Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The House Doesn’t Always Win, But Brand Does

 If you’ve turned into a news junkie since our most recent Presidential election, you probably noticed Las Vegas billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn stepped down from his post as Republican National Committee finance chairman, a job for which he was handpicked by President Trump.

Wynn created some landmark Las Vegas playgrounds including the Bellagio, the Mirage, and Treasure Island that have become brands unto themselves.

But after dozens of women accused him of decades of sexual harassment, the company’s stock tumbled. He resigned from the RNC and as CEO of Wynn Resorts. From a business and political perspective it seems like the thing to have done. I mention that because questions have been raised as to whether the recent allegations have hurt Mr. Wynn’s “brand.”

The answers is “no.” Calling someone who happens to be famous (or in this instance, infamous) a “brand” is a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Wynn has a reputation he should be concerned about – clearly investors are – but he isn’t a brand, he’s a “founder.” Of – up til now – a very successful company but he’s not the brand. The hotels – now they’re the brands.

Las Vegas, where most of his hotels are located, now there’s a brand! And within the context of “brand,” Las Vegas is the “what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas” of brands!

Psychologists would suggest the concept of Las Vegas represents “freedom” for consumers that they won’t find elsewhere. And while the city has looked to create family-friendly zones, Disneyland it ain't! It’s booze and broads. It’s Sinatra and the Rat Pack. It’s the embodiment of the 1977 song “Sex and Drugs, and Rock and Roll.” And gambling. And chorus lines of scantily clad (and unclad) women. It’s hedonism and eroticism and simultaneously a pretext and justification for bad behavior. So what works for the Las Vegas brand, doesn’t work for Mr. Wynn. His business partners may now question his judgment and trustworthiness, but that’s “reputation,” not “brand.”

Because the reality is not everything you know is a “brand.”

And to be crystal clear, “harassment,” bad, fantasy and dreams, good.

For some additional perspectives we invite you to read Janet Morrissey’s New York Times column, “Steve Wynn’s Tarnished Name and Now a Tarnished Brand.”

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Politics And Hashtags Make For Strange Brand Bedfellows

As it’s President’s Day, it seemed appropriate to note how much Political Polarization and Tribalism and more fervent Social Activism Movements like #grabyourwallet, #MeToo, and #TimesUp have changed the face of brand engagement and consumer loyalty.

We noted these value shifts when examining the results of our Brand Keys 23rd annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. It turns out this is the first time since the Index was initiated nearly 25 years ago where basic tenets of consumer loyalty and engagement have been turned upside-down.

2018 winners included brands that maintained their category dominance: AT&T, Discover, Dunkin, Domino’s, Amazon, AVIS, Konica-Minolta and Hyundai.

New engagement opportunities were created for brands like Dropbox, WhatsApp, FOX, Dollar General, Spotify, Jack Daniels, Bugles, Instagram, Chapstick, and MSNBC.

This year the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index examined 84 categories and 761 brands – from Automotive and OTC Allergy Medications to Computers, Fast-Casual Dining, Tax Preparation and Online Investing, Retail (of all types), Smartphones, Cable and Broadcast News, and Alcoholic Beverages, and a complete list of the Customer Loyalty Engagement Index’s 84 categories and winners can be found here.

How consumers view a category and how they will compare brands competing in that category changed dramatically in 94% of the categories tracked. That shift resulted in a brand engagement and loyalty transformations and an accompanying shift in brand leadership in 58% of the categories.

This year the top 5 sectors that showed the largest, overall shifts in category values and path-to-purchase dynamics were:
  1. Instant Messaging
  2. Retail
  3. Broadcast and Cable News
  4. Online Investing
  5. Social Networking
“Brand engagement” is still best defined as how well a brand meets the expectations consumers hold for the values that drive purchase behavior in a given category. But category political polarization and social activism have shaken those values to their core. If marketers think they knew what consumers’ “Category Ideals” looked like before, they need to take another hard look, because as of now consumers have an entirely new-view of what the is Ideal for them.

If marketers want their brands to succeed, knowing what’s Ideal from the consumer perspective is going to be a critical first step. More social networking isn’t going to cut it!

Survey Methodology

For the 2018 CLEI survey, 50,527 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers. Fifty (50%) percent were interviewed by phone, thirty-five (35%) percent via face-to-face interviews (to identify and include cell phone-only households), and 15% online.

Brand Keys uses an independently-validated research methodology that fuses emotional and rational aspects of the categories, identifies four path-to-purchase behavioral drivers for the category-specific ‘Ideal,’ and identifies the values that form the components of each driver. These assessments are leading-indicators of consumer behavior, identifying such activities 12 to 18 months before they show up in traditional brand tracking or are articulated in focus groups.

The assessments measure how well brands meet expectations that consumers hold for each path-to-purchase driver. The research technique is a combination of psychological inquiry and statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and produces results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Brands Face Loyalty and Engagement Shifts

This month we spoke to 50,527 consumers. They were 16 to 65 years of age. They were from all over the United States (9 U.S. Census Regions).

They evaluated 761 brands in 84 categories. We used emotional measures and some really neat, higher-order statistical analyses. So a big sample, a lot of brands, and quantitative, reliable, and generalizable metrics.

Here’s the bottom line: Values that drive loyalty and engagement have shifted.  Big time! Big enough so that it is going to change how you’ll have to market your brand in the future.

Some value shifts were due to Political Tribalism. Others were due to Social Activism. As you might expect, different categories reacted differently to different values.

If you’d like to see which ones reacted to what, there’s a deep-dive here.

If you want to see which were 2018’s leading brands, go here.

For a deeper-dive, here’s a link to Tanya Gazdik’s Marketing Daily article “Brands FaceLoyalty, Engagement Shifts.”

Give it a read. It will take you less than 3 minutes.

Your brand will thank you.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Why NFL TV Ratings Are Down & Other Predictive Brand Stories

Last March we released our 2017 Sports Loyalty Index. According to nearly 18,000 fans, Major League Baseball was rated #1 for fan loyalty and brand engagement for the first time in a decade. They beat out the NFL, perennially Major League’s Sports’ loyalty leader. The NFL ended up being ranked #3.

Brand pride and league-denial notwithstanding, those rankings are precursors of consumer behavior, are always highly predictive, and for Major League Sports, are leading-indicators of TV viewership.

Because that’s the case, we thought you might be interested to know that the Brand Keys 9th annual audio series, “What Happened? Successful Strategies, Marketing Misdeeds, and the Brands That Loved Them!” – predictions of brand, marketing, and advertising successes and failures – has just been posted at

We launched this series almost a decade ago when it became clear that brand engagement was a powerful planning tool and that making predictions had become more popular pastime than providing actual proof of their accuracy. Very few researchers put their predictions to a test – then or now – until they turn out to be wrong. Then the post mortems, finger pointing, and rationalizations begin.

So again, as a cautionary tale, we’ve posted stories about what we publicly predicted and published – and what really happened. Independently validated, emotionally-based measures that showed what was going to happen to brands in the real marketplace!

This year, in addition to that, we pose two questions: 1) If traditional survey-based research predictions are so good, why are brands unable to avoid messy marketing failures? And 2) Why doesn’t the research match up with actual market results?” Give those two questions a ‘think.’
While you do, you might be interested in listening to brand storytelling about:
  1. The Marketplace of Everything (Amazon)
  2. Brewed Awakenings (Beer)
  3. Brand Trump (Ivanka, this year)
  4. Building the Perfect Burger
  5. Driving Profitability (Lyft vs. Uber)
  6. Is it Love, or Food Poisoning? (Chipotle)
  7. Who Killed Retail?
  8. #Millennialslovebrands
  9. America’s Most Patriotic Brands
  10. Making A Splash in the Video Stream. (Netflix)
  11. A Big Slice of Heaven (Pizza!)
  12. Trends for 2018
Feel free to pass this link along to your colleagues because, while we hope these recordings will entertain, we also hope they just might change your perspective about what predictive research metrics should deliver. And if nothing else, we hope they’ll inspire you to demand a bit more prediction from your brand research.

Oh, and what happened to the NFL?

The decline in their TV ratings accelerated in the regular 2017 schedule. Their average audience down nearly 10% a steeper decline than the 8% viewership erosion in the 2016 season.

Lots of League, TV, and research executives have offered up explanations for the NFL’s continued decline. But what it all comes down to is “engagement.” When brand engagement deteriorates, behavior declines, and when consumers don’t act positively toward your brand, well, you get the point.

As always, we hope these real-world examples and our annual recordings encourage you to ask the ultimate question about your own market and brand initiatives – “What happened?

Brand Keys is always available to help provide some predictive answers to that question for your brand.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Economics of Branding

At Brand Keys we specialize in predictive loyalty and emotional brand engagement metrics.

Real loyalty is more than satisfaction or awareness or a willingness to recommend. It’s more than tweets, likes, or shares. Real loyalty is much more, and much more valuable. Loyalty and brand engagement all link to positive consumer behavior toward a brand.

Axiomatically, the better the behavior, the better a brand does in the marketplace and the better the brand’s bottom line. Increase engagement and you increase loyalty. Our findings correlate with positive consumer behavior at levels of 0.85 or higher. If that doesn’t convince you, maybe some hard economic facts of brand life will:
  • It costs 10 to 12 times more to recruit a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • An increase in customer loyalty of only 7% can lift lifetime profits per customer by as much as 90% depending upon the sector, an increase in loyalty of just 3% can be the equivalent of a 10% across-the-board cost reduction program.

Our approach has been independently validated, with a basic survey identifying the following 12 to 18 months ahead of traditional research:
  • What drives loyalty and engagement in your category,
  • Which category and consumer values make the greatest contributions to consumer behavior,
  • What consumers really expect from your brand, and, perhaps most importantly,
  • A precise identification of how well your brand is seen to meet those expectations. 

For more information about our correlated-to-behavior, emotionally-based, and independently-validated brand insights, and to find out if your brand is or can be included in Brand Keys 2018 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, give Leigh Benatar a call (212-532-6028) or send him an email ( He can answer any questions about how you can increase your brand’s bottom line in 2018.