A few weeks back, we posted what we called the One Word Survey. A word association game of sorts, the idea was to get you to choose the golf equipment brand you most associate with each of the words we presented. Figuring some of you might have other brands in mind, we also gave you a none of the above option.

The one word, one choice approach doesn’t leave much room for nuance, and that’s what, for me anyway, makes this exercise so interesting. Of course, that same approach means we don’t have any idea what your second choice might have been, so we can only look at the frequency at which each brand was chosen.

Frankly, I’m not sure what the results suggest about the equipment we buy. The idea was to get a sense of how you perceive the brands we cover day in and day out. Whether or not perception aligns with reality is often, for better or worse, inconsequential. To cycle back to that quote from Ari Jacoby, “Brands are not just what they say they are. Brands are what consumers say they are.”

As I typically do, I’ve included my general observations along with some of my interpretations. I would encourage you to do the same and to share your thoughts in the comment section.

Finally, before we get to the charts, I’d be remiss not to mention that the data shown in graphs comes from a bit more than 5300 completed surveys.

The Good

The first 9 words in our survey results have positive connotations. You would expect that larger brands would receive a greater percentage of the total responses, so if you’re so inclined, it may be helpful to split brands into groups and compare large to large and small to small.

Performance

PERFORMANCE

It’s not particularly surprising that nearly 20% of you associated Titleist with Performance. Afterall, Titleist is Performance is one of the company taglines. Current market leader, Callaway, was selected just over 17% of the time. Relative to its market share, Mizuno (17.43%) always overperforms in our surveys, which speaks to the brand’s popularity among our readership. PXG at 3.78% is also noteworthy. In this case, 3.78% is not substantial, but as you read through these results, it’s worth keeping an eye on how the 3-year-old PXG compares to its more established competitors.

Of the other smaller brands, Srixon/Cleveland faired slightly better than Cobra.

Innovation

INNOVATION

It’s not exactly news that every company wants to be seen as innovative, and it shouldn’t be surprising that you selected the current market leader (Callaway) as the most innovative in the game today. TaylorMade, PING, and PXG  also received a significant percentage of your clicks. Cobra at just under 10% is worth calling-out as well as it leads the smaller brands by plenty. It’s also noteworthy that despite being strongly associated with other positive words in the survey, comparatively few of you most associate Mizuno and Titleist with Innovation. I suspect that if we had included Classic or Timeless in the survey, both brands would be near the top.

Engineering

ENGIINEERING

PING has firmly established itself as an engineering company, so it was entirely predictable – I’d call it a gimme – that nearly30% of you selected PING. Callaway was selected nearly 16% of the time, suggesting that many of you believe there’s real R&D backing the marketing efforts. The real surprise is PXG with more than 13% of your responses. That’s more than both TaylorMade and Mizuno, and nearly 2X the number of you who selected Titleist.

Among the smaller brands, Cobra (admittedly more of a mid-sized brand in the marketplace) faired the best, followed by Bridgestone and then Srixon.

Leader

LEADER

Not surprising given its market position, nearly 30% of you associated Callaway with Leader. Titleist wasn’t far behind, which is likely attributable to its leadership position in the ball market. In general, your responses don’t deviate significantly from the realities of the market.

Among the small and mid-sized brands, Mizuno was selected most often.

Integrity

INTEGRITY

Integrity can be thought of as honesty coupled with a strong moral compass. In that context, we’d expect to see PING factor heavily in your responses. Once again we see Titleist near the top, while Mizuno is also held in high regard by our readers. By contrast, market leaders Callaway and TaylorMade didn’t factor as heavily in your responses as they did for other positives.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that smaller brands Bridgestone, Wilson, and Srixon/Cleveland were selected more often than TaylorMade.

Quality

QUALITY

As with many of our chosen words, responses are likely dependent on interpretation, and existing perceptions. Mizuno is known for quality forgings. Titleist is positioned as a leader in golf ball quality control (and a tour leader in irons and hybrids), while many golfers associate PING with quality products. While it was dwarfed by the brands I just mentioned, Callaway again grabbed a greater percentage than its primary competitor, while PXG was selected more often than many of the industry mainstays.

Srixon/Cleveland faired the best among the smaller brands.

Trustworthy

TRUSTYWORTHY

Given the inherent overlap with Integrity, we’d expect to see the same companies factor heavily in your responses. PING and Titleist were again the most popular choices. Mizuno remained popular while Callaway finished ahead of the remaining brands. PXG was selected least, which apart from conveying the message that it isn’t the first brand that pops into your head when you hear Trustworthy, also illustrates the polarizing nature of the company, even within the confines of our positive words.

Smaller brands were nearly flat across the board, with Srixon/Cleveland again being selected with greater frequency.

Modern

MODERN

Another of our words with a heavily interpretive component, Modern proved to be an outlier among our positive words. PXG was selected most often, which may be attributable to the company’s signature look. Callaway was 2nd, perhaps a result of its unique approach (and its desire to establish itself as the first modern golf company). Cobra, despite toning things down a bit in recent years, accounted for more than 17% of your responses; its highest total in the survey. Srixon/Cleveland led the remaining smaller brands.

Humble

HUMBLE

When TaylorMade was on top of the industry, it constantly spoke of the need to stay humble. It’s a sentiment often echoed by Callaway employees as well. If the responses to this survey mean anything, neither company has been particularly effective at conveying any sense of humility. Of course, it’s also possible that some of you viewed humble as a synonym for quiet given that the loudest marketers in the industry (Callaway, TaylorMade, and PXG) finished at or near the bottom.

The greatest percentage of you associated humble with Mizuno, while PING was also selected with a great deal of frequency. Also of note were stronger showings for both Wilson and Srixon and Bridgestone, which all received their highest percentage of selections among our positive words.

The Bad

The following 9 charts feature words with generally negative connotations. While you would expect large brands would also receive the lion’s share of the responses, as you’ll see, when it comes to our undesirable words, that’s not always the case.

Hype

HYPE

Often regarded within the golf equipment industry as the opposite of Performance, you created three distinct spikes with your reactions to hype. Nearly 35% of you most associate the word with TaylorMade, while PXG isn’t far behind at just over 30%. Toss in Callaway, and we’re over 85%. This isn’t surprising given many of the comments left on stories about those particular brands.

PING and to a lesser extent Titleist, received a comparatively small percentage of the vote.

Gimmick

GIMMICK

The good news for the industry is that more than 20% of you don’t associate Gimmick with any of the brands included in our survey. That could suggest a belief that products and features more or less do what the manufacturers say they do. Once again PXG accounted for the highest percentage of responses, while TaylorMade was selected nearly 20% of the time. Callaway faired better, while both Titleist, PING, and Mizuno barely registered. The higher percentage of responses for Tour Edge, Wilson, and Cobra is notably atypical for the survey.

Marketing

MARKETING

There’s nothing inherently negative about Marketing, however, in the golf equipment world, it’s sometimes viewed as the opposite of R&D. Budgets being what they are, it should go without saying that the biggest companies often have the largest marketing presences, so we’d expect to see Callaway and TaylorMade account for a most significant percentage of your responses. Perhaps surprisingly Titleist was selected less than 10% of the time despite its significant ball marketing efforts.

Small brands were split and relatively low across the board. This isn’t any sort of surprise as most small brands are, to a degree, known for their lack of marketing.

Follower

FOLLOWER

Nobody wants to be seen as a follower. It suggests a lack of innovation and a lack of original thinking. Within that context, this is the question for which I find your answers most puzzling. While the graphs are flatter than most, among those of you who didn’t select None of the Above, surprisingly (to me anyway), Cobra received the highest percentage of responses. TaylorMade and Wilson also accounted for greater than 10% of your selections.

What’s interesting is that, in this chart, we don’t really see the same distinction between big brands and small brands that we find in many of our charts.

Deceptive

DECEPTIVE

The good news is that the greatest percentage of responses for this strongly negative adjective fell to none of the above. The bad news, if you’re TaylorMade, is that in accounting for nearly 30% of the selections, you weren’t far behind. This is likely attributable to that fact that, once upon a time, TaylorMade led the league in unfulfilled yardage promises. PXG and Callaway also received an appreciable percentage of your responses.

PING and Titleist were selected at a rate lower than their market positions suggest they should.

Inferior

INFERIOR

While most equipment on the market today is of similar quality, as we’ve said, perception often matters more than reality. Tour Edge and Wilson received, by far, their greatest percentage of responses for what is inarguably an adjective no brand wants to be associated with. None of the Above was selected more than 25% of the time, which helped to keep every other brand below the 5% threshold.

Dishonest

DISHONEST

A step worse than deceptive, dishonest is on the wrong side of the of the line between misleading and lying. Once again, the strong selection of None of the Above suggests that most of you believe the industry does a good job of staying on the right side of that line or at least walking it.

Those of you who selected specific brands once again selected TaylorMade by a significant margin. PXG was selected nearly 12% of the time, while Callaway was the only other company to be selected more than 5% of the time. As you’d expect given their respective ratings for integrity and honesty, PING and Mizuno barely register.

Uninspired

UNINSPIRED

Like follower, uninspired suggests a lack of originality, or for that matter, a lack of anything appealing. What’s noteworthy is that with the exception of Titleist, the industry’s biggest names – and I suppose we have to include PXG in this case – are relatively flat, while smaller brands spike significantly.

I’m inclined to fault Titleist’s steady approach to everything for its comparatively high tally. The numbers for Wilson, Tour Edge, Srixon/Cleveland and Bridgestone are the highest or among the highest for each brand, which could suggest their products don’t generate the same degree of excitement as their larger competitors’.

Arrogant

ARROGANT

Given its pricing structure, bold statements (“Nobody makes clubs the way we do, period”), and how many perceive company Owner and Founder, Bob Parsons, this isn’t exactly an eye-opener. It’s probably also not much of a surprise that 3 companies accounted for nearly 82% of the responses. Add Callaway to the mix, and we’re over 90%. Nobody else registers to any significant degree.

Postive vs. Negative

The chart below compares the percentage of the total positive responses (gold) to the percentage of negative responses (black) for each brand. Feel free to interpret the results in any manner you see fit, but there are a handful of things that are worth mentioning specifically.

POSITIVEvNEGATIVE

PING and Mizuno have the most favorable ratios of positive to negative responses, while the general view of Titleist can also be regarded as strongly positive. To me, the obvious takeaway is that all three are held in high regard by our readers.

Of the remaining large brands in the survey, TaylorMade and PXG (The overall percentage of responses necessitates that we throw PXG in with the big boys) show the strongest negative to positive ratios, with both brands being chosen more than twice as often for our negative words. While the easy answer is that you view both of these brands negatively, given that both brands were associated with a healthy percentage of the positive words, it may also suggest there is a polarizing (love ’em or hate ’em) nature to both brands, which isn’t always a bad thing.

While the overall percentage of responses wasn’t as high, results for both Wilson and Tour Edge suggest a negative overall view. That’s not great news for either, but given the relatively low percentage of the total vote, I’d be remiss not to point out that a good bit of the difference can be attributed to just a couple of the words in this survey that triggered a disproportional percentage of negative responses.

Of the balanced brands, Callaway received the highest percentage of total selections. While we might expect a more favorable overall view of the industry leader, there’s always some animosity towards those on top (ask me how I feel about the grossly overrated New England Patriots and their propensity for leading the league in cheating every season), so I don’t think this is a huge surprise. That it’s viewed in a significantly more favorable and a significantly less negative light that its closest competitor is a positive for sure.

I’d be interested to hear your takeaway, but my thinking is that a comparatively small, slightly favorable, but mostly balanced percentages for Cobra, Bridgestone, and Srixon/Cleveland suggest a degree of indifference. They’re not on the bottom of your list, but they’re not exactly at the top either. What that means for the longterm, I don’t know, but with a largely stagnant market coupled with more aggressive competitors, it’s certainly not a good thing. Indifference seldom is.

Finally, in what I regard as a general positive for the equipment industry, you chose the None of the Above option at a significantly higher rate for the negative words than you did for the positive. For most of you, there was almost always a brand you associated with good things, but not always a brand you associated with the bad. Ever the optimist (that’s a lie), I take that to mean you have a generally favorable view of the brands that make the equipment you use to play this wonderfully frustrating game.

Have Your Say

What do you make of the results? Be sure to share your thoughts below, and if you have any ideas for future surveys, please share those as well.