Rebranding E.F. Hutton – Consumers Weigh In

The E.F. Hutton brand is making a comeback after more than twenty years of obscurity. In 2012, do consumers remember the E.F. Hutton brand? Do they care about it? AYTM conducted a consumer panel market research survey to learn how consumers feel about the E.F. Hutton brand (if they remember it) and what challenges and opportunities the rebranding effort faces.

EF Hutton

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At first glance, the survey results are not surprising, but the closer you look, the more interesting the data gets.

The E.F. Hutton brand was dropped in 1990, so it can be assumed that anyone who was 10 years old or younger in 1990 would be unlikely to remember the brand. This is a generation of consumers that didn’t grow up with the popular, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” slogan and the campy commercials that made the brand a household name (as well as fodder for comedians).

With that in mind, learning that only 51% of respondents to the AYTM survey had heard of the E.F. Hutton brand is not shocking. When you delve a bit deeper into the data, the percentage of people who remember the brand decreases as respondents’ ages go down. Here are the stats:

Have you ever heard of E.F. Hutton?

  • 40 years and older = 78.9% YES, 21.1% NO
  • 30-39 years old = 26% YES, 74% NO
  • 18-29 years old = 12% YES, 88% NO

Only respondents who identified that they had heard of E.F. Hutton were asked the remaining survey questions, so the following data refers only to respondents who were familiar with the E.F. Hutton name.

When respondents were asked what type of business E.F. Hutton was in, the number correctly identifying “Investments/brokerage firm” decreased as age went down. However, even among the 40 years and older respondent segment, 16% of respondents did not know the type of business E.F. Hutton was in.

On the other hand, even though respondents didn’t necessarily know what business E.F. Hutton was in, they were overwhelmingly familiar with the E.F. Hutton slogan, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” While 94% of respondents over the age of 40 remember the slogan, 87% of respondents between the ages of 30-39 and 73% of respondents between the ages of 18-29 remember it.

Another particularly interesting finding from the survey is the fact that most people have no idea that the E.F. Hutton brand was dropped in 1990. 90% of people over the age of 40, 77% of people between the ages of 30-39, and 67% of people between the ages of 18-29 did not know the E.F. Hutton name was dropped more than 20 years ago.

Now for the really interesting part. Survey respondents were asked if they would do business with E.F. Hutton if the brand were revived. Of the age 40+ audience, 70% would at least consider it while 92% of 30-39 year olds would consider it and 93% of 18-29 year olds would consider doing business with E.F. Hutton.

Therefore, despite not being as familiar with the brand, more people from the younger audience segments would be willing to do business with E.F. Hutton in the future. This leads us to believe that although the E.F. Hutton brand is memorable and holds some brand equity, that memorability and equity might not be as helpful to E.F. Hutton as the group behind the brand resurrection hope. In other words, there is work to be done to successfully revive this brand.

When asked to describe what the E.F. Hutton brand means to them, respondents offered a few consistent responses:

  • Nothing
  • Experienced, knowledgeable, and trustworthy
  • Nostalgic memory (both positive and negative — “when times were better” vs. “a thing of the past”)

You can view the complete survey results in the widget below (click “Open Full Report” to see all the chart and filter options):

So what’s next for the E.F. Hutton rebranding? It’s safe to say that there are two very different audiences for the E.F. Hutton brand — those that remember it from over 20 years ago and those that don’t remember it at all. Even among the younger audience segments that recall the brand, their view of it is very different from the perceptions held by older audience segments.

These differences offer both opportunities and challenges to E.F. Hutton. The company needs to find a way to appeal to a broader audience than the segment that recalls the brand (particularly since the perception of the brand among members of the older demographic isn’t entirely positive). It’s critical that the company finds the right balance between nostalgic memories and the wants and needs of a new generation of E.F. Hutton consumers who don’t know and don’t necessarily care about what E.F. Hutton meant over 20 years ago.

It’s safe to say that more brand research is needed to develop the right messages and image for E.F. Hutton in 2012 and beyond.

Image: Wikipedia

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.
  • Rclemmer

    Print what you want, as long as you spell my name right. – HL Mencken

    These guys are starting from way ahead of the game on recognition factors alone.  No small advantage in a noisy, crowded marketing landscape.