Sunday, November 04, 2018

Brand Research and the New Face of Patriotism

Given the extraordinary degree of political enmity in the United States and the upcoming midterm elections, it seemed an apt time to revisit a survey analysis we cautioned brands (and tangentially, voters) about 2 years ago. 

It was based on our Brand Keys predictive emotional engagement metrics and how consumers looked at brands when it came to the value of “patriotism.” 

The study was conducted in July 2016 in our 15thannual survey of iconic American brands revealing what drove “patriotism” when it came to brands. It was about how the drivers of loyalty and engagement had changed over the past half-decade, with a not-so-subtle move toward what might more correctly be defined as “nationalism.”

Here’s part of what we wrote at the time:

“Patriotism” is pride. Pride in one’s country and a willingness to defend it. Pride in what a brand stands for. It’s courage, it’s freedom of speech, it is liberty. It is ultimately a set of values people admire and brands can use to better position themselves.

“Nationalism,” on the other hand, has become the belief in the superiority of one country over another and its usual form is aggression, hostility, and belligerence. For brands it has become, more-often-than-not, whothe brand represents. It’s the Bizarro world of patriotism. It’s mean and it’s small. It pits citizen against citizen, black against white, Christians against Muslims. Patriotism is rooted in unity and values. Nationalism is rooted in rivalry and odium, and usually results in violence. 


  • What was once “Pride” has moved closer to “Self-Importance”
  • What was unquestioned “Inclusion” has shifted to “Marginalization”
  • “Courage” has morphed to “Convenience”
  • “Freedom” has actually become the vice of “Extremism”

BOTTOM LINE WARNING TO BOTH BRANDS AND POLITICIANS:To no small degree, shifts in the drivers of patriotism have dramatically changed how consumers look at brands.

Playing the nationalism card works only with a very, very small percent of any population. Smart brands will know what consumers are willing to believe about them and will leverage the hell out of that. They end up winners. The less smart brands won’t know the difference. Oh, and there's a big difference between being patriotic and being political, another thing the American consumer is on to. 

Patriotism isn’t a campaign. It isn’t changing the name of your brand to “America.” It’s not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion – with or without flags. Those are more promotional than patriotic and – more-the-pity for brands – consumers know it. They can feel it!

Real patriotism is the quiet and steady dedication of a lifetime’s work – whether you’re speaking of a brand or about a person. Some approaches can be categorized as “liberal,” and others “conservative,” but perhaps Mark Twain’s definition is the way to go; “Patriotism is support for your country all the time – and the government when it deserves it,” a sentiment that pertains to both brands and politicians.

And if you can configure an important value – whether for a brand campaign or a political campaign into something emotional and believable, consumers (and voters) will not only stand up and salute, they’ll buy whatever it is you’re selling!




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, October 29, 2018

Trump Brand Update

The Trump brand has changed. Radically.

Five years ago the fabulously successful lifestyle brand made a sharp right turn away from the promise of luxury, high living, extravagance, and indulgence and turned into a political brand. Now the Trump brand’s values of conservatism, authoritarianism, social dominance, and nationalism resonate.

There’s no political or tribal bias to that observation. 

After tracking the brand for more than 30 years, it’s just a fact of brand-life. The Trump brand has fundamentally changed. It wasn’t overnight or even in a year. It took 58 months, but that’s the way it happens, especially with human brands with entrenched values.

Gone are the high-end steaks, flashy jewelry, and expensive suits and ties, replaced by political rhetoric and MAGA hats (in classic red andcamo), t-shirts, teddy bears, and dog toys, all appropriately priced for a middle class audience. The “Entertainment” portion of the brand gets buttressed every day!

To be fair, categories like “Country Clubs” and “Hotels” are still doing OK monetized more by political push and potential Presidential access than brand pull. No, now when it comes to the new Trump brand-version of hotels, it’s a mid-scale, patriotically-themed chain called, “American IDEA.” 

The times – and the brand – have changed. And whether you see this as good or bad will depend entirely upon your political affiliation, brand acumen, and self-image. And contrary to Kellyanne Conway, facts arefacts especially when it comes to brands.

Based on the emotional brand engagement assessments of 1,500 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, we invite you review our new Trump brand survey results here


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.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Politics of Actually Selling Something to Consumers

Yes, yes, tweets are terrific and social networking is swell, but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. 

You need to get consumers to purchase your products or services, and not your competitor’s. You need to make profits.

Back in January we warned brands that Political Tribalism and Social Activism had shifted the way consumers were acting – and were going to act – in the real-world marketplace. It was all dependent upon your brand, the category in which you compete, and leveraging the proper values in your marketing.

So with the mid-term elections coming up, we thought you might find our Quirk’sarticle, “When the Path-to-Purchase Turns Political” of some marketing, research, andfiscal currency.

Today, political marketing plays to people’s emotions. Successful brand marketing should too. Emotional brand engagement metrics are reliable, predictive, and both effective andcost-effective.

Because in addition to wanting consumers to “vote” for your brand in the social space you want them actually buying your brand in the marketplace.


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, October 15, 2018

Do No Evil. Unless You Have A Really Good Reason. Then Feel Free!

  1. YouTube
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Reddit
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Snapchat
  8. Pinterest
  9. Yelp
  10. Tumblr

Those are the top-10 social networking sites ranked by users in this year’s Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.

The full list contains 20 brands, but even if we listed all of them, Google+ wouldn’t be there. The incidence level of people using Google+ as their primary (or even secondary) social media site was so low they didn’t make the list in 2018.

Google+ launched in 2011 as a challenge to Facebook, but you needed a special invitation to join. By the time they decided to allow anyone to join, it was pretty much too late. So much for being social.

Earlier this year Google+ exposed a half-million users’ private data, but they didn’t bother to inform them. So much for “do no evil,” Google’s unofficial motto, which they replaced it in their Code of Conduct with “do the right thing,” and later added the evil stuff back in. 

BOTTOM LINE: Seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, Google is abandoning their consumer effort, shuttering the social media site.

At one point in time Google boasted Google+ had 300+ million members, but a lot of them weren’t active, just folks who clicked into the site by accident.

There’s no denying that Google is big. So big, they’ve apparently bought into the Field ofDreamscredo, “If you build it, they will come.” To be successful, the real trick in social media needs to be, “if you build it, nurture it, engage them, entertain them, and value them, they may come and stay.”

Oh, and also do no evil. 


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, October 08, 2018

A Brand Wrapped In Bankruptcy Inside An Enigma

The weekend of July 4thToys ‘R’ Us shut all 700 of their stores. They announced they were going to conduct a bankruptcy auction of its brand name, Babies R Us, and their website domains. They were betting their giraffe on it!

It turned out the auction bids they got were not deemed to be superior to a plan to revive the brand because auctioning them did not offer “probable economic recovery” to creditors or stakeholders. 

There’s equity in them thar brands, so the top lenders decided to cancel the bankruptcy auction and are going to maintain the brands as a new independent U.S. business. 

They plan to revive the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us brand names and run a branding company that will maintain existing global license agreements. Oh, and will invest and develop new retail shops.

BOTTOM LINE: As we’ve pointed out in the past, most of the time it is easier to take an old brand & leverage the values of the established brand rather than create a new brand with new brand values. 

Identifying new brand values is both difficult and painful. And most of the time isn’t as cost-effective as leveraging values consumers already value. Unless, of course, you have access to emotional engagement insights, which makes an often byzantine process more efficient and graceful.

Talking about developing new retail stores in any category complicates an already complex process, particularly when trying to revive a failing brand.

In this case, the enigma is that in the next few years nearly 85% the toys purchased will be sold online. So toy stores, not so much!

And while there’s a whole lot of shoppers out there who can still hum the “I’m A Toys R Us Kid,” tune, when they get to the line, “They got the best for so much less,” consumers are more likely than not going to flip their lids for likes of Amazon!


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.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Why Sears Sucks

This is not a customer complaint. Would that it were.

Sears’ same-store sales are down (again) nearly 16% this year, with total revenue down more than 25%. So anycustomer complaint would probably be welcome at this point. That would mean Sears still had enough customers so they could disappoint some!

No, the brand’s in trouble, facing what the company called, “Significant near-term liquidity constraints.” We’re not precisely sure what that means, but it sounds really bad.

Bad to the point where Sears asked lenders to exchange loans for equity stakes in the company, which assumes that Sears has an actual future in retailing. 

Our advice: DON’T DO IT!

Brand Keys has tracked Sears for nearly 40 years and can confidently say Sears‘ downfall has not been a triumph of e-commerce over bricks-and-mortar.

No, Sears suffers from a lack of meaning. The brand stands for nothing. There’s history. And the catalog, for those old enough to remember the catalog. And Craftsman tools, but shoppers are purchasing those on Amazon.

And although a validated process exists to measure, identify, and leverage meaning, the Sears brand continues to stand for nothing meaningful or emotional enough to engage customers. Or, at least, enough customers to be profitable.

What about your brand? Can you confidently say it incorporates meaningful, emotional values into its marketing and communications? Are they the right ones? Did you miss some? Are they the most leveragable values for creating profitable customer engagement? 

For a complimentary Meaning Diagnostic of your brand, call or write, Leigh Benatar at 212-532-6028 or leighb@brandkeys.com  

Because in today’s complex, socially-networked branding environment, being known isn’t the real challenge. 

Meaning something is.


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, September 27, 2018

No Need For Brands to Reinvent the Wheel. Or Predictive, Cross-Media ROI.

For many years, we’ve urged clients to trust predictive brand metrics. They work really, really well for brand and media planning.

Our media application, “Brand-to-Media-Engagement,” or B2ME, was created just as media planning was moving into the digital world, and that’s when “digital” pretty much translated to “banner ad.”

Well, no surprise, like the rest of the marketing world, planning for digital became more complex. So Brand Keys came up with some new approaches, which the ARF applied in their cross-media ROI work for the  “How Advertising Works, Today” initiative. And our predictive metrics did precisely what they were supposed to do. Predict.

They predicted how well media platforms reinforced consumers’ emotional engagement with a brand and what combinations of media worked best for the brand. Strategically. If you do that, you’ll alwayssee positive behavior in the marketplace, meaning sales and profits, as opposed to just tweets and likes. 

Correlations of our B2ME assessments with sales were 0.80+, so worthy of a validated designation, “predictive!”

Last week, a MediaPost article announced brand data has become more pivotal in determining which combinations of digital ad stacks will deliver the best strategic advantage. Essentially, it welcomed brand metrics back to a seat at the Media planning table, something we heartily applaud.

Happily, there’s no need for brands to reinvent the wheel, or in this case, a way of identifying which combination of media platforms will work more effectively for your brand. We’ve already done that with B2ME.

If you’re interested in optimizing your digital ad stack (or any other set of media platforms), we’d be happy to help. Because we can confidently predict increased brand engagement and sales for brands that predictively plan.

In the digital or analog world.



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.