Industry News | March 29, 2017 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

Report: Starbucks is The Most Talked About Brand in the Business

Offline and online, Starbucks is a conversation starter. Starbucks
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Given that Starbucks built its empire around the social experience, it’s no surprise to see the coffee giant ranked as the top “Conversation Commander” in the business.

In the first TotalSocial rankings, released by Engagement Labs Wednesday, Starbucks was No. 1 in the list’s top 10 quick-service brands.

The restaurants were ranked based on Engagement Labs’ proprietary TotalSocial data, which measures the most important drivers of brand performance in the only continuous measurement of social media and word-of-mouth conversations.

This includes offline and online conversations. In other words, face-to-face discussions versus social media mentions.

Engagement Labs got there by using its patented social media measurement tool and what it calls the world’s only offline word-of-mouth tracking system.

Overall, the Engagement Labs report found that quick-service restaurants were underperformers among the 500 brands tracked in TotalSocial. And the offline scores tended to be higher than the online ones, meaning face-to-face conversations remain the most impactful discussions in the industry.

Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, however, are above average in regards to both metrics, which labels them “Conversation Commanders.” Starbucks, the report says, “has an extremely high volume score for both online and offline conversations, which has helped the brand propel to the number one spot on TotalSocial.”

This shouldn't come as a surprise. Starbucks has long been a trigger for social interactions, not only with its stay-a-while design but also with the brand's willingness to touch on hot-button issues. Recently, this has come to light regarding refugees, military hires, and more. Then, of course, there’s always the Great Red Cup Controversy to consider.

Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A, while trailing in volume to Starbucks, reported some of the strongest sentiment scores. The report credited this to the brand’s free chicken sandwich giveaway to anybody who downloaded the app when it was launched. Chick-fil-A is also one of the rare quick-service restaurants that reports a stronger online score.

Again, Chick-fil-A is no stranger to headlines. The brand has often taken a strong stance on social issues, from same-sex marriage to its decision to close each Sunday.

Some of the industry’s largest companies didn’t fare as well.

“Out of the companies with the top 10 sales, only half of these appear in the top 10 TotalSocial rankings. Because we know that TotalSocial performance is highly correlated with sales, this suggests we will see a dynamic change in the years ahead in terms of who has momentum and who faces challenges in growing or even maintaining their topline,” says Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs, in a statement. “While McDonalds, one of the most well-known [quick-service] brands, performs well in terms of volume, they are held back by low sentiment in online and offline scores. Panera Bread and Five Guys missed the mark because of relatively low volume scores. It is imperative for brands to understand that, despite being a well-known brand in the [quick-service] space, your message will not resonate with your customers without an impactful marketing strategy that trickles into consumer conversations.”

There were also brands that performed exceptionally strong in one category, but not in others. The report points to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., both which sit at the bottom of the rankings even though they have exceptionally high offline brand sharing scores, credited, according to the research, as a “likely a result of their provocative commercials, such as the one featuring supermodel Kate Upton”

“It is important for quick service restaurants pay attention to consumer conversations happening both online and offline. What is being said publicly on social media channels are almost never the same conversations happening offline, in a more private setting. And we know those offline conversations are critical to consumer purchase and shopping decisions,” Keller says in a statement.

Here is the Top 10:

  1. Starbucks
  2. Chick-fil-A
  3. Papa John’s
  4. Domino’s Pizza
  5. KFC
  6. Subway
  7. Pizza Hut
  8. Dunkin’ Donuts
  9. Popeyes
  10. Dairy Queen