As Americans continue to receive conflicting messages about the state of the economy and a potential upcoming recession, findings from the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study show many luxury brands made gains in brand equity over the past year. More than 1,500 brands were assessed across over 155 categories this year, and high end companies – from auto makers to department stores – fared better than in years past in ratings based on the Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand Equity Index, which is comprised of three key factors: Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration. Luxury

Findings from the 25th annual study show that high end automotive companies in particular received higher Brand Equity rankings than in prior years. While Mercedes-Benz took the top spot among Luxury Automotive brands for the third year in a row, five other luxury auto brands – Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti and Land Rover – received their highest scores ever in the study, suggesting a strong recovery in the industry at large, particularly in the high end category. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles also reached its highest score in the study’s history, at the same time regaining the top spot as the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend Motorcycle Brand of the Year.

“There’s been a lot of discussion in the media as to whether 2013 will bring about another recession, so it’s interesting to see equity is on the rise for luxury brands typically associated with higher discretionary income, even as other economic indicators suggest a possible downturn,” said Aron Galonsky, Senior Vice President, Brand and Communication Consulting at Harris Interactive. “This may show that after a number of years spent tightening their belts, consumers are looking to the quality and value they feel these brands provide.”

An increase in brand affinity – and potentially related sales – among higher end brands is in-line with findings from a recent Harris Poll that showed a decrease over the past few years in the number of Americans who plan to save more in the year ahead and cut back on household spending, suggesting the appeal of luxury items stayed strong even while such purchases were deferred in tough economic circumstances.

Other luxury lifestyle brands, including Saks Department Stores and MAC Cosmetics, saw increases in their scores from 2012 – and are both top ranked in their respective categories. Both brands had gains of almost 10 points (8.9 and 9.3, respectively) from the year prior. And while Starwood Hotels & Resorts topped the luxury hotel chain category, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts hit its highest score yet in that category, rising more than 13 points from its lowest score back in 2008.

“Understanding the health of your brand is a critical component in determining the business priorities for companies in any industry,” continued Galonsky. “The higher scores point to increased consumer affinity and likelihood to purchase from these companies.”

[Source:  “2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study.”  Harris Interactive.  20 Mar. 2013.  Web.  2 Apr. 2013.]