Value is in the eye of the beholder, and recent research suggests consumers find the most value in the pizza segment of the quick-service industry.
“Value is an important driver in decisions,” says Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov BrandIndex, a daily brand consumer perception research service. “We define value as the combination of price and quality.”
Between July and November, YouGov surveyed about 2 million Americans over the age of 18 on a variety of brands across multiple industries, collecting information about brand awareness, advertising, quality, value, reputation, and impression.
“When we conduct these surveys, we run them online, and we run them against a very large panel we’ve recruited,” Marzilli says. “For this research, we screened those surveyed down to a group of people that had eaten fast food in the last three months.” Marzilli says scores can range from -100 to 100, and a score of zero means an equal amount of consumers rated the brand positively as they did negatively.
In the quick-serve industry, YouGov found the chicken, Mexican, and burger segments took a hit to value perception through autumn. The pizza segment, however, reflected a continuous increase in value perception across three months, despite raking worst at the start of this year’s study.
Marzilli says YouGov BrandIndex does not ask for specific cause and effect in surveys, but the company is able to analyze trends in marketing during the three months the survey is conducted and make inferences. In the pizza segment, which includes national brands like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Dominos, and Little Caesars, Marzilli says sports-themed marketing for football season and related promotions may have given the category a leg up.
“Little Caesars in particular has engaged in some national advertising in the past few months for the first time in quite a while,” he says. “I think they’ve been getting their word out to a broader audience than they have historically.”
In an effort to gauge if the uptick in value perception was a direct result of sports season marketing, YouGov examined its six years of historical data. “We did look back historically to see if this was a common seasonal effect—and we don’t see that,” he says. “It could be that the advertising is more effective; it could be that the advertising and the price points are more compelling.”
Marzilli says it was harder to determine what caused the decline in the burger segment. “Burger brands have been trying to expand their value menus to include slightly higher price points. Is that what consumers are focusing on? We can’t be sure,” he says. “Maybe it’s just that burgers in the context of quick serves might seem less valuable because the pizza chains have been advertising pretty effectively.”
Either way, brands should be conscious of how consumers perceive the value of their offerings, Marzilli says. “Even though the economy has had some improvement over the last three or four years, a lot of Americans are still very conscious of cost,” he says. “It’s not just that it’s nice to be perceived as having good value; we’ve actually seen consideration scores for pizza move up a couple points.”
By Tamara Omazic