The Most Desired Brands of 2012

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- The emotional connection between brands and consumers has an immeasurable impact on what people buy and how they perceive the company that produces that brand.

"If I really, really love Apple ( AAPL), then everything Apple does I will react to more positively because it's passing through this filter," says Gary Singer, the CEO of Buyology, a neuro-insight firm.
The only category in which men and women had the same top three brands in the same order was in finance, with Visa listed ahead of American Express and Mastercard, according to a Buyology and uSamp survey.

It's that "filter" that interests Singer and prompted Buyology to survey 4,000 Americans with research company uSamp using a unique scientific methodology to determine which of among 240 popular brands were the most desired by consumers.

"What we're really doing is scientifically measuring what is the strength of the connection with brands," he says.

As part of the survey, respondents would look at images such as a polar bear and be shown pictures of two brands such as Coca-Cola ( KO) and Southwest Airlines ( LUV). The respondent would be asked to select quickly which brand he or she associated with the polar bear picture. Singer says this method allows Buyology and uSamp to measure how deeply felt the connection is between brand and consumer based on how quickly they respond.

So here are the most desired brands in America, broken down by industry and ranked based on which brands had the most positive reaction from men and women.

The most desired consumer/personal goods brands
For men: 1. Dove; 2. Febreze; 3. Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ)
For women: 1. Dove; 2. Neutrogena; 3. Crest
Dove ( UL) was the top personal goods brand for men and women, a fact that surprised even Singer until he learned that the Dove for Men line is a favorite among his male co-workers.

Febreze's spot on the list was another point of interest. Singer says it's because this brand is what he calls a "facilitator."

"For single men, Febreze ( PG) is almost like Axe body spray for the home," he joked, adding that it facilitates a clean home that would impress female guests.

The most desired electronics brands
For men: 1. Sharp; 2. Canon ( CAJ); 3. Sony
For women: 1. Sony; 2. Nokia; 3. Phillips
"Of all the categories, electronics is probably the most broad," Singer admits. This may account for the fact men and women agreed only on Sony ( SNE) as a desirable brand.

Singer also was surprised by Nokia's ( NOK) placement on the list, since the company has struggled somewhat in recent years. But Singer says this is a hopeful sign for the company, in which women must see a "latent brand value."

The most desired auto brands
For men: 1. Cadillac; 2. BMW; 3. Porsche
For women: 1. Lexus; 2. Mercedes; 3. BMW
The most desired auto brand among men -- Cadillac ( GM) -- ranked highly because of one product, Singer says: the Escalade. The move by Cadillac to make the Escalade a signature product has increased the "masculine appeal" of the brand, he says.

Meanwhile, Lexus ( TM) ranked highly among women due to its attempt at providing an all-around great customer service experience.

"It's really this notion of a car designed for you," Singer says.

Mercedes and Lexus push a comfortable, more driver-focused experience, and that's what Singer says women are responding to.

The most desired financial brands
For men: 1. Visa; 2. American Express; 3. MasterCard
For women: 1. Visa; 2. American Express; 3. MasterCard
Though men and women may often spend and save differently, they are on the same page when it comes to the most desirable financial brands.

The groups agreed Visa ( V) was the most-desired brand, followed by American Express ( AXP) in the second spot and MasterCard ( MA) in third. This was the only category in which men and women had the same top three brands in the same order.

The most desired airline brands
For men: 1. Southwest
For women: 1. Southwest
Only the top most-desired airline brand for men and women was provided by Buyology. Southwest has gone so far as to name its stock "LUV" to create an image of friendliness -- and that's why Singer says this brand has made a mark with consumers.

"Southwest is increasingly distinct in the airline business," Singer says. The airline's business model, which doesn't rely as heavily on baggage fees as its competitors, appeals to men and women simply because it stands apart from the pack.

The most desired retail brands
For men: 1. Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY); 2. Macy's ( M); 3. Target ( TGT)
For women: 1. Kohl's; 2. Target; 3. Bed Bath & Beyond
Singer believes it's the diversity, quality and value of the Kohl's ( KSS) shopping experience that makes it the most desired retail brand for women.

"What people are responding to in Kohl's is an ongoing treasure hunt," he says. "That's a very powerfully interactive experience with the retailer."

The constantly changing inventory and the adventure of deal-hunting is why women return to the store over and over again, Singer says.

The most desired tech brands
For men: 1. Apple; 2. Google; 3. Microsoft
For women: 1. Google; 2. Amazon ( AMZN); 3. Apple
Apple, one of the most valuable brands according to a recent study by Interbrand, appears as a most-desired brand for men and women. The tech giant recently reached a market value larger than Google ( GOOG) and Microsoft ( MSFT) combined, even amid a consumer backlash over reports of less-than-ideal working conditions in the factories that make Apple products.

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