NEW YORK: Products made by Hershey's, Mars and Procter & Gamble enjoy some of the highest levels of brand equity in the US, according to a study by Harris Interactive.

The research firm analysed more than 1,000 brands in 42 categories, assessing metrics including the levels of advocacy, customer connection, familiarity, purchase intent and trust among shoppers.

Its findings were based on a survey of 19,708 consumers, all of which was asked to rate 60 randomly-selected goods, with each product receiving around 1,000 pieces of feedback in all.

Hershey's Kisses was the most popular brand, with the company's milk chocolate bar also coming in third, separated by plain M&M's, produced by Mars, in second.

The "comfort foods category" had broader success, with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in sixth and Kraft's Oreo cookies in ninth, while Snickers, Hershey Chocolate Chips and peanut M&M's all made the top 25.

Elsewhere, Google, the search giant, was in fourth position in the rankings, with Duracell batteries, owned by Procter & Gamble, in fifth.

Heinz Ketchup, Kleenex Facial Tissues and Neosporin Ointment made up the ten offerings that boasted the strongest bond with the panel.

Jeni Lee Chapman, evp, global brand and communication consulting, at Harris Interactive, suggested that the best products have retained their standing despite the financial crisis.

"It's been a tough year for marketers as they carefully manage their brand investments and strive to protect their long term equity," she said.

"Even in a time of economic turmoil, consumers remind us that those brands that have consistently delivered on their promise are those that are rewarded with long term equity."

Coca-Cola took the honours for the most popular beverage, and was in 17th place in the combined poll, with Johnson & Johnson pre-eminent among pharma firms, and 20th overall.

LG was the cellphone specialist which commanded the highest levels of affinity, with Microsoft taking on this status for computer-related products, and Sony televisions for consumer electronics.

Tide and Charmin were seen as the best detergent and toilet tissue respectively, with National Geographic Magazine and the Discovery Channel among participants' favoured media channels.

By contrast, brands in the tobacco, internet dating, online university and financial sectors typically posted the worst figures.

More positively, some of the organisations that were "tarnished" by government bailouts, like AIG and General Motors, are "slowly rebounding", having invested considerably in restoring their reputations.

Carol Gstalder, svp, business and industrial at Harris Interactive, said "a common theme for those brands that are suffering from a loss in trust will be their ability to connect with their customers in a relevant way."

"That will require showing they are really listening to them, and are addressing their concerns and needs at both the product level and in how they market their products."

On a similar note, while Toyota won the contest among "non-luxury" automakers, this was before it had to recall of large numbers of vehicles.

More positively for the Japanese firm, Lexus, its premium marque, was also seen as the premier high-end car brand on the market at present.

Data sourced from Harris Interactive; additional content by Warc staff