Hungarians Relatively Loyal, but Retailers Cannot sit Back, Says Nielsen

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Hungarians are almost twice as brand loyal as the average global citizen: 15% (nearly one in seven) of Magyars say they stick to their favored brands against a mere 8% of the international public, according to the latest Global Consumer Loyalty survey by market research company Nielsen.

The survey results, based on the answers of 500 volunteers in 64 countries, revealed conservative Hungarian consumer tendencies through other questions. For example, Nielsen found that “a significant 42% of global consumers say they love trying new things” compared to just 21% of Magyar respondents.

And while 26% of Hungarians replied that, compared to five years ago, they are more likely to try brands they have never tried before, this is well down on the European average of 40% and the global response of 46%.

Yet in spite of such indicators, marketeers in Hungary must be alert to the many and varied influences on consumer behavior, says Ágnes Szűcs-Villányi, market leader at Nielsen Hungary.

“On a global scale, there is an overwhelming majority of consumers who actively or passively are open to unfaithful actions, and gradually turn their backs on brands,” she told the Budapest Business Journal.

Amazon Effect

In particular, Szűcs-Villányi highlights the so-called “Amazon effect” as a major threat to brand loyalty.

“The selection of available goods has never been greater, and consumers can now compare product features, attributes and prices on an unprecedented scale,” she says.

Such factors, along with numerous special promotions, which encourage the feeling of better value for money with little risk, mean Hungarian consumers are likely to become as fickle as any other nationality once among the supermarket shelves over time.

Indeed, 34% of Hungarians say they will switch brands when offered better value for money (much like the rest of the world, at 39%), 26% succumb to price reductions, and 23% will switch for “more convenience”.

Another 12% are “always influenced” by the recommendations of friends or family, and by perceived added benefits such as health attributes.

“Hungarians can be conservative, but there are many tendencies affecting them,” Metta Karafiáth, marketing and communications specialist at Nielsen’s Budapest office, tells the BBJ.

‘Premiumization’

“There’s a shift, there’s a local finding of premiumization. If you believe that [a product] is better for various reasons, if it [matches] your specific needs, if it’s better quality, then people are willing to spend more and, ergo, switch brands. There are different things in play here,” she says.

Perhaps a more nuanced conclusion from the survey is that while a higher percentage of Hungarians compared to the global average are devoted to brands, those who are prepared to switch do so with gusto.

At least this better matches the experience at the Spar Hungary cash registers, says Márk Maczelka, spokesperson for the Austrian-owned retailer.

“We see the same trend: most customers are keen on trying new products,” he says.

And whatever the brand loyalty ratings, Spar Magyarország, which boasts 400 outlets across the country ranging from hypermarkets to convenience stores, is certainly not “sitting on its laurels”, says Maczelka.

“The competition among retail chains is fierce, so [all] Hungarian retailers have the same challenge: to lure in as many customers as possible, and new innovations are important assets in this game.”

Brand Loyalty Strongest for Coffee, Tea, Detergents and Shampoo

When it comes to hardcore brand loyalty, Hungarians are little different to global citizens, with the tea and coffee category attracting the firmest devotees.

“People seem to be very conservative when it comes to their morning routine,” says Nielsen’s marketing specialist Metta Karafiáth. “Some 35% of Hungarians, will choose between one and two brands of coffee and tea; 45% say that brand is important, although they will be prepared to switch,” she explains.

Perhaps surprisingly, the average global citizen is more traditional than Magyars in this category, with 38% sticking to only one or two brands, and Austrians, at 40%, are yet more firmly wedded to their particular morning brew.

The second most favored category in Hungary is laundry detergent and household cleaners, which have a 31% loyal rating, closely followed by the shampoo and hair conditioner, with a 30.5% devoted fan base.

Hungarians Reject Mobile Ads, Billboards and Public Displays

The Nielsen survey uncovered what Metta Karafiáth terms “fun facts” regarding Hungarians and their self-assessments regarding their resistance to certain forms of marketing and advertising.

For example, a whopping 42% of Magyars indicated that mobile phone adverts and messaging “never influences me to try new products or switch [brands]”, while only 30% of global respondents felt impervious to such techniques.

A similarly high proportion, 40%, believed in their immunity to the powers of billboards, displays and public transportation adverts, while globally only 25% felt so confident.

However, Magyars are less sure – and more in line with the international norm – that they can survive the pressure of product endorsements by celebrities, industry bodies and health organizations. One third (34%) felt they were “never influenced” by such practices, compared to 30% of global respondents.

Do Self-evaluations Reflect Reality?

Given the powerful array of advertising and marketing techniques available to producers of consumer goods, and that the Nielsen survey is based on voluntary self-assessments of behavior, how accurate are its findings? Do respondents answer questions more in ways that fit their own self-image, as opposed to the emotional reality? Put another way, does self-deceit affect the results?

Challenged on this point, Metta Karafiáth, marketing and communications specialist at Nielsen Hungary, admits she is “not fully aware of the methodology, but I guess the different algorithms involved ... I don’t know”.

She insisted, however that the measurements are “representative for demographic figures, and for the whole country, with margin of error of plus/minus 4%. We pride ourselves for being very accurate when it comes to numbers, and large teams work on these surveys,” Karafiáth concludes.

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