NEW YORK: Subway, The History Channel and Ford were the brands which generated the most buzz among US consumers last year.

Research firm YouGov has released its annual rankings of the companies and products that consistently attracted high levels of popular interest during the last 12 months.

It assessed 1,100 brands in 42 categories, utilising data delivered by thousands of interviews each week.

Subway topped the charts on 41.8 points, improving from 43.6 points in the same study published in 2009.

One of the sandwich chain's recent initiatives is partnering with Feeding America and NBC's The Biggest Loser on the Pound For Pound Challenge.

This will see the company donate a pound of groceries every time participating shoppers shed an equal amount of weight.

"Subway is a brand that supports consumers' desire to be healthy and active," said Tony Pace, the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust's chief marketing officer.

"The Pound For Pound Challenge is a natural strategic fit with our approach and it benefits both consumers and their communities."

The History Channel, which has embraced mobile marketing through a dedicated iPhone app and establishing a Foursquare presence, claimed second, registering 40.6 points.

Despite climbing from third in 2009, the station's score declined 2.7 points to 40.6 points across this period.

Ford's accrued an extra 26 points - rising to 39.3 points - having run various innovative campaigns, such as tapping bloggers to promote the new Fiesta and launching the latest Explorer on Facebook.

The automaker's sales jumped 19% in 2010, reaching 1.9m units, as the organisation's recovery from the crisis gained traction.

Scott Monty, Ford's head of social media, argued authenticity and increased dexterity are now essential to engaging potential buyers.

"People love a good story. As marketers, we need to hone our own storytelling," he said. "We need to be flexible and nimble when stories pop up."

"There's inherent risk in anything marketers do because we don't have the same control we had. Brands are in the hands of customers."

Lowe's remained static on 39 points but it still took fourth, partly due to the drop from 45.5 points to 39 points observed by Google.

The online giant may acquire further momentum in 2011 with its Android mobile operating system and the roll out of the Honeycomb equivalent for tablets.

"For Honeycomb, we spent over a year rethinking everything about Android from the ground up. We wanted our tablet experience to be better and not just bigger," said Mike Cleron, Google's principal software engineer.

Cheerios, Target, Olive Garden and Craftsman completed the top ten, although their figures stayed flat or contracted.

Elsewhere, AIG enjoyed a 15-point improvement, albeit this only yielded an aggregate score of –19.9 points.

Chrysler logged a parallel leap to –0.3 points, Chevrolet amassed an additional 6.2 points and hit 17.5 points overall, while Dodge's totals grew 10.2 points to 5.6 points.

Indeed, six of the ten brands recording the greatest best comparative results came from the auto sector, the study found.

Citibank and Merrill Lunch also saw double-digit upticks on 2009, but posted negative marks of –24.6 points and –17.9 points respectively.

Frank Eliason, who heads Citigroup's social media efforts, believes platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can help enhance its image.

"It's really about building trust and building rapport," he said. "The benefits are not about selling. Hopefully, long-term, you create the right customer experience, you will sell."

Wachovia, Washington Mutual and Morgan Stanley witnessed similar trends, as public and political pressure lessened in the wake of the recession.

Data sourced from YouGov; additional content by Warc staff