Sunday, April 08, 2018

Why Retail is So Hard

You'd think that between the Internet, pricing apps, fast-fashion, and just-plain smarter consumers, Retail would have enough to deal with.

But no, it’s never that simple. Just when a sector thinks they have it figured out, another paradigm shifts and you have to start all over.

Happily, emotional engagement metrics can help to identify shifting category values 12 to 18 months ahead of traditional research. Retail being no exception.

What new value-based barricades does Retail have to storm now?

For an answer we invite you to read, Total Retail’s “How Politicsand Hashtags Changed the Face of Retail.”

We also think you’ll enjoy one of our What Happened? recordings, “Who Killed Retail?” The insights were based on predictive, emotional engagement measures. The outcomes? Well, let’s just say not every brands pays attention to important and shifting values.

If it helps, think of emotional engagement like a predictive tracking system for your category. 

Because values like these should always be on your brand's radar.


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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Are Demographics Dead?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “demographics” as the statistical characteristics of populations, such as age, gender, education, and income to identify markets.

They’re still very useful. Particularly for media targeting, but not so much for marketing any more.

A lot of marketers seem to think that if you get someone to engage with your brand at the start of their consumer lifecycle ­– barring some sort of brand or marketing disaster – you’ll keep them forever.

But that theory no longer works. Certainly not as well as it did 40 years ago. Or even 20 years ago.

Communication, customization, and context have changed the way consumers interact with brands. Their attitudes toward brands have changed. Their access to brands has changed. How consumers behave toward brands has changed. Hell, everything you knew has changed.

Well, everything but emotional engagement. That’s only gotten more important. Consumers respond more to the emotional than the rational and using emotional engagement to “define” audiences has been proven to boost brand consideration, ad effectiveness, and sales.

Want to see how?

We invite you to read a new study published in AdmapDefiningAudiences in the Fast Casual Category,” that shows how advertisers can more successfully segment audiences via emotional engagement and create more effective advertising. In most categories, up to six times more effective!

Unilever CMO Keith Weed recently called for brands to market “in segments of one.”

That one most important segment?

Emotional brand engagement.


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

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Sometimes the Business of Brands Is Just Business

We’re pretty proud of our ability to identify what consumers really expect from brands.

More than a year before Amazon bought Whole Foods our brand assessments identified an area of opportunity for them: groceries. So QED. If you want to hear what we said (and why) give listen to “The Marketplace of Everything” here

But now Amazon is considering offering a checking account-like product for younger customers who currently don’t patronize traditional banks. And that’s pretty much a business decision. Smart, but more “business” than “brand.”

As big as Amazon is, they still have to pay fees for credit card purchases and bank charges, and a closer financial relationship with customers could help save Amazon big bucks. So, a bottom-line decision. It’s likely to be a partnership with an already-established bank, since the undertaking to become an actual bank would be difficult – even for a company as big as Amazon.

So great brand, with great business sense. It helps to have the financial wherewithal to deliver pretty much anything the consumer expects, but it also helps if you have a brand consumers are willing to engage with.

With engagement levels that guarantee that in virtually any category you’d care to name!


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

Thursday, March 01, 2018

What’s The Price Of An AR-15 To A Brand?

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it was ending sales of assault-style rifles in its stores and websites and they would no longer sell high-capacity magazines or sell guns to anyone under the age of 21, regardless of local laws.

Dick’s is deliberately positioning the brand in, what the company called “common sense gun reform.” That means raise the minimum age for gun purchases, ban bump stocks and assault weapons and conduct better and broader universal background checks.

According to the 2018 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty and Engagement Index, one of the critical Sporting Goods emotional category values is “family friendly.” So Dick’s figures to benefit mightily from being seen as more family friendly for two reasons.

First, the majority of sports retail sales have to do with, well, family sports. Things like soccer balls and cleats. Athletic shoes, footballs, basketballs, baseball bats, tennis rackets, golf clubs and ping pong paddles. Second, since real gun-involved consumers probably aren’t buying guns from national sporting goods retailers, Dicks is seen as reacting positively to recent tragic events in Florida.

On the more rational side of things, Dick’s discovered it had legally sold a gun to Nikolas Cruz, the accused Parkland shooter, though not a gun used in the Florida school shootings, and decided public safety was more important than gun-sale profits. And, really, really bad PR. So the brand supports the 2nd Amendment but continues to sell sport and hunting firearms.

The debate has moved beyond sporting goods retailers. Brands like Delta and United Airlines, Best Western and MetLife, along with dozens of others, have decided to end benefits and promotions offered to NRA members.

The NRA has slammed companies that have been cutting ties with the group, calling it a "shameful" move. "The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparedness, the failure of America’s mental health system, the failure of the National Instant Check System or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement."

But promotional associations are a co-branding exercise, which reinforces values of one or the other of the partner brands. And whether the NRA position has some validity, what brand wants to be associated with the deaths of children? Generally speaking, brands should be concentrating on category values that engage consumers – not disengage them. Political polarization and more fervent social movements like #grabyourwallet and #MeToo have coalesced to change the face of brand engagement and consumer loyalty.

That being the case, now the question for all brands is, “How well can you position yourself so that you’re being viewed as honest and supportive of what is clearly a national crisis and not appear to walk away from the Second Amendment?”

Brands that don’t have the right answer to that question will pay for it dearly.


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

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: brandkeys.com. 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: brandkeys.com. 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: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.