NORTHBROOK, Ill. — Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has released the 2012 findings of its annual global study, The Product Mindset, which examines manufacturer and consumer perceptions about how products are made, sold, bought and consumed. This year's findings, culled from interviews with manufacturers and consumers in the United States, China, Germany, and India, show high expectations about quality and safety. Although not ranked as high, the environment is also important.

Some highlights of the study include:

• Consumers feel manufacturers need to continue to improve product quality. When asked the top two areas manufacturers should prioritize for improvement, consumers selected product quality as their first choice across all product categories. The No. 2 priority differs by category, but in each case it is rated as needing improvement to a significantly lesser degree than does product quality.

• Consumers express only tepid agreement that product quality is better today than it was five years ago. The mean ratings (i.e., the average rating on a 10-point scale) show that consumers believe that product quality has improved in the past year. However, the 2012 ratings, which range from 6.2 to 6.9, represent only a moderate level of agreement — significantly below the 8.0 to 10.0 average that would constitute strong agreement.

• To manufacturers, product quality is the most important driver of success today. Ninety percent of manufacturers strongly agree that product quality is the most important consideration impacting their ability to compete in the marketplace. The importance of quality is significantly higher than that of every other consideration, although reliability, performance, and safety are rated as very important as well. Across both countries and industries, manufacturers view quality as their most important driver of success.

• Manufacturers think quality is most important to consumers. By a 2:1 margin over the next leading issue, manufacturers believe that quality is what consumers care about most. This is true across all geographies and industries. Almost three times as many manufacturers believe consumers care most about quality compared with the percentage who believe that innovation is most important to consumers.

• Consumers primarily make purchase decisions based on quality. Quality is the No. 1 reason cited by consumers to explain why they select the products they buy across all categories surveyed. This finding may suggest that consumers have become more savvy and they purchase based on perceived value.

• Consumers think manufacturers should prioritize product safety. Across all industries surveyed, almost 20 percent of consumers rate safety as the product improvement that should be most prioritized by manufacturers. This makes safety the second most important issue to consumers — behind only quality — and more important than improving environmental friendliness, innovation, or design aesthetics.

• Being environmentally friendly is important, but it is not generally the most important purchase driver for consumers. While the environment has advanced, it is still not as important a driver as quality or safety to consumers.

• At the same time, consumers continue to believe that manufacturers are not prioritizing the environment enough. As in 2011, across all product categories almost half of the consumers do not feel that manufacturers take adequate steps to ensure that environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures have been followed or prioritize creating environmentally friendly products.

To get a copy of the full study, visit

Publication date: 1/7/2012