Sunday, August 02, 2015

The Brand Keys 2015 Back-to-School spending report card is in and households with school-age children (pre-school through 12th grade) do not plan to spend more this year on back-to-school supplies than they did last year, indicating an anticipated average spend of $650.00 (versus 2014’s $652).

According to 8,500 households the average anticipated spending in all major back-to-school categories reflect similar spending levels as last year.

Clothing:                                  $270.00
Shoes (athletic & dress)          $120.00
Supplies                                   $ 80.00
Computers/Electronics/                                                                                                Tablets/Smartphones:             $160.00
Books/Study Aids                    $  22.00

‘Preferred’ retail categories (versus last year’s) indicates an anticipated use of all retail platforms with the biggest increases of where and how to buy in Specialty Apparel Retailers and Department Stores. Catalogs were down again in mentions, although, to be fair some consumer purchases have just shifted from print catalogs to their digital counterparts. Online has, of course, been growing generally, but increased use of mobile outreach and advertising is likely responsible for this year’s growth for that platform specifically.

Discount Stores:          99%  ( --- )
Online                          95% (+ 2%)
Specialty Retailers       55% (+21%)
Department Stores:      55% (+20%)
Office Supply:               35% (+ 5%)
Catalogs                       20% (- 10%)

Top 10 Retailers and E-tailers

This year, the top 10 list of most popular retail brands added Walgreen’s and Sears, with Target moving to the #1 spot just ahead of Walmart. It would appear that their return to a ‘cheap chic’ positioning is working well for them. For e-tail brands, moved up the list from 2014’s #10 spot to #3. moved up, moved down, and eBay did not appear in this year’s top-10, with the following rankings:

  1. Target                                      
  2. Walmart                                    
  3. Macy’s                                      
  4. CVS/Walgreen’s                      
  5. Best Buy                                  
  6. TJ Maxx                                    
  7. Staples                                    
  8. Footlocker                                
  9. Sears                                      
  10. Apple stores                         
While consumer confidence indices have been moving in a positive direction this year, it appears that parents are taking a hard look at what their children really need for back-to-school. There’s always a need to re-stock in some areas because there’s no way to get around children’s growth spurts, which accounts for the 21% increase for Specialty Apparel Retailers and Department Stores sales.

Nearly half the respondents indicated they had already bought and stockpiled necessities and supplies for the first day of school before August. That’s up 15% over last year. Another 30% indicated they would wait for the ‘Summer Sales.’ Retailers have spent more than a decade teaching consumers they can get things cheaper or for better value if they wait a little longer or look a little harder, and consumers have been fast learners, so the remaining 20% are apparently waiting until the last minute.

In addition to the low-lower-lowest pricing marketplace, bigger ticket items, like tablets smartphones and computers, which in years past had traditionally been purchased at the start of the school year, are now purchased throughout the year, so parents aren’t upgrading a mobile device just because classes are starting.

Value, of course, isn’t just about pricing (or shouldn’t be), it’s about brand, brand differentiation, and brand engagement. Retail brands that can emotionally engage consumers are seen as surrogates for added-value, and those will be the brands that benefit most.

Consumers not only believe that, they behave that way in the marketplace, a fundamental lesson all back-to-school retailers need to learn.

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.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015’s Most Innovative Tech Brand

This year’s Brand Keys’ survey of consumer perceptions of innovative tech brands found consumers’ identification with brands and innovation has broadened. This year they added seven brands to the list of innovation leaders for the first time since the survey has been conducted.

While it may be hard to believe, but there was a time when consumers actually feared of technological innovation. Consumers equated innovation and technology with a greater likelihood of breakdown or just something else to go wrong, but clearly not anymore. The 21st century may not have delivered flying cars, but it is clearly meeting its potential in terms of providing products and services that better meet consumers’ expectations when it comes to technology.

This year 4,400 consumers were asked to name companies and brands that were highest on their lists of technological innovators, with the following top-20 results:

  1. Apple 
  2. Google
  3. Samsung
  4. Amazon
  5. HBO
  6. Netflix
  7. Facebook
  8. SoundCloud
  9. YouTube
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Microsoft
  12. IBM
  13. Uber
  14. Kickstarter
  15. Square
  16. Slack
  17. Tesla
  18. Hulu
  19. Intel
  20. Line
The consumer’s expectation for constant innovation, and the expansion of technological innovation, is crossing over B2C and B2B lines more and more. This accounts for the addition of the seven new brands on this year’s list. Each new brand stands for something that advances the category in which they compete, with a lot of consumer-to-business crossover. Those seven brands include:

HBO: Their expansion of HBO GO and willingness to cross platforms to deliver ever more entertainment.

Kickstarter: A place where global creativity and innovation has a chance to be cultivated and launched.

Line: A mobile messaging app with a personality that appeals to consumers’ emotional side of communication.

SoundCloud: Which has become the world’s largest audio platform.

Square: Giving companies the ability to take care of business anywhere.

Slack: The collaborative messaging platform for aggregating all business needs.

Tesla: The electric brand that is making an all-electric car a reality.

Last year’s list included more traditional’ brands and, of course, the usual suspects – Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon – ranking high, but clearly consumers have expanded their horizons when it come to looking for new technologies and innovation.

It’s clear that consumer attitudes toward innovation have changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Consumers have come to see innovation and change as an opportunity – not a threat. And, just like Steve Jobs foretold, innovation truly does distinguish between a leader and a follower.

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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Millennials Can Be More Loyal Than Other Age Cohorts – But Only If Brands Deliver On Emotional Values & Expectations

As more marketers have focused on the Millennial Generation with efforts focused on capturing this cohort’s attentions, major budgets are being planned in the mistaken belief that Millennials are less brand loyal than other age cohorts, and require additional attention to create brand preference.

A recent assessment of 12,300 Millennial consumers in 63 categories conducted by Brand Keys, Inc., the New York City-based brand loyalty and emotional engagement research consultancy (, proves that emotional values and higher expectations not only play a greater part in the Millennial decision-process but that a brand’s ability to deliver on required emotional values trumps rational ones every time. It turns out that the loyalty bonds created by doing so for Millennials are stronger than those of other age groups.

Today Emotions Are More Important to Millennials

In 1985, when the first of what was christened the “Millennial Generation” were about 5 years old the purchase-decision process was more rational than it was emotional, calculated to be a ratio of 70:30. That meant rational values having to do pricing, product quality, numbers of distribution points, and advertising tonnage, were more important, more leveragable, and more differentiating to consumers than emotional values.

In 2000 the ratio shifted to 65:35,emotional to rational.

Five years later the ratio reversed the 1985 numbers, this time 70:30, but with the preponderance of the decision process turning emotional.

This year, 2015 – as the first Millennials turn 35 – the decision process is decidedly more emotional, at a category-generalized ratio of 80:20. Emotional values like customization, meeting personal emotive needs, the ability to meaningfully “talk” to the brand that actually “listened,” and a sense of authenticity, became more important in the brand bonding decision-process as consumers had more and more access to the Internet and lived hot-wired mobile devices and, consequently, more and more empowered empowered. Millennials are demanding real reasons to be loyal.

Ratios of Emotional vs. Rational Values in Millennial Brand Decision-Making

Millennials Have Higher Expectations

Complicating marketing efforts, overall, cross-category expectations (examined by generational cohort and indexed versus a benchmark of 100 to provide comparability) showed Millennials to hold significantly higher expectations regarding categories and brands than any other age group as well.

Overall Customer Expectation levels By Generational Cohort

High Numbers of Millennial Loyalty Leaders

One thing that crosses all generational cohorts as regards brand loyalty and engagement is that brands best able to meet the consumers’ expectations for the values – particularly emotional values – that drive the category are always the brands that show up on the top of consumers’ shopping lists. A review of the Millennial loyalty leaders in the 63 categories included in this analysis revealed that 91% of them were the category’s leaders. These included brands like Apple, Nike, Chipotle, and Old Navy.

Ultimately brands that are able to stand for the right emotional values, maintain relevance, and better meet Millennial’s expectations have shown higher levels of positive consumer behavior in the marketplace and higher loyalty levels than any other generational cohort. The secret, of course, is identifying and measuring what expectations Millennials hold for which emotional values and then planning how to communicate them to consumers in an engaging manner.

And unfortunately, that’s a more complex process than just adding more social networking or more storytelling to the marketing budget.

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, July 14, 2015

Is Your Smartphone A Phone With A Camera, or A Camera With A Phone?

You can’t have missed the fact that the big differentiator these days for smartphones has become the camera. Consumers have traded last-century digital compact cameras for smartphones. In fact, some of the smartphone ads and commercials focus more on the camera aspect of the smartphone than the smartphone itself.

For those of you who prefer a camera but want the convenience of something you can keep in your pocket, GoPro, the sports camera maker, has come up with a new crop of its Hero4 Session, weighing only 2.6 ounces, .9 ounces less than the next lightest model. For those of you looking for one-touch effortlessness photography, the Hero4 Session has one button to turn the camera on and begin recording. Oh, and it’s waterproof so it doesn't need a separate waterproof case like most phones will no matter how smart they are.

That said, digital cameras of any size is a category we no longer track because, well, it’s become hard to find new customers every year for our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. Smartphones, on the other hand, is a different picture. For those of you about to snap over the overabundance of smartphone digital camera-specifications, here’s some information to help you stay focused.

We did a drill-down in the Brand Keys 2015 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index smartphone category to see which model would-be Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz rated highest, that is to say, which best met their expectations when it came to the taking-pictures-value of their smartphones. Here’s a snapshot of the category’s top-10:
  1. Samsung Galaxy S6
  2. Apple iPhone 6+
  3. Apple iPhone 6
  4. Samsung S5
  5. Motorola Moto X
  6. LG G4
  7. Google Nexus 6
  8. Nokia Lumia 1520
  9. Amazon Fire
  10. HTC One M8 
You don’t need an 800 mm lens to see that in the near-term, digital cameras will remain an important differentiator and decision-value for the smartphone category. We've tracked the category since it entered the consumer marketplace in 1995, so feel free to check back with us and see what develops.

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, June 29, 2015

The Most Patriotic Brands in America

A new Brand Keys survey of iconic American brands has revealed which brands consumers consider the most “patriotic.” Jeep, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Ralph Lauren led the pack this year.

Independence Day gives marketers an opportunity to help citizens celebrate. And, typically, brand advertising and social outreach features patriotic flag-waving and red-white-and-blue motifs. Marketers cue marching bands and majorettes, Uncle Sam and Statue of Liberty look-alikes to try and leverage patriotic emotions. And, hopefully, increased sales during the weeks surrounding July 4th.

When it comes to engaging consumers, waving the American flag and having an authentic foundation for being able to wave the flag are two entirely different things, and the consumer knows it. More importantly, believability is key to the engagement paradigm. The more engaged a consumer with a particular emotional value and the associated brand, the more likely they’ll trust that emotion and act positively on that belief. Generally speaking, where a brand can establish a real emotional connection, consumers are six times more likely to believe and behave positively toward the brand.

To determine which brands will lead the parade when it came to patriotism, Brand Keys did a statistical ‘drill-down’ to identify which of 230 brands are more associated with the value of “patriotism.” We know that effectual brand engagement is more emotional than rational. And while many emotional and category-specific values ultimately drive brand engagement, 5,427 consumers ages 16 to 65, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, evaluated a collection of 35 values including “patriotism.”

The following are Brand Keys 2015 top-50 most patriotic brands, with percentages indicating emotional engagement strength for the individual value of “patriotism.”
  1. Jeep (98%)
  2. Coca-Cola (97%)
  3. Disney (96%)
Ralph Lauren (95%)
  5. Levi Strauss (94%)
  6. Ford/Jack Daniels (93%)
  7. Harley Davidson/Gillette (92%)
  8. Apple/Coors (91%)
  9. American Express/Wrigley’s (90%)
  10. Gatorade/Zippo (89%)
  11. Amazon (88%)
  12. Hershey’s/Walmart (87%)
  13. Colgate (86%)
  14. Coach/New Balance (85%)
  15. AT&T/Google (84%)
  16. Marlboro/Sam Adams (83%)
  17. John Deere/Louisville Slugger/Smith & Wesson (82%)
  18. L.L. Bean/Facebook (81%)
  19. Craftsman Tools/GE/Wells Fargo (80%)                     
  20. 49ers/Cowboys/NFL/Patriots/ (79%)
  21. MLB/NY Yankees/Wrangler (78%)
  22. Campbell’s/Gibson/KFC (77%)
  23. Goodyear/Wilson Sporting Goods (76%)
  24. J&J/Kellogg’s/Tide (75%)
  25. Converse/Heinz (74%)                            
  26. McDonald’s (72%)
This was a survey of for-profit brands, but as we do every year we included assessments for the United States armed services: the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. Consumers gave all branches of the armed services an engagement strength of 100% when it came to “patriotism.” We take this opportunity to recognize that and to thank them for their service.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that many brands in the top-50 are American Icons, which is confirmed by the movement up the list into the top-50 of Coach, Converse, Goodyear, Johnson & Johnson, Major League Baseball, and Wells Fargo. It’s important for brands to accurately measure these values since values are the way consumers define what they actually expect from a brand. Meet or exceed expectations for those values and you have a differentiated brand, engaged customers, and increased sales. An increase, or decrease, of five percent is significant at the 95% confidence level and 11 brands in this year’s survey that showed significant engagement growth for the value of “patriotism” included:

Jack Daniels (+18%)
Coach (+15%)
Major League Baseball (+11%)
Coors, Wells Fargo (+10%)
American Express, Wrigley (+9%)
Goodyear, KFC (+6%)
Craftsman, Johnson & Johnson (+5%)

It is important to note that the assessments in this survey do not mean that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don’t possess patriotic resonance. There are, as we mentioned, rational aspects, like being an American company, or being “Made in the USA,” or having nationally directed CSR activities and sponsorships, that all play a part in the make-up of any brand. But if you want to differentiate via brand values, especially one this emotional, if there is believability, good marketing just gets better. In some cases six times better.

Last year we received comments about how some of the brands didn’t belong on the list because their products aren’t actually manufactured in the United States. That may reflect the reality of the global economy, but it also only reflects one part of the consumers’ brand evaluation and decision-making process. The rational side. If you actually have to remind people that a particular brand is manufactured in the United States, like some “foreign” automotive brands, for example, that’s a fine rational argument, but it doesn’t resonate emotionally. Neither is “patriotism”, as one reporter so incorrectly put it last year, brands benefitting “from being identified as distinctly American and therefore ‘patriotic,’” because that’s not what the study is about. There are lots of “American” brands out there. But when it comes to “patriotism,” it’s more about emotional values and connections than being able to identify it’s global origin. Much more.

And one important thing marketers should have learned about 21st century brands is that if you can make an authentic emotional connection with the consumer you’ll always have a strategic advantage over competitors. Particularly when it comes to the marketplace battle for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of consumers.

Make that connection and consumers will not only stand up and salute, but more importantly they’ll buy.

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.