Nielsen and KBB Name Top Auto Marketers in US

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Things are changing so fast in the US auto market that brands are looking at an entirely different picture now than they were six months ago. And they may be looking at yet another new picture six months hence.

But this week, two esteemed handicappers of automotive marketing took snapshots of how car brands are doing in presenting themselves. The big winners: BMW, Cadillac, Ford, Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.[more]

Kelley Blue Book named its 2011 Brand Image Award winners, based on annual car-buyer perception ratings registered on the company’s web site. And Nielsen bestowed its annual Automotive Ad of the Year Awards for TV spots that ran in 2010.

Here’s how the winning brands did, in alphabetical order:

BMW got KBB.com visitors’ vote as the 2011 Best Performance Brand and 2011 Coolest Brand, with Kelley noting that BMW’s German engineering still sets the “yardstick” for performance in the industry, and that BMW got the other award because “cool is synonymous with desirable.”

Cadillac copped three honors from Kelley: 2011 Best Exterior Design Brand-Luxury, 2011 Best Interior Design Brand, and 2011 Best Comfort Brand. So it looks like General Motors’ venerable luxury marque continues to solidify its status as the domestic upscale brand to beat.

Ford got Nielsen’s vote for the Best Green Ad of 2010, for its Ford Fiesta spots, and for the Best Sales Event Ad for its “Swap Your Ride” campaign, as well as Kelley’s 2011 award as Most Rugged Truck Brand and Best Exterior Design Brand-Non-Luxury. Apparently, Ford brandmeisters understood that their “Swap” ads starring Mike Rowe were effective because they’ve brought back the idea with new spots in 2011.

Honda is afflicted these days with supply disruptions and lukewarm reviews of the crucial 2012 Civic. But at least Nielsen has recognized it as the 2011 Best Value Brand. And the marketers at Honda are probably happy with the imprimatur, because that’s exactly what they strive to be.

Kia seized Nielsen’s top award, Automotive Ad of the Year for 2010, for its “The Choice Is Yours” spot featuring its crew of hamsters  (above) cruising around in a Kia Soul. Kia previous grabbed this honor for the first of the hamster ads. Super Bowl exposure means that most Americans associate these ads with Kia, which is adding market share.

Mercedes-Benz got the nod from Nielsen for the Luxury Campaign of the Year, for its “Triumphant” spots for the sumptuous SLS, as well as Kelley’s distinction as the 2011 Best Prestige Brand. “There’s just something about the three-pointed star and the rich history of sophistication behind it that no competing automaker can touch right now,” Kelley said.

Toyota may be distracted from its production disruptions with news that Kelley acknowledged it as the 2011 Most Family-Friendly brand, on the strength of its revival of the Sienna minivan and its broad lineup of family-friendly vehicles. For good measure, Nielsen tapped Toyota as the Spanish TV Advertiser of the Year for 2010.

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