Brand preference: Petrol heads

Chiara Succi and Annett Pecher
Emotional Logic

A study of petrol brands shows that consumers do not always choose the brand they say they prefer. Measuring unconscious preference is key to ensuring brand choice.

Brands are on a constant quest to unlock consumers’ minds and find the inner drivers that influence their behaviour. Talking to consumers is a good starting point but everyone knows that traditional research techniques such as surveys and focus groups can only offer a partial view of actual behaviour as they can only capture what the consumers will openly -and rationally - say, ignoring the real motivations underlying their brand choices.

The problem lies in the fact that most brands only focus on the conscious mind and ask consumers directly about their preference. If they rely on that they risk targeting the wrong consumers because conscious preference on its own cannot accurately predict brand usage. For example, if we ask consumers to state their preferred petrol brand, and then cross-reference this with the brand they use most often, we find that conscious preference alone can only identify as little as 29% of frequent users of a brand.