A few weeks ago, we published our Brand Perception Survey. It’s a reputation survey of sorts wherein we ask you to tell us which golf brands come to mind when you hear a given word. Half of the words are considered positive while the other half carry strong negative connotations.

By the time the results were tallied, nearly 10,000 of you had your voices heard.

Last week, we focused on a selection of winners for what we consider the most impactful and relevant words in the survey. Today, we’re digging into the full results. For each word, we’ll show you the results. We’ll also highlight any notable insights from deeper in the chart.

What To Look For

While there’s always movement in the table, what we’ve come to expect is that the biggest brands in golf tend to hover near the top. Where things get particularly interesting is when a small to mid-sized brand finishes at or near the top or when a large brand fails to register (this can be either good or bad depending on the context).

To help you identify trends in the data, we’ll frequently reference the percentage change from our last survey. When the numbers are large, it might suggest a brand is trending in one direction or the other.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the results.

This year’s results show a change at the top with Titleist leapfrogging PING as the industry’s most favored performance brand. It’s hard to point to one particular reason why. Titleist’s Ball Lab results have been strong and their Most Wanted rankings have improved as well. I suppose it’s also possible that “Titleist is Performance” commercials are imprinted on our brains.

The company was chosen by 31 percent of respondents. Year-over-year or, more accurately, survey-over-survey showed an uptick of 55 percent while the rest of the top five were within a percentage point or two of the previous result.

Other Notables

  • Mizuno remains an outlier of sorts as small to midsized brands aren’t typically top of mind. The company dipped 11 percent from the last survey but still ranked ahead of some much larger brands
  • PXG didn’t hit the chart but it received four percent of responses. That’s by no means massive but the 51-percent increase from the previous survey is significant.
  • Srixon/Cleveland was chosen 10 percent more often, pushing it past COBRA which fell by 30 percent.

In our last survey, TaylorMade nosed past Callaway as the industry leader for “innovation.” This time, it was a runaway top choice, receiving 33 percent of responses. That’s an astounding change of 63 percent from the previous survey—almost certainly powered by its carbon-faced Stealth Driver.

Callaway held on to second (15 percent) despite being chosen 26 percent less often than last time.

Other Notables

  • PXG moved into fourth place with more than 12 percent, up 37 percent.
  • Titleist has never finished among the leaders but increased its share of positive responses by 42 percent.
  • COBRA held on to fifth spot despite a significant drop (down 54 percent) from the previous survey.

PING is synonymous with “engineering.” They’ve been the first choice by double-digit percentage points all four times we’ve run this survey. TaylorMade, at 18 percent (up 25 percent from the previous survey), moved into the second spot for the first time (again, likely due to Stealth) while Callaway fell to third, down 17 percent.

Other Notables

  • Titleist moved into the top five for the first time after being chosen 36 percent more often than last time.
  • PXG supplanted Mizuno in the top five. They were chosen 11 percent more often this year. Mizuno fell by five percent.
  • COBRA dropped to four percent, a decline of 50 percent from the previous survey.

We know golf brands pride themselves on being the “No. 1 Whatever” it happens to be in golf. As for of whom you think of first: Titleist claimed the top spot for the second year in a row with an astounding 42 percent of responses, up 37 percent from last time.

Telling perhaps, the other four brands at the top saw declines from the previous survey. TaylorMade dropped by 14 percent, Callaway by seven, PING by 30 and Mizuno by 25.

Other Notables

  • None of the Above, the sixth most popular choice, was selected 19 percent of the time (a 19-percent increase).
  • While a mere three percent won’t challenge the top of the table, PXG was chosen 69 percent more often than last time.

At 33 percent (an uptick of 20 percent), Titleist again was chosen by the highest percentage of respondents as the golf company that most embodies integrity. PING dropped to second with 27 percent while Mizuno significantly overperformed its size, finishing a strong third with 16 percent.

Other Notables

  • Finishing fourth and fifth respectively, Callaway and TaylorMade saw year-over-yearf percentage gains.
  • None of the Above ranked sixth.
  • While the percentage share remains a tick below three, PXG was chosen 109 percent more often than last time.

Titleist retained the top spot with 35 percent of responses, up 26 percent from our last survey. Mizuno remains a strong second despite a 15-percent drop.

Other Notables

  • Callaway finished fourth while increasing its share of responses by nearly 20 percent.
  • Despite moving up in other parts of the survey, TaylorMade was effectively flat at about 5.5 percent.
  • Defying social media commentary, PXG finished sixth after being chosen 16 percent more often than last time.

Titleist overtook PING for the top spot after being chosen by a third of all respondents. That’s a 22-percent gain from last time. PING moved down one spot while Mizuno held on to third. Both brands saw double-digit decreases YOY.

Other Notables

  • Both Callaway and TaylorMade saw percentage gains with Callaway ticking up 26 percent from survey to survey.
  • At three percent, None of the Above finished sixth.
  • We’re dealing with exceedingly small numbers here but PXG’s increase from .89 percent to 2.34 represents a 163-percent uptick from the previous survey.

TaylorMade claimed the top spot with 26 percent, up 23 percent from last time. PXG finished second with 20 percent of respondents choosing the brand.

Other Notables

  • COBRA finished fourth despite a 45-percent dip.
  • Titleist (eight percent) moved into to the top five for the first time ever after being selected 73 percent more often than in our previous survey
  • While not a top-five finisher, Mizuno saw an increase of nearly eight percent.

Premium was added to this survey for the first time in 2020. As prices have risen, “premium” and all its various qualifiers (extra-, ultra-, uber-, etc.) have become the equipment industry’s buzzwords du jour. The price might be high but it’s not excessive if a product is premium, right?

With that said, Titleist was chosen as the most premium brand in golf by a commanding 45 percent of respondents, up 40 percent from our previous survey. Mizuno was next, chosen by 16 percent of respondents.

Other Notables

  • As the company that arguably leans the hardest on “premium”, Callaway’s share of responses grew by 27 percent, though it was only selected by five percent of respondents overall.
  • PXG was chosen by 14 percent. While that’s good enough for third overall, it’s a drop of 54 percent which almost certainly reflects the dramatic shift in its pricing model.

I suppose a “humble” golf brand is one that goes about its business in a straightforward way without making ostentatious claims or trumpeting every victory as if it’s conclusive proof of superiority.

PING was chosen as the industry’s most humble brand by half of a percentage point over Mizuno. Both accounted for just over 23 percent of responses.

Other Notables

  • Srixon/Cleveland was third (11 percent).
  • Of the big brands, TaylorMade was selected least often, which I guess makes it the least humble among the Big 5.
  • Of the rest, PXG was selected least often. While just a bit over one percent of you view the brand as humble, it’s a 218-percent uptick from our previous survey.

Moving On To The Negative

With the happy vibes out of the way, let’s move on to the second part of the survey.

It’s safe to assume that nobody in the golf equipment industry seeks to associate themselves with anything that might carry a negative connotation but, in the spirit of the quote that was part of the inspiration for this survey (“Brands are not just what they say they are. Brands are what consumers say they are.”), every brand must understand that what consumers think about them isn’t always flattering.

While “hype” often has a negative connotation, I’d argue it’s only bad if you can’t back it up. Regardless, TaylorMade was chosen as the company most associated with hype. The company received 34 percent of the vote. The nine-point bump from our last survey was enough for it to narrowly move past PXG (33 percent) for the top spot.

Other Notables

  • Callaway was a distant third with 12 percent, a 27-percent dip from last year).
  • None of the Above was chosen fifth, at a 30-percent higher rate than in our last survey.
  • Of the large brands, PING was selected least often with less than two percent of you associating the brand with hype.

Similar to “hype”, it could be argued that a “gimmick “is only bad as it works. Still, if golfers believe something is a gimmick, we’re less likely to buy it.

With that said, 33 percent of you selected the None of the Above option which should probably be considered a positive for the industry as a whole. PXG finished first among brands with 29 percent of you associating the brand with “Gimmick.”

Other Notables

  • TaylorMade was third at 12 percent, down nine percent from our last survey.
  • Among smaller brands, Tour Edge led the pack, chosen eight percent of the time.
  • Mizuno was selected by fewer than .3 percent of respondents.

Marketing isn’t inherently bad. Every company markets its products one way or another but, in the golf equipment industry, consumers often see marketing as the thing that loots R&D budgets and creates higher retail prices.

Our readers chose TaylorMade as No. 1 for marketing. The company received 40 percent of the responses which is actually a sizeable (13.5 percent) decrease from our last survey. Callaway was second, though it also dropped by 17 percent.

Other Notables

  • PXG was the big mover. In third, with 17 percent, it was selected 149 percent more often than in our previous survey.
  • PING (less than two percent) was the only large brand to finish below None of the Above.
  • Wilson was last (.2 percent) which might suggest that a lack of marketing could explain where it finished elsewhere in the survey (that’s foreshadowing, people).

In the golf equipment world, everyone wants to be a leader, but not every brand is.

You select Wilson as the golf equipment industry’s biggest follower. The company was chosen by a quarter of respondents, a staggering increase of 109 percent from our last survey. COBRA was surprisingly second at 11 percent, a change of 27% from our last time.

Other Notables

  • Tour Edge was third, less than a percentage point behind COBRA.
  • TaylorMade (4.5 percent) and PING (five percent) were selected least often among big brands.
  • Mizuno was selected least often.

There’s no positive spin to be put on “deceptive”, but the good news is that None of the Above was chosen by 46 percent of respondents. PXG (15  percent) was picked most often by those who selected a brand.

Other Notables

  • TaylorMade was third at about 13 percent, a 12-percent decrease from the previous survey.
  • Callaway and COBRA round out the top five.
  • Titleist, Mizuno and PING were selected least often—all below 1.5 percent.

Some things just aren’t as good as others. We all accept that, though I’d expect no company wants to be thought of as “inferior.”

Fortunately, I suppose, 31 percent of you don’t believe any brand is worthy of the description.

Among the brands, Wilson was selected most often (26 percent, down eight percent from last time), followed by Tour Edge (12 percent, up 17 percent).

Other Notables

  • COBRA was next, chosen 20 percent of the time, up 17 percent YOY.
  • PXG was selected 92 percent more often, though only five percent in total.
  • Callaway (2.2 percent), TaylorMade (1.5), Titleist (1.1), Mizuno (< one) and PING (<one) made up the bottom of the table.

While it’s hard to put a positive spin on “dishonest”, the upside is that two-thirds of you don’t believe any brand is inherently dishonest.

Among the remaining 34 percent of responses, PXG was chosen most often at 11 percent.

Other Notables

  • TaylorMade, Callaway and COBRA round out the top five.
  • Srixon/Cleveland, PING and Mizuno were chosen least often (all well below one percent).

Wilson again topped the table, receiving 29 percent of selections (an increase of 17 poinnts from the previous survey). None of the Above was next with 15 percent.

Other Notables

  • COBRA was sixth and was selected 76 percent more often than our previous survey.
  • Callaway dropped to seventh, down 10 percent.
  • Titleist and TaylorMade were selected least often. Both dipped by more than 35 percent relative to the previous survey.

You would expect “arrogant” would produce nearly opposite results as “humble” and that’s petty close to what happened.

PXG was chosen by 36 percent of golfers as the most arrogant golf brand. On a positive note, that’s a 15-percent dip from the previous survey. Titleist was next at 18 percent, a small dip from last time.

Other Notables

  • TaylorMade and None of the Above were next at 15 percent each.
  • Callaway was the only other brand above 10 percent.
  • Wilson was selected least often with less than .1 percent choosing the brand.

“Cheap” can simply mean “inexpensive.” It can also be of inferior quality, i.e., trash.

Thirty-five percent of you chose Tour Edge. That’s likely split between those who appreciate prices below industry averages and others who question the quality of the company’s budget-range products. Wilson was next, chosen by 32 percent of voters.

Other Notables

  • None of the Above was chosen by 20 percent of voters.
  • PXG was fourth. While 3.5 percent isn’t a massive number, it’s a 935-percent increase from the previous survey.
  • “Premium” brands—TaylorMade, Callaway, PING, Mizuno and Titleist—round out the bottom of the table with each receiving less than one percent of votes.

Trends in the Data

This year’s results reveal some interesting trends, and while it’s difficult to know why readers voted the way they did, we have some ideas.

Mizuno continues to outkick its coverage.

Despite being, at best, a mid-sized golf company, Mizuno rates highly where similarly sized brands don’t hit the board. Simply put, the awareness and reputation of the brand far exceeds its size.

Titleist Trending Up

While, for the most part, Titleist has never ranked poorly in our surveys, it moved up the charts for several positives and down for some negatives. Maybe it’s the reputation of the Pro V1 and a string of mostly excellent results in Ball Lab, though I suspect a good bit of the boost can be credited to a rapidly improving metalwoods lineup that’s now as good as anything on the market.

COBRA Trending Down

A bit like Mizuno, COBRA has typically performed well in our surveys. However, this time around, we saw significant dips in the positives and increases in the negatives.

Our best theory is that ONE Length isn’t the new hot-ish thing anymore and it’s perhaps time for something different with the metalwoods. I’d also wager that Rickie not playing well, Bryson is less popular than ever and with no other PGA TOUR star to fill the void, consumer perception of the brand is slipping.

PXG Trending in All Directions

No company has transformed itself more dramatically since our last survey than PXG. In 2020, among brands of any real consequence, it established itself as the industry’s extra-ultra-uber-premium. Two years later, while a few high-priced offerings remain, the company arguably offers the best value in golf.

While leading the league in “arrogance” and finishing bottom of the table for “humble” undoubtedly isn’t where the company wants to be, it hit the board a few times for our “positive” words and didn’t fare as badly as last time for some “negative” words. Perhaps more important than any other metric, in general, PXG came to mind more often than in any previous running of this survey.

Wilson Needs Some Inspiration

The company was bottom-of-mind for all of our “positive” associations (it rated last for every positive other than “integrity” and “trustworthy”). There have been some bright spots in recent years (we’ve had Wilson irons, wedges and putters perform well in Most Wanted testing) but whatever buzz came out of Driver Versus Driver is gone and there aren’t any strong signs of positive momentum.

 

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