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You know the name, how's the product?

If you are over 35, you may remember a little song you used to hear on television. It began, "Soup and sandwich, soup and sandwich" and usually it was accompanied by images of children coming into a cozy home from the cold outdoors and sitting down to a steaming bowl of soup. There was a smiling, solicitous mother-type there, too. It was a Campbell soup commercial. It was shown a lot around lunch time, just when children all over America were sitting at the lunch table patching together words and sentences from the letters in their bowls of alphabet soup.

The commercial was designed to elicit warm feelings in people who saw it. Apparently it and subsequent Campbell commercials (including the "M'm! M'm! Good!" series that recently returned to television) were quite successful.

A recent study found that Campbell soup is the most recognized name-brand product in the nation. That should be good news to the executives of the troubled 120-year-old New Jersey company, which has been restructuring, laying off workers and coping with a squabble among filthy-rich descendants of the founding family that is worthy of a Falcon Crest segment.

Total Research Corp., a market research firm, surveyed people in 1,000 households to discover their feelings toward 91 brands of consumer products. The firm wanted to know which products had the most recognizable name, which products had the highest perceived quality ratings and which products elicited the most satisfaction from those who used them.

Ninety-eight percent of those questioned recognized the Campbell soup name. Tied for second place with a 97 percent rating on the recognition scale were McDonald's and _ this one surprised me _ Hallmark greeting cards.

Both Coke and Pepsi ranked in the top 10 of most-recognized brand names. But when the research firm asked consumers to give them a quality rating, Pepsi drinkers gave Pepsi an 88, while Coke drinkers gave Coke only an 85. The Pepsi generation apparently is more content with its beverage.

Is there a lingering feeling in America that Japanese products are inferior to American-made goods? Maybe. This study and others have shown that Toyota owners love their cars and are extremely loyal to the brand. But Americans think Buick offers higher quality, according to the survey.

Other brands that got high quality ratings were Mercedes, Kodak, IBM computers, Levi's, Fisher-Price toys and Hallmark.

Karl Malden may have an ugly nose, but he must look like a class act. Total Research Corp. expects American Express credit cards to grow in popularity because users of the cards rated them even higher in quality than those people who knew about the cards only because they had seen rosy commercial claims. Other products in the same category were Volvo, Fuji film, Estee Lauder cosmetics and the ESPN sports cable channel.

Even users of Advil, a brand of the painkiller ibuprofen, were extremely pleased with the product. Apparently the recent news that two studies have linked use of ibuprofen to long-term health problems such as kidney failure hasn't hurt the product.

The survey had bad news for some companies. Total Research said some of the brands showed the symptoms of a declining product: widely recognized, but only average in perceived quality and in the cellar in terms of user satisfaction. Sears stores, Holiday Inns and Schick razors were in that category.

So was Kellogg's corn flakes, a product that has weathered almost a century. The Kellogg's people should have expected it. Today's Americans are easily bored. Their lives have become a quest for stimulation.

That means that at the breakfast table, mush is out. No more soggy flakes floating in a bowl of milk. Crunch is the wave of the future.

Diane Steinle is editor of editorials for the North Pinellas editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

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