Our Brains Like Southwest Airlines, Google, & Dove

Most Desired Brands - 2012
Neuromarketing firm Buyology is out with their updated list of most desirable brands in the U.S. The list has some expected names and a few surprises:


Men Rank Women
Southwest Airlines #1 Southwest Airlines
Cadillac #2 Google
BMW #3 Hallmark
Dove #4 Dove
Bed Bath & Beyond #5 Jetblue
Apple #6 Kohl’s
Google #7 Lexus
Sharp #8 Target
GE #9 Neutrogena
Macy’s #10 Crest

Ranking Methodology

Unlike neuromarketing firms that use brain scans (EEG, fMRI) and/or biometrics, Buyology uses a technique called “latency response,” in essence making a subject choose quickly before conscious thought takes place. The milliseconds of delay before each choice is a gauge of the difficulty of the choice; Buyology uses this to evaluate non-conscious preferences.

Since no complex brain scan equipment is desired, the technique is very scalable; testing can be done via an Internet connection, allowing large sample sizes. In this brand desirability study, 4000 subjects were used to evaluate 220 diverse brands. The data is very fresh – the study was conducted in the first week of February, starting after the Super Bowl.

Girlie Men?

This kind of survey always produces some unexpected results. As in last year’s Most Desired Brands: a Neuromarketing Ranking, male respondents showed a surprising interest in Bed, Bath, & Beyond. This year, guys also went for Dove.

People LIKE an airline?

Air travel can be a brutal experience these days. Long lines, crowded planes, cramped seating, spartan cabin service, and endless nickel-and-dime add-ons are just a few obstacles to a great customer experience. (My latest outrage – when booking an American Airlines flight, on a mostly empty flight I found that every aisle seat on the plane was being held for ransom at a higher price or for elite program members. Not a good way to earn my business!) At at time when every traveler complains about flying, and brands like United and Delta are close to mortgage bankers and injury attorneys in public esteem, it’s amazing that Southwest tops the desired brand list for men and women. (JetBlue makes the list for women, but not men.) Clearly, Southwest’s combination of a fun and friendly atmosphere, egalitarian seating policies, and refusal to join their peers in painful additional charges for luggage, are having an effect.

What are you surprised by? Does this list make sense to you? Leave a comment with your thoughts!


This post was written by:

— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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5 responses to "Our Brains Like Southwest Airlines, Google, & Dove" — Your Turn


D 16. February 2012 at 12:27 pm

#2 is?


Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
16. February 2012 at 12:33 pm

Fixed, thanks!


Margaret J. King 16. February 2012 at 4:38 pm

This list is, yes, surprising — which points to the methodology. People can only respond to the options they are shown, which is the main problem with response methodology; the test is rigged by the way it’s structured, such as questions that ask “Are you concerned about the environment?” This gets a universal “yes” response, no matter who the subject is. The Bed, Bath & Beyond response points to bias in the way the questions are asked – what was the alternative? Even Victoria’s Secret would come out far ahead of BBB.


Questionmark 19. February 2012 at 6:08 pm

sounds mysterious: “a tecnique called “latency response,” in essence making a subject choose quickly before conscious thought takes place. The milliseconds of delay before each choice” – what is it? a reaction time task at home via internet? – Dear Roger could you comment on that?



Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
20. February 2012 at 8:19 am

QM, here’s a link to a white paper from Buyology touting the technique, maybe it will offer a little more detail:

The idea that our non-conscious reactions, preferences, and biases can be measured by short-response testing is well established. You might find the implicit association tests from Harvard’s Project Implicit interesting:


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2 responses to "Our Brains Like Southwest Airlines, Google, & Dove" — Your Turn