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%)
  4. 
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: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Donut Make This Mistake. Values are ALWAYS Category-Specific

If you’ve followed the McDonald’s debacle for the past year you can’t have missed the fact that the company woke up late to the fact that consumer values had shifted. Away from fat/salty/fast/dollar-menu food to brands that were seen to offer healthier, fresher, natural, more customized food. And consumers were actually willing to pay more for that.

You have to watch those values. They don't so much as sneak up on your brand as much as pounce. And today they move at the speed of a consumer hot-wired to their mobile device. Values often get missed on traditional research radar screens, and brands that miss them and are unprepared for those value-shifts generally end up with the short end of the balance sheet. Just like McDonald’s.

The thing is, values aren’t cross-category generalizable so you can’t rely on what happens to some brand outside your category, you have to be on the watch for what’s specifically happening in your category. Sure, “trust” is part of every category, but what “trust” stands for in the pain relief category is vastly different than what “trust” means in the automotive category, and different from what it stands for in the smartphone category. Or the fast food category. Just saying, McDonalds.

This all came to mind because June celebrated National Donut Day and National Jelly-Filled Donut Day, and a few people were surprised that in the face of value shifts to healthier food, donut sales have gone up – by about 7% YOY. So health notwithstanding, Americans have ended up eating more than half a billion of donuts annually. Those health-related value shifts had great impact in the fast and fast-casual food category, but pretty much no influence for donuts. Because there’s a difference.

Just because they’re both food, they’re really not the same, and values for each will be really different. Really. You don’t think about a hamburger in the same way you think about a donut. Sure, “taste” is in there, but a really different kind of taste. Have you ever had a donut that wasn’t tasty? Except a stale one, maybe. But what’s tastier than a fresh donut? Come on! You’re never eating a donut because you think it’s a healthy option. Be honest. The healthiest part of the donut is the hole. Now “variety,” there’s a value that resonates when you think about donuts. See? Category-specific.

And those half billion donuts, sure a lot of them come from small bakeries and local pastry shops and corner food carts. But the majors – the Dunkin’s, Tim Hortons’, Krispy Kremes, the Daylights, Winchells, and Shipleys – all seem to be doing better and better. Which raises another issue – the one about how values have massively shifted in the how-and-what Americans eat for breakfast, currently to the detriment of cereal brands, and also in the way that donuts are no longer primarily viewed as a breakfast food. It all has to do with values.

At the moment, donuts are a treat and one that’s seen as a great value-for-dollar-for-variety treat, which has spurred category innovation, expansion and profitability; the Cronut – part donut, part croissant – created by the Domminique Ansel’s SoHo bakery in New York City. Or Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken in Washington. D.C. and their Fried Chicken Donut. Or the Los Angeles Nickle Diner’s Bacon Maple Donut. To quote a well-known donut expert, “Mmmmmm. Donuts!”

If you missed this month’s celebrations (those would be National Donut Day [June 5th] and National Jelly-Filled Donut Day [June 8th], never fear. There are others where you can join in later this year: National Cream-Filled Donut Day [September 14th], Buy A Doughnut Day [October 30th], and National Doughnut Day [November 5th].

Surprised there are some many days celebrating the donut? Well, just think of them as occasions to treat yourself and celebrate being smart enough to monitor and leverage all those category-specific values that can help your brand grow and prosper.

And sticking with our theme we’d remind you that brand managers who don’t track and leverage values (no matter what category they operate in) end up with lower earnings and share prices. And usually a glazed expression on their face!


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, June 09, 2015

Top-5 Categories With Highest Consumer Expectations.


Think about this and what you might do. Imagine what’s considered to be the newest, coolest, most-value-adding differentiator in your category today will become a price-of-entry, table-stakes, ho-hum feature/value in the next two years. Faster, if the velocity of consumer expectations increases, which it does every year. What are you going to do?

You really ought to be planning for that. According to this year’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), which predictively measures how engaged consumers are with their brands and how likely they are to behave positively toward your brand in the actual marketplace – where “engagement” is defined by how well brands meet their customers’ unconstrained-by-reality expectations ­– those expectations are up, over 64 categories, having accelerated a whopping 16% over last year.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “Well, that’s not too bad. Everyone knows our brand, we have distribution, we have all that social media, and people tweet about us, so we don’t have to worry,” that position is wrong in so many ways, it’s hard to explain without charts! Brands, on average, have only managed to keep up with those increased expectations by 7%, so the “gap” between what consumers really expect and what brands actually deliver is, aptly enough, large enough to drive a large SUV through.

Who ought to be worrying now? Here’s this year’s CLEI top-5 categories with the fastest growing consumer expectations. Numbers in parentheses indicate growth over last year.

  1. Automotive (32%)
  2. Online Streaming Video (30%)
  3. Mutual Funds (28%)
  4. Luxury Cosmetics (25%)
  5. Fast-Casual Restaurants (22%)

What should you do? Even if your brand isn’t in one of the top-5 fastest expectation-growth categories, it’s something you’ll need to address sooner or later. All categories are growing, so first, you need to find a way to accurately measure your customers’ expectations, because expectations are category-specific. What happens in the smartphone category, doesn’t happen the same way for headphones or fast-food, no matter how much social media folks wish it so.

Second, you need to identify the category-specific values – which are, these days, more likely emotional than rational – that make large enough contributions to consumer engagement to meaningfully help close the gap between what your consumers expect and what your brand is felt to deliver. You can’t just guess at it. Well, you can, but it’s probably not going to work out they way you hoped.

Take the Automotive category. No, that enormous increase in expectations doesn’t have anything to do with the flying cars they promised us back in the 1950’s! The values driving those category’s expectations today have to do with Personal Connectivity and Connected-Vehicle Technology. BTW, Brand Keys identified that value 4 years ago, which is why it's nice to have predictive metrics, particularly when it comes to expectations.

The other fastest-growing expectation categories? Online Streaming Video’s main area of expectation-delivery has to do with Original Content, Not Limited By Traditional TV/Cable Boundaries. Mutual Fund values have to do with What I Can Do When I Retire. It turns out values for Luxury Cosmetics has less about “looks” and more about Nurturing, and Fast-Casual Restaurants has absolutely nothing to do with dollar-menus and everything to do with Customization of Truly Healthy Food, values, which we’re willing to bet weren’t the first one’s that leapt to your mind! Well, those and kelp.

You need to address the really important and differentiating values, and you need to do it before they turn into category-value commodities. Brands that are able to better meet customer expectations and are able to address them with emotional values that are meaningful and differentiating will always see more, more highly-engaged customers behaving better toward them in the marketplace. Do it before the competition and you’ll have a real in-market advantage, which is the bottom line benefit about meeting – sometimes even exceeding – growing expectations.


But first, you actually have to be able to accurately identify them. Which, when it comes to research and strategic planning, should be your ultimate bottom line.


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, June 01, 2015

FIFA Bribery & Corruption Allegations Hurt Sponsor Engagement With Fans



A study conducted last week by Brand Keys found that World Cup sponsors could lose up to 20% of their fan engagement strength because of their association with Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the governing body for soccer, the organizer of the World Cup that is under attack for corruption and bribery charges.

No marketer or sponsor brand can have missed the well-publicized arrest of the 9 FIFA officials and 5 corporate executives following a U.S. Justice Department 47-count indictment.  Charges ranged from bribery, corruption, racketeering, fraud, and money laundering. So the kind of stuff you really don’t want your brand associated with. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the 2,258 U.S. soccer fans participating in the National survey indicated that they would be negatively disposed to a brand that was associated with FIFA.

The extent of the charges may have come as a surprise to fans of the game, but surely not to the sponsors who had to have heard all these assertions regarding bribery for years. FIFA and the game have operated under a cloud of negative allegations ranging from leadership corruption to match- fixing to bribes paid to influence host-country selection for the World Cup for decades.

Why do you think President Putin accused the United States of “global overreach” and was so adamant about the FIFA charges? Russia is due to host the 2018 games and as expected Mr. Putin defended Sepp Blatter, the Swiss president of FIFA, while he battled to retain the presidency of the FIFA (He was re-elected last Friday, stating, “Why would I step down? That would mean I recognize that I did wrong. I fought for the last three or four years against all the corruption.”) Twitter messages from angry fans have suggested Mr. Putin’s position was entirely due to his fear that the games would be awarded to England or the United States and Mr. Blatter’s rumored “no money back” policy as regards bribes. You can be the judge about that one.

FIFA is a “nonprofit” organization. A nonprofit that took in an estimated $4 billion from the 2014 World Cup, most of which came from broadcast deals and brand sponsorships. As the anti-FIFA corruption movement grows, the study found that brands will ultimately suffer more than they gain from their official sponsorship with the world’s largest sporting event. Keep in mind, we understand that the corruption charges won’t stop fans from watching the games, it just poses an additional engagement barrier that sponsor brands will have to overcome if they wish to see real engagement ROI from their very, very expensive investments. Engagement is tough enough to attain under the best of circumstances, but in the face of on-going criminal charges, it understandably makes it a bit more difficult. Make that a lot more difficult.  Anyway, the survey examined seven major “official” U.S. FIFA sponsor-brands to determine the current effects their affiliation with FIFA has had on those brands.

The first percentage indicates the brands’ current fan engagement strength, absent of any sponsorships, versus the Ideal in the category in which the brand competes. The second percentage is how fans rate those same brands based on “a continued association with FIFA and sponsorship of the World Cup.” These emotional engagement assessments always correlate very highly with behavior toward brands in the real marketplace. Significant losses in fan engagement don’t generally bode well for a sponsoring brand. Awareness and additional exposure is no replacement for real fan engagement, particularly for brands already well known by most of the sentient being in this universe and able to afford to buy into such expensive global special events.

Sponsor          Current Fan Engagement           Association with FIFA World Cup

Adidas                       82%                                                    70%

Budweiser                 81%                                                    61%                           

Coke                          89%                                                    80%

Hyundai                     94%                                                    88%

McDonald’s                79%                                                    62%

Sony                           83%                                                    75%

Visa                            87%                                                    71%

Again we think it’s worth mentioning that it’s not as if sponsors have been unaware of these allegations. The perceived “value” of the event has caused brands to turn a blind eye to decades of accusations. And in light of the new charges, you can expect that they’ll all express deep concern over the corruption charges and negative publicity, with all the brands expressing “concern for the sport, the good of the game, ethical standards, partner transparency, and the fact that they take all this seriously and are carefully monitoring the situation, while being distressed by the tenor of the public debate.” Go ahead and check what every one of these brands has said about the FIFA situation. Drinks and dinner for anyone who can find an official quote that indicates that the brand knew about past FIFA transgressions and that all this aren’t entirely new revelations to them.

Sure, even in the absence of any real ROI, most sponsors see the World Cup as a valuable commodity. But commercial pressure will become the ultimate test as it always does. None of the brands included in this survey have pulled out yet, but every one of the brands has to be weighing the risks of continued association with what appears to be a thoroughly corrupt organization.

It’s likely that sponsors will take a wait-and-see approach and pray that all this dies down. But it’s a fair bet that brands will rationalize sponsorships on the basis of the sport and not FIFA, although it’s also worth remembering that currently – and without question in 2018 – brands will have lots of digital options to substitute for “official” sponsorship. They’re already dong that with lots of events that aren’t currently under incitement!



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, May 25, 2015

What Size Expectations Do Your Athletic Shoes Come In?



Consumer expectations about athletic footwear rise every year. Athletic footwear sales rise very year too.

True, consumer expectations (+15% for the category in 2014) rise faster than actual sales levels (+5%), but that’s they way it is with expectations. Sure, there are some cyclical bumps for athletic footwear (back-to-school, when “official” sports seasons kick-off, when a brand signs a new celebrity), but growth in the category has been fairly consistent over the past decade.

So too have consumer engagement ratings of the main brands in the category. But to truly understand why the brands get ranked as they do by their customers you need to understand the critical drivers for a category like Athletic Footwear.

What’s the least-important driver? “Range of Athletic Shoe Types.” Why? Every brand pretty much has shoes for pretty much any athletic challenge you can think of. Driver #3 has to do with “Customization” – and the ability to make a shoe truly you own ­– a value that‘s fast made it’s way into everything from athletic shoes to fast-casual food. That driver is preceded by “Personal Innovation and Performance Optimization,” because you just know that the right equipment for you will help you perform better. And the first-most important driver of engagement is “Brand Value and Empowered Design.” That means what the brand stands for in the mind of the consumer will make an added-value contribution to engagement, purchase and loyalty.

New Balance and Nike were #1 in our 2015 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, followed by
2. Skechers,
3. Reebok,
4. Adidas,
5. Mizuno,
6. Under Armour,
7. Asics,
8. Fila, and
9. Brooks

If you understand the four drivers of engagement and attendant loyalty, where the brands end up being ranked tend to be self-evident. As could profitability, if brands competing in the athletic footwear category – actually, any category – did that too. Unfortunately, most don’t.

Adidas, perennially at the middle of our list in good years and sometimes closer to the bottom of the list in bad years, has announced they are going to address their problems in the United States market. Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer declared that the company is going to turn the brand around in the United States, which has been a bunion on the brand’s profit statement for a while now. Mr. Hainer declared that the Adidas North American division will be profitable by year-end, so no small task.

Sure, everyone knows the Adidas name, but as it is written in the Marketer’s Bible, “awareness doth not guarantee share, sales, or profitability.” Forty years ago, perhaps, but not in today’s marketplace, which moves at the speed of consumer values, which is why Adidas – down 7% in 2014 – lags behind Nike and newcomer to our list, Under Armour in U.S. retail and apparel sales.

So Adidas is doing stuff. They moved their head of design to U.S. HQ in Portland, OR. They have a new U.S. President. They hired 3 top designers from Nike, and they’re looking at creating buzz and brand engagement à la relationship/sponsorship deals with the likes of Derrick Rose, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams, even going so far as to equate some recent sales increases to all these shifts, although it’s probably too soon to actually know any of the same-old, same-old is really working or it’s just Summer back-to-camp sales.

It’s not, however, too soon to keep in mind another Biblically-related quote. “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet – particularly when you’re dealing with customer expectations!”



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.