Lenovo's brand 'buzz' score takes hit after Superfish crapware flap

Lenovo's "brand buzz" rating fell by half after reports surfaced that it had pre-loaded hacker-vulnerable adware onto consumer PCs, a brand quality measurement firm said today.

Lenovo's "brand buzz" rating fell by half since news broke last week that it had pre-loaded hacker-vulnerable adware onto consumer PCs, according to a brand quality measurement firm.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, which regularly polls US adults on what they've recently heard about hundreds of brands, Lenovo's Buzz score fell by half on February 20.

"Lenovo took a small but sharp drop in Buzz ... from a 4 to 2, which is cutting it in half," said Drew Kerr, a spokesman for YouGov BrandIndex.

To measure brand perception, BrandIndex asks, "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?" BrandIndex then subtracts the negative feedback from the positive feedback to come up with a score.

Lenovo's score of 4 before the Superfish adware exploded in the China-based computer maker's face, said Kerr, reflected its low brand recognition among Americans. "That shows me that they are not a heavily discussed brand," said Kerr in an email reply to questions.

Superfish Visual Discovery, the adware Lenovo loaded onto new consumer PCs from September through December 2014, was blasted by security experts who discovered that the software left a gaping hole in the company's computers. Once the password to a self-signed digital certificate used by Superfish went public -- which quickly happened last week -- hackers were handed a way to intercept and steal critical information, including passwords.

Those security experts called on Lenovo to stop loading third-party software on their machines. Such software, often dubbed "bloatware," "crapware" or "junkware," is added to PCs at the factory for financial reasons: Computer makers receive payments from software vendors who want to get their programs in front of users, and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) take a cut of fees users pay to extend the trial periods of pre-installed programs that come with expiration dates.

Ken Westin, a security analyst with Tripwire, predicted last week that Lenovo would take a hit from the Superfish fiasco. "We need to be able to trust our brands," said Westin in an interview. "But that's very difficult here. When they pull this kind of stuff, I know I don't want to buy a Lenovo."

BrandIndex said that Lenovo's future sales may be affected.

"They also took a really small downturn in their purchase consideration," said Kerr. "During the same time frame, Lenovo went from an 8 per cent chance a consumer would consider buying computer equipment from them the next time they were in the market, to a current 7 per cent."

Although Lenovo was the world's largest PC maker in the fourth quarter of 2014 by researcher IDC's count, it was only fourth in the U.S. market, behind Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple.

HP's Buzz score was 12, said Kerr, and its purchase consideration stood at 32%.

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