Industries.”)