Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Greenest Brands In America

Tomorrow, April 22nd is the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, so the appropriate time to release our list of the top-25 greenest brands in America. Of 740 brands included in this year’s 22nd annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, 49,168 customers deemed these brands as authentically, resolutely, and significantly “green.” And when it comes to this particular value, high engagement is an indicator of positive consumer behavior in the marketplace. And the political arena, too.

The top-25 brands, presented alphabetically since consumer environmental expectations are category-specific and vary sector to sector, are:
  1. Amazon.com
  2. Apple
  3. AT&T
  4. Avis
  5. Ben & Jerry’s
  6. Best Buy
  7. Chick-fil-A
  8. Coke
  9. Discover Card
  10. Dunkin’
  11. Ford
  12. Fuji
  13. Home Depot
  14. Hyundai
  15. Jack Daniels
  16. Kiehl’s
  17. Konica-Minolta
  18. Microsoft
  19. New Balance
  20. Nike
  21. Pepsi
  22. Tom’s of Maine
  23. Toyota
  24. Wyndham Hotels
  25. Xerox

This year EarthDay.org campaign is, “Environmental & Climate Literacy.” Given the recent politicization of climate change, the campaign is designed to help make people more fluent in the concepts of climate change. A more climate-literate citizenry, it is hoped, will end up being the engine that fuels green voters and laws and policies that advance environmental protection.

Brands can’t simply play the environmental awareness card as part of a CSR or PR campaign anymore. In just the same way politicians are going to be held to the fire according to voter standards, so too are brands. Brands will have to do it in ways that meaningfully support a sustainable future that’s both palpable and believable to the consumer because when it comes to brands, consumers will end up “voting” with their wallets. And while it is the hope of many that corporations are looking to find ways to do business more sustainably, it’s worthy of note that brands are getting better at being “green.”

It’s been independently validated is that brands best able to meet expectations, particularly those that are more emotionally-based – saving the planet, for example – ultimately do better than those brands that don’t or can’t meet those expectations.

And when it comes to the bottom bottom-line, unlike many things in consumers’ lives, it’s precisely as Albert Einstein observed, “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”

Including brands.



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, April 02, 2017

Baseball Makes A Comeback: National Pastime Is #1 In Fan Loyalty


Yesterday was Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. It's always a big moment, but this year it’s considerably bigger

Based on the 25th annual Sports Fan Loyalty Index from Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, and according to 17,852 fans, Major League Baseball was rated #1 in fan loyalty for the first time in a decade, beating out the National Football League, perennially Major League Sports’ loyalty leader.

Fan loyalty ratings never lie. They’re a leading-indicator of behavior and profitability, and they always tell us what fans are going to do when it comes to increased TV game viewership and purchases of licensed merchandise.  

MLB’s 2016 World Series was the highest rated and most-watched series since 2004. For the Fall season, the World Series ranked as TV’s top show for adults 18-49 years of age, topping Sunday Night Football. MLB’s leadership, which recently eliminated the four pitch intentional walk in order to “speed up the game” may be tinkering too much, there are other powerful and emotionally-based loyalty drivers that need to be taken into account when it comes to fans, and those can’t be rushed. The percentages next to each loyalty driver indicates the contribution each makes to fan loyalty and league engagement:

History and Tradition (30%):
Are the game and the league part of fans’ and community rituals, institutions, and ‘tribal’ beliefs?

Fan Bonding (29%):
Are players particularly respected and admired?

Pure Entertainment (21%):
Win-loss ratios for sure, but more importantly, how entertaining is their play? Is it a consistent experience year-to-year?

Authenticity (20%):
How well they play as a team. Do they seem unified? Does it involve both skill and strategy?

For 2017 league loyalty rankings were found to be as follows:
  1. Major League Baseball
  2. National Basketball Association
  3. National Football League
  4. National Hockey League
NFL ratings took a nosedive throughout its last season, which is troublesome because live events are supposed to be the last bastion of defense against the Internet. This is the second consecutive year the Super Bowl has failed to set a new ratings record. Pre-election NFL ratings were down by 12 percent Year-Over-Year and ratings for the 2016-17 season were down 9 percent YOY and were off 6 percent through the playoffs.

The National Basketball Association, consistently ranked #3 in terms of fan loyalty, moved up to the #2 spot this year. Not-so-coincidently NBA’s viewership increased from last season on all four networks: ABC was up 9 percent, ESPN up 10 percent, TNT up 1% and NBA TV games were up 19%.

The 2016 Stanley Cup Final was one of the lowest-rated NHL title games since the sport returned to NBC 11 years ago, and is again ranked #4.

Via interviews with 250 self-declared fans in each team’s local market, current 2017 MLB top-5 and bottom-5 brand standings are listed below:

Top-5

1. Chicago Cubs (+6)
2. Washington Nationals (+3)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (-1)
4. Boston Red Sox (+4)
5. San Francisco Giants (-2)

Bottom-5

30. Arizona Diamondbacks (-1)
29. San Diego Padres (-2)
28. Colorado Rockies (--)
27. Milwaukee Brewers (-5)
26. Minnesota Twins (-10)

Loyalty is incredibly powerful and emotional. And when it comes to loyal baseball fans, their attitudes echo what pitcher Gaylord Perry once noted, ‘The only trouble with baseball is that it’s not played year round.” In the meanwhile, for the rest of you fans for the rest of the season, “Go (INSERT YOUR TEAM’S NAME 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, March 19, 2017

LG Gets Smart About Smartphones

OK, that any list of smartphones starts with Apple and Samsung is a given. LG, on the other hand, ranks 5th on our 2107 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, with this year’s list looking like this:

  1. Apple
  2. Samsung
  3. HTC
  4. Moto
  5. LG
  6. Sony
  7. Nokia
  8. Lenovo
  9. Alcatel

Now fifth place isn’t bad when one considers how many smartphone brands there are out there and how few groundbreaking features have shown up recently. And how all of the brands are fighting for differentiation in the marketplace and in the hearts of consumers. But the fact is that the LG brand has been moving down the list. The reason? Well, strange as it sounds, they were too techy, with features like early-adopter fingerprint scanners, dual-lens cameras and flash units before brands that were moving up the list had them too.

What to do, what to do? The answer was K-I-S-S. Keep it simple.  .  . well, you know the rest and the South Korean company is anything but that. So last month they launched its G6 phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, emphasizing the basics: a more hand-friendly design, more battery power, and a bigger screen. Prioritizing design. You know, the basics.

Sales growth has slowed in the smartphone industry, and beyond improved cameras as a differentiator, the driving force behind consumer passion and brand loyalty hasn’t been more technology but a concentration on the basics. And LG seems to be promising less tech and more nuts and bolts.

And you know what they say, “Stick to the basics. They never go out of style.”


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 14, 2017

What Value Does A Fashion Brand Add?


OK, let’s say you have a 100% cotton dress shirt. It was probably made in China or Indonesia or one of the 5 factories turning out virtually everything these days. As is, it’s going to sell at retail for $18 (OK, $18.99, but for the purposes of this exercise, let’s keep the math simple).

If, for example, you were to affix a store-brand label to it, like Macy’s “Alfani,” the perceived value of the shirt goes up by about 9%, so the shirt can now be sold for $20. So as a retailer you just made an extra $2 that the customer was actually more than willing to pay, because the brand added value to what was just a 100% cotton dress shirt.

That same shirt with a Ralph Lauren label could sell for $25 because the brand brings added-value of 34% to the product. And because brand added-value is mostly emotional, a customer’s favorite sports team adds 40%, which is why they can sell those sports jerseys for $50. And so it goes. Nike adds 36%, while Forever 21 only adds 16%, or what works out to a difference of $5. For precisely the same shirt. Just a different label.

According to our 2017 Fashion Brand Index, the average added-value across 22 brands was +25%. And sure, the high-fashion brands can start at a higher base price than store-brands for precisely the same shirt, but our analysis provides a reasonable emotional value brand-to-brand comparison.

This year – for all the obvious reasons – we added “Ivanka Trump” (a brand that was never large enough to make previous lists, which are based on unaided consumer mentions) to our assessments. The Ivanka label added value of 10%, only 1% more than an established store brand.

Being able to assess a brand’s ability to add value is critical, especially if the brand is planning on licensing everything it can put its name on. So maybe the Nordstrom decision to drop the Ivanka Trump brand was exactly what they said. Just a good business decision.

And like Ralph Lauren said about his brand “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.”



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, February 25, 2017

What's In A Name?



Shakespeare answered that question with, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, that was then, but today that question has taken on new import. For brands the question is will a name change affect the marketing, positioning, and awareness of a business or product? You need to be cautious because, as Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “We do what we must, and call it by the best of names.”

Does doing what you must always work? Well, in hindsight it worked pretty well for “Brads Drink,” which became “Pepsi Cola.” And for Tokyo Telecommunication Engineering Corporation that changed their name to “Sony” when their products become more famous than the parent company. It worked out really well for Haloid that ultimately changed its name to “Xerox.” And really, really well for Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which ended up as “IBM.” There were rationales behind those name changes, but sometimes corporate and brand name changes are just a form of duck-and-cover.

Cigarette giant Philip Morris changed its name to “Altria Group.” claiming the name change was made to emphasize the company’s wide array of products. But an anti-tobacco group called the change “a PR maneuver meant to distance the corporation’s image from its deadly business practices” – selling tobacco.

“Accenture” was created when Andersen Consulting disassociated itself from accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which was embroiled in the Enron scandal. That tarnished the Andersen name – particularly when they were found guilty in of improper auditing of Enron and had to surrender its license to audit companies, thus putting the company out of business. Andersen Consulting hoped “Accenture” would connote “putting an accent or emphasis on the future, just as the firm focuses on helping its clients.”

During the most recent Presidential campaign, Trump Hotels announced that a new brand of hotels would not bear the “Trump” name. Instead, the new line of luxury hotels – aimed at Millennials –was to be called “Scion.” That stands for “offspring” biologically or a “graft,” botanically speaking. At the time, Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said, “We wanted a name that would be a nod to the Trump family and to the tremendous success it has had with its businesses, including Trump Hotels, while allowing for a clear distinction between our luxury and lifestyle brands.”

Smith & Wesson – the 165-year old gunsmiths and the nation’s largest armorer – asked shareholders to approve changing the name of the S&W holding company to “American Outdoor Brand Corporation,” although it will continue to use “Smith & Wesson” for its best-selling handguns.

The rationale for the name change is based on the company’s diversification plan to move into the recreational market – via acquisitions of makers of hunting knives, flashlights, and camping equipment. According to a spokesperson, S&W believes “the new name really better reflects our many brands and products and our growth strategy.” See, it’s a business strategy, which has nothing to do with the rise of gun violence in the United States. And it mirrors the strategy of Vista Outdoor, one of the largest commercial ammunition makers in the United States.

Logo changes are a familiar sight on the brand landscape, and not strictly falling under the rubric of “name change,” but here’s a recent one too good not to mention. Lyft, the rideshare brand established only five short years ago decided to shave off their pink mustache, its signature car decoration.

They’re replacing it with a glowing dashboard amp that can change colors to match the display of the message on the passenger’s phone.  The company’s head of Ride Experience said the new look would help passengers match up more easily with drivers in crowded pickup areas like airports, concerts, and sports events. Makes sense to us. Also, who wants to show up at a business meeting in a car festooned with a pink handlebar moustache?

Bottom line: Sometimes changing a name can be a powerful move and sometimes it’s a risky proposition that can confuse current, loyal customers as well as prospective customers, and interrupt the sales process. Also successful name changes usually require significant investments of time and money and an entirely new set of off- and on-line marketing materials,

So before you decide to tilt at brand windmills, it’s probably a good idea to remember what Miguel de Cervantes wrote: “Words have meaning, but names have power.”


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, February 17, 2017

Emotional Engagement and the Academy Awards: Odds of Winning


The concept of emotional engagement is pretty straightforward. Consumers have an Ideal for every product and service – including entertainment and experiential events – and, particularly, movies. Ultimately, emotional engagement is the yardstick consumers use to measure brands and entertainment. But defining the category's Ideal is where it gets very tricky for one particular reason.

To do it accurately it needs below-the-radar psychological metrics because today's consumer does not behave as he or she says, does not say what he or she really thinks, and does not think what he or she really feels. So a 10-point scale just won’t do it anymore! It’s all about emotional engagement, with the emphasis on “emotional.” Consumers talk to themselves before they talk to brands. They’re hot-wired to social networking, which generally super-charges expectations for the category being “shared.” The result? Massive gaps between what people really want and what brands/entertainment/experiential events deliver.

The Ideal, of course, is not static. It changes according to how consumer values for the category change. Or, in the case of movies, the particular category the movie or actor or actress or director falls into. And because today it’s all driven (mostly) by emotional values, changes to the Ideal – and how well something meets that Ideal – are predictive of how consumers will behave. Or in the case of movies, how they’ll react to them. And tweet about them and share with friends and family.

So, again this year, as an emotional engagement test of our own we put this year’s roster of Academy Award-nominated films (and actors and actresses and directors) to the emotional engagement test. Results below indicate the degree to which the films (etc.) lived up to the movie-going public’s Ideal translated into odds. We did pretty well last year, so here are this year’s Academy Awards engagement odds:

Best Picture
La La Land                            1/6
Moonlight                               6/1
Hidden Figures                     10/1
Manchester By The Sea       16/1
Fences                                  50/1
Hacksaw Ridge                     60/1
Arrival                                    80/1
Lion                                       80/1
Hell or High Water              100/1

Best Actor
Casey Affleck                         4/9
Denzel Washington                3/2 
Ryan Gosling                        12/1
Andrew Garfield                    30/1
Viggo Mortensen                 100/1

Best Actress
Emma Stone                           1/6
Natalie Portman                      4/1
Ruth Negga                           40/1
Meryl Streep                          50/1

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali                      1/10
Jeff Bridges                           11/1
Michael Shannon                  12/1
Lucas Hedges                       15/1
Dev Patel                              15/1 

Supporting Actress
Viola Davis                            1/25
Michelle Williams                    9/1
Naomie Harris                       15/1
Nicole Kidman                       25/1
Octavia Spencer                    50/1

Best Director
Damiel Chazelle                    1/10
Kenneth Lonergan                   7/1
Barry Jenkins                           8/1
Denis Villeneuve                    50/1

To identify the Ideal, Brand Keys uses an independently validated research approach that fuses (mostly) emotional and rational aspects of the category, identifies the four behavioral, path-to-purchase drivers for the category-specific ‘Ideal,’ and identifies the values that form the components of each driver.

What consumers expect is expressed as index numbers and is configured versus a category benchmark of 100. These assessments not only identify the Ideal, but also allow us to measure the degree to which movies (and actors, actresses, and directors) meet consumer expectations for the path-to-purchase (or in this case, the path-to-the-pictures) driver that defines the Ideal – in this case translated into odds.

The research technique, a combination of psychological inquiry and higher-order statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, accounts for 96% of the variance in a category, and provides results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries including motion pictures and award ceremonies.

Please note we provide these odds for entertainment value and engagement diagnostics only. If you’re looking to engage in some moneymaking outcomes, you’re on your own, although it’s generally a bad idea to bet against emotional engagement in any category because it’s predictive of how people will behave in the marketplace.

Or in this case, the movie theatre or multiplex.


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.