Thursday, February 04, 2016

Super Bowl Advertising ROI

Only 39% of Super Bowl 50’s advertisers will score big on their really big investments. In this case, “scoring” refers to generating consumer behavior. In the marketplace. You know, sales. Consumer traffic. Brand profits. That kind of stuff, advertising being a business and not a hobby after all.

When it comes to Super Bowl ad playbooks, brands look to score big in five ways: 1) big audiences, 2) big creative, 3) big buzz, 4) big social networking, and 5) big levels of emotional brand engagement. That last one is most important because it’s a leading-indicator of consumer behavior in the only arena that counts – the real world marketplace.

Last year nearly 115 million viewers watched the Super Bowl, many for the ads alone, making it the most-watched show in U.S. history, so the need to level the ad playing field has not been lost on marketers. Every year brands start earlier to create up-front buzz sneak-previewing ads and hashtagging everything in sight. And sure, brands need to entertain if they want their ads “to trend,” but if advertisers want real ROI, entertainment alone is not enough.

Consumers need to be emotionally engaged with the ads so they come away feeling the brand better meets the expectations they hold for the category Ideal. Puppies are cute and all, but the ultimate question is what did it do for the Budweiser brand? Beyond collecting all those shares, likes, and tweets. Which do correlate with “entertainment” but not so much with sales.

So our approach is a bit more precise than counting likes or interpreting MRI images. Mobile software developed to mine social data streams is overlaid with validated emotional brand engagement assessments to identify the intersection of engagement and entertainment within the context of the Super Bowl. The output allows us to calculate whether a brand’s ad will engage and entertain, entertain only, engage but not entertain, or neither engage nor entertain. Like all things “marketing,” each variable results in a different outcome for the brand. For the map of this year’s results, click here.

The bottom line? Only13 of the 33 brands (or 39%, significantly lower than the 13-year historical average of 49%) included in this year’s survey were assessed by consumers as both engaging and entertaining. Those included:

Amazon Echo                    
Mountain Dew
Taco Bell                             

Brands assessed to be highly entertaining but with modest to low engagement included virtually all of the beverage brands:

Bud Light                             
Shock Top

Look, we understand that agencies and marketers hope their ads will entertain. That’s a dimension that’s easy to measure. And unquestionably advertising entertainment and social networking reviews generate lots of chatter, traditional and digital. So there you are. You managed to entertain 115 million viewers. But these days that’s not enough. Or shouldn’t be.

With 30-second spots selling for $5 million plus, marketers need a new game plan when it comes to assessing advertising ROI. A laugh, a sigh, or a tweet alone isn’t really an acceptable return on budgets this big. Advertising should be judged not by entertainment ratings or social networking trend metrics alone, but how it ultimately helps the brand perform in the marketplace. Does the ad engage and build the brand’s equity?  Does it drive brand share, consumer behavior, and sales? If so, you’ll score positive bottom line impact, even if the advertising wasn’t as entertaining as envisioned. A brand that can both engage and entertain is usually a Super Bowl winner.

But on this particular Sunday, when a brand gets into people’s living rooms or on their computers or mobile screens, it doesn’t matter how many consumers tweet, like, or share the ad if it doesn’t increase emotional brand engagement. Otherwise what you’ve produced is a very short, very expensive movie!”

Given that this is the Super Bowl we’re talking about, we’ll close with our annual thought that might be worth for advertisers to remember: There is no “I” in “team,” but there sure is one in “Return-On-Investment.”

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Facts Can’t Stop Brand Trump

You can’t have missed Sarah Palin’s well-publicized endorsement of Donald Trump. Somewhat quieter has been the confederation of conservatives trying to get other “conservative thinkers” to speak out against the Republican Presidential front-runner.

The most recent has been Ross Douthat, a conservative author and New York Times columnist, in this past Sunday’s Times op-ed, “The Way to Stop Trump.” Mr. Douthat’s advice? “To attack him effectively, you have to go after all the things that people like about him. You have to flip his brand.” The problem is that itisn’t as simple as Mr. Douthat seems to suggest.

Last June when Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, we asked, “Did a Human Brand stand a chance at a run for the highest office in the land?” To answer that, we conducted an emotional engagement poll. If you’d like to hear about that, listen to the predicted outcome in our “What Happened?” recording, “Tippecanoe and The Donald Too,” at

Mr. Douthat went on to list a series of very rational facts that he believed would “persuade people that (Mr. Trump) is a con artist” and, therefore, derail Mr. Trump’s nomination.  But as the brand engagement process – whether you’re a pet food or a political candidate – is far more emotional than rational. So just using cogent facts to topple a successful brand isn’t generally a good strategy, and particularly not in the case of Mr. Trump.

No matter how those facts line up, Donald Trump is a human brand extraordinaire! And despite how many marketers have fallen into the very bad habit of calling everything and everyone a “brand,” Mr. Trump is one of a very, very small club of Human Brands, who embodies 100% of the values of his enterprises and ideas. “Human Brand” is a designation representing the highest level of imbued meaning, values, and differentiation any brand can be. Shifting consumers away from their faith in and engagement with brands like that on the basis of facts is difficult, if not downright impossible.

Adding the Trump name to virtually anything increases perceived value anyplace from 20% to 37%. In terms of consumer emotional engagement, adding the Trump brand causes the product or service to be seen as better able to meet consumer expectations for their Ideal and the values that drive positive behavior in a particular category. In this case the Presidency of the United States.

So when Mr. Trump announced, we looked at the category engagement drivers for the Republican Ideal President, and how Brand Trump measured up to them. These have been validated every Presidential election cycle since 1980, and generally speaking the drivers – in the order Republicans “see” their Ideal President – can be described as follows:
  1. Resolve: has the strength and leadership to guide the country?
  2. Perception: has an understanding of the problems facing the county?
  3. Action: has a plan for solving the problems? (Hint: walls count, apparently)
  4. Compassion: does the candidate care about all the people?
1,350 registered Republicans in the 9 U.S. Census Regions assessed Mr. Trump using our emotional engagement questionnaire and, compared to the Republican Ideal calibrated to be 100%, on an overall basis “Brand Trump” measured 84%. After the Palin endorsement that assessment went up to 89%. We expect that after exhibiting the resolve not to participate in the most recent Republican debate, that score will have moved up again

Brands with the kinds of high engagement levels voters are exhibiting toward Mr. Trump always lead in the marketplace when it comes to sales, so given the general tenor of the electorate, that’s likely to translate to votes in the political arena. So, no matter how rational, sensible, logical, fact-based, and well-conceived, Mr. Dlouthat’s recommendations are, they just aren’t as effective and compelling in shifting brand perceptions when it comes to voter emotional brand engagement as it does in an op-ed column.

It was Ronald Reagan in his address to the 1988 Republican National Convention, who misquoted John Adams, saying, “Facts are stupid things.” Mr. Reagan laughed and corrected himself.

But in this instance, when it comes to Brand Trump, he was absolutely right the first time.

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.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chipotle: Better Safe Than Sorry

The brand that started the “fresh movement,” is hoping for a fresh start.

It took Chipotle twenty-two years to transform itself from a burrito stand to a $23 billion quality brand. They did it by meeting customer expectations regarding the values of fresh, locally sourced, customizable food at a fair price. Oh, and it was generally agreed the brand had integrity. And they did all this long before the phrase “genetically modified,” was ever uttered in competitive brands’ boardrooms, and in consumer-value time, light years before competitors tried to re-position their offerings as “fresh.” Or “customizable.” At the time, competitors were busy focusing on their Dollar Menus.

Anyway, Chipotle showed up on our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index a decade ago – in 2006 – once there were enough locations nationally for reasonable levels of customer incidence. And over the next five years the brand moved up the Fast Casual restaurant loyalty list to the number one spot. By then everyone in the category was chasing them. For being fresh, for being additive-free, for being customizable. They seemed unstoppable.

It only took seven months after one – then six more – outbreaks of E. coli bacterium and salmonella-related illnesses, to dramatically effect customer loyalty for Chipotle. Chipotle same-store sales, which had reached a brand and category-best of +20%, dipped almost 15% last Quarter. Yikes! So it came as no surprise that in our 2016 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Chipotle dropped to the number 6 spot (of 21 brands on this year’s list, five of which were new). Again, yikes! Why the drop? And why didn’t the brand fall further down the list?

Well, the drop itself was self-evident and inevitable. You can’t feed consumers “quality,” “fresh” food, and have them get sick without expecting some repercussions! But sick as they might have been, when it comes to loyalty, customers are six times more likely to give the brand the benefit of the doubt in adverse circumstances – like the original outbreak.

But with the epidemic of illnesses that followed, that fount of customer forgiveness is drying up, and it’s now showing up in how consumers “see” the brand meeting their expectations. In this case for the value of quality, but mostly for the value of “safe food preparation,” which has always been a value-component in the category, but has had generally lower expectations surrounding it. Fast casual consumers don’t expect to get sick from the fresh food on offer. But that said, last week Chipotle received a grand jury subpoena related to an outbreak in California, an indication that the Justice Department and the FDA might be considering a criminal case. Zowie!

In the meantime Chipotle is doing what it can. Conceding that they may be more vulnerable than other fast food and fast casual restaurants because of their fresh ingredients and fresh preparation, they’ve put food safety controls into place that experts say should reduce the risk of food contamination to virtually zero. So huzzah! And it is closing down the entire chain for a few hours next month for a system-wide food-safely meeting just to make sure that everybody is on the same safety page. When it comes to food safety, you can’t be too careful.

Will this help improve the brand’s loyalty and engagement efforts and assessments? Well, like they say about colds and chicken soup, “It couldn’t hurt!” But given their previous loyalty levels, customers are also six times more likely to see the actions being taken as responsible and believe the Chipotle brand can cure these ills.

Because when it comes to loyalty, 21st century consumers question all their beliefs. Except the ones they really believe, and those they never question!

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, January 10, 2016

Winston Churchill said, “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Those words have taken on greater weight over the past 75 years, as making predictions tends to be a far more frequent and popular pastime than actually checking back on their accuracy.

Today the most important question brand marketers should be asking is, “Was research we based our strategy on, predictive?” Asking that before you commission the research can help when the time comes to answering the ultimate question of marketing life, “What happened?”

Some of problem has been that predictions of consumer behavior and brand performance are more often based on counting “likes” and tallying tweets, summing up social network shares or measuring how entertained consumers were by a brand’s efforts. Happily, prediction of consumer behavior becomes remarkably less risky when one relies, instead, on emotionally-based, validated engagement metrics. Those point the direction to what people will actually do, instead of what they say they are going to do.

As our own annual test, Brand Keys once again examines how closely what we said during the year on our blog, in our LinkedIn posts and in TV, radio, print, and online interviews about strategies brands were – or were not taking – matched up with actual market results. In short, to see what happened?

We invite you to click on this link: What Happened?
And listen to some recorded answers to that question, along with some consumer insights, market realities, and brand practicalities we hope you’ll find both useful and enlightening. We’ve tried to make them entertaining, too, so feel free to share them with your friends and colleagues, or even tweet about them!

This year our look-back examines predictions we made about Super Bowl advertisers and Presidential candidates, Fast Food, Casual Food, and Natural Food, loyalty leaders, loyal Millennials, pizza loyalists, bourbon drinkers, and all manner of smart subjects from smartwatches to smarter brands. And, in case you missed them, we’ve also included a recording addressing key Trends for 2016 to give you and your brand a head start on success.

Churchill also noted, “men occasionally stumble on the truth,” but when it comes to today’s consumers, that’s not really good enough. No matter how many views and likes your marketing efforts obtained.

So pull up your computer or mobile device and join us again this year, or for the first time, and give a listen and find out, What Happened?

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.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2016’s Top New Year’s Resolutions

It’s been said that a New Year’s resolution is bound to be broken. Maybe it’s just that people just set the bar too high for themselves.

My favorite acknowledgment of that is the one that goes, “my New Year’s resolution list usually starts with the desire to lose between ten and three thousand pounds.” It turns out that losing weight has perennially been No. 1 on most people’s New Year’s resolution lists, and that was true again this year.

How do we know? As part of our annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (those results will be available in February, we absolutely promise!), we also asked 11,600 men and women about their 2016 New Year’s resolutions. Here’s their top-16:
  1. Lose weight
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Exercise more/more regularly
  4. Save more money
  5. Keep my resolutions more than a week
  6. Get organized/plan better
  7. Get out of debt/pay all my bills
  8. Be a better person/volunteer
  9. Spend less time on Facebook
  10. Spend more time with my family
  11. Quit smoking
  12. Learn something new/a new language
  13. Get a new job
  14. Drink less
  15. Find a new relationship
  16. Read more books
It turns out, not everyone makes a New Year’s resolution. According to this year’s survey only 58% plan to do so for 2016. And, alas, on average only 9% are successful at keeping them, to one degree or another. Maybe that number would be higher if we called them something else, like “New Year’s casual promises” or “things you think would be a good thing to do, but are under no legal obligation to fulfill.”

Or maybe it’s just like Mark Twain said. “Now is the accepted time to make your annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

We wish you success in your 2016 endeavors. Whatever they are.

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.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Best & Worst: An Ode to 2015

We often focus all our thought
On things consumers shopped and bought.
On customers, so very loyal
And those brands, with profits royal.
Or TV ads on sets or mobile
For local shows or ones more global.
But here’s a Brand Keys year-end review
Of this year’s brands, both old and new.
Some of this Brand Keys predicted
Some’s just as the news depicted.
So here’s a look at 2015’s best and worst.
Some consumers blessed, others they cursed!
Bud’s Super Bowl puppy got a cheer,
Alas, those ads didn’t sell much beer.
And they didn’t keep Bud Light shares quite stable
With a “remove ‘no’ from your vocabulary” label.
Craft brewers now have so many fans
They can’t find enough 16-ounce cans.
Chobani yearned to be a lifestyle brand.
Old Navy did much, much better than planned.
McDonald’s all-day breakfast fare
Didn’t do quite so well as the brand Square.
“Mad Men” ended with that song from Coke,
And Radio Shack went really broke.
KFC brought the Colonel back,
And you can now buy stock in a Shake Shack.
Starbuck’s race fight didn’t go well,
But Apple watch sales were really swell.
And soon you may not even need your phone.
Smartwatches will soon just stand-alone.
Google’s now called Alphabet.
Beats by Dr. Dre is #1 headset.
Volkswagen lied and they got caught.
Broadcast and cable lives’ been fraught
With many quarters of declining ratings
Despite all Nielsen’s attempts at weightings.
Now they’re looking for measures more bundled,
While old audience counts around them crumble.
Netflix audiences grew and grew.
And binge viewing became the new
Standard for all those loyal viewers
Who now always look for something newer.
Blackberry lost even more mobile share.
Bill Cosby was accused of more affairs,
But Bill says this is ballyhoo
And now he’s going to counter-sue.
Howard Stern signed for 5 more years.
SiriusXM couldn’t believe their ears!
Millennials are the cohort chosen.
But Yahoo seems like it’s just frozen.
Amazon’s the online leader
When it comes to sales or a cool e-reader.
Their delivery drones are on the way,
And Wal-Mart now offers mobile pay.
Blue Bell ice cream saw tough times
But consumers forgave them for their crimes.
FIFA corruption was revealed
(That’s why Sepp Blatter seemed so well-heeled),
Which scared some sponsors off of soccer
Faster than a new ad-blocker.
That software has become a threat
Causing digital media to really sweat.
And not to sound so very dogmatic,
More brands are looking to plans programmatic.
But consumers showed a lot more passion
For those brands that dealt with fashion.
With selfies now a real big thing
Brands hope those pix make registers ring.
So Levis revamped women’s jeans
And Tory Burch thought sportswear keen.
Justin Bieber felt it was fine
To strip down for Calvin Klein.
Target stores were not so meek
About a positioning, cheap but chic.
Under Armour grew really fast.
Converse updated Chuck Taylor’s past.
Nike won the NBA
When competitor Adidas walked away.
Then Nike signed (for life) LeBron James,
One of the biggest of the NBA’s names.
We read about that while online,
Where each day consumers spend more time.
Social networking’s both biz and fun
And Facebook’s now the #1
Place where you and your friends can check it out
And maybe give a brand a shout.
Disney teamed with Alibaba (everyday getting bigger)
But at Brand Donald Trump you really should not snigger.
The Donald now is quite the gent
As now he runs for President.
And while some voters doubt his goals,
He’s still leading in all the polls!
Whole Foods thought their customers oughter
Gobble up expensive “asparagus water.”
And their pricing that was hard to follow.
While Campbell’s hoped consumers would swallow
More soup containing much less stuff
Figuring 20 ingredients were enough.
Pizza Hut told investors, “Don’t worry about taste.
Consumers will be happy if we just deliver with haste.”
Chipotle wanted ingredients from a local source
But now that’s taken them on another course.
So Chipotle’s life’s been far more hectic,
While Elon Musk’s been just electric!
The Fed finally raised the rates.
And everyone watched Black Friday sales abate.
GoDaddy won’t advertise on Super Bowl 50,
But PayPal thinks that game’s just nifty!
Uber’s and Lyft’s rideshare apps
Have created quite the flap
For travelers and rental cars,
Driving taxi drivers right into bars!
Uber’s picking up more speed,
Teaming with Facebook to gain a lead.
Chevy’s now the “connected” car
GM, Ford, and Hyundai came real far.
And once again Jeep was elected
The most-patriotic brand consumers respected.
And though it’s hard to shift consumer notions
It helps if you understand their emotions.
Though it seems each year to get harder and harder
Don’t let that fact affect your ardor
To market, plan, and innovate
What will help to make your brand just great!
But as this is our last missive of the year
We’d like to make one last thing clear.
While taking pleasure in material things,
Don’t forget the joy friends and family brings.
We wish you a New Year you'll never forget,
Full of love, joy, and peace, and your best one yet!

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, November 22, 2015

10 Key Trends for 2016

As researchers who have eyes only for predictive metrics, we appreciate having a real foundation of insights to help identify trends to help our clients beat the competition.

So, for the past 31 years, Brand Keys has conducted a year-end examination of our validated loyalty and emotional engagement metrics, collected from over 100,000 consumers who participated in predictive surveys we conduct each year. That means we examine more than 150 B2B and B2C categories and nearly 1,000 brands. 

This provides Brand Keys with a correlated-to-behavior view of changes in category drivers, path-to-purchase values, consumer expectations, arrival, departure, and formation of category and customer values, as well as the percent-contribution these elements make to consumer engagement and brand profitability. Examined in aggregate, these assessments provide marketers with a leading-indicator trajectory of future trends marketers will have to address in the next 18 to 24 months.

For marketers and brand managers who want to stay ahead of that trajectory, this year the analysis identified ten critical trends that will become leading market realities in 2016. A few of the trends are current market values morphing into new market structures. Some are newly identified tenets. All are actionable opportunities for brands, and have been identified as follows:

1. We only have emojis for you
The eyes have it and increased consumer visual literacy will concurrently and dramatically increase the use and utility of emoticons. Using emoticons will help to create brand differentiation, make brands appear user-friendlier, and increase engagement, particularly in social media outreach.

2. New rules of engagement
Awareness will be a given. Marketers will link “engagement” to how well brands are perceived versus their category’s Ideal, rather than relying on measures of entertainment like “likes,” tweets, or share counts.

3. A brand is your best brand asset
 Brands will need to differentiate and stand for something meaningful, emotional, and important in the mind of the consumer. Otherwise – whether known or not – marketers will find themselves managing well-known commodities.

4. Watch smart wearables move beyond watches
Wearable device shipments have already increased 200% from last year and smart wearables will move from accessories focused on notifications to more advanced capabilities creating real opportunities for brands.

5. Shopping at the sMall
A new twist on customization and personalization will become the new tradition. Consumers will seek out ready-made from brands able to create the look and feel of small-business, handmade, uniquely crafted products, services, and experiences.

6. Emotional brand IQs will rise
As consumer decision-making becomes more emotionally-based, successful brands will identify and utilize emotional values as foundations for meaningful positioning, differentiation, and authentic storytelling.

7. Mind the expectation gap
The ability for brands to accurately measure real, unarticulated, and constantly expanding consumer expectations will provide significant advantages to engage, delight, and profit for brands that can.

8. Caution: speed trap ahead
As more-and-more agile, hot-wired-to-mobile-device, culture-of-now consumers move faster and faster á la social marketing and outreach, brands will need to get faster too. After reaching out , 40% of consumers expect a brand response across a variety of social media platforms within an hour.

9. Naked truth vs. well-dressed lies
Storytelling is fine, but the stories brands tell must reflect real brand values, category realities and, most importantly, the truth. Consumers have signaled increased preferences for traditional, value-driven brands, and have become more wary of brands that betray their trust. Just ask Volkswagen.

10. On-demand escapism
Consumers will demand to be more inspired, more entertained, and more emotionally engaged by brands. Social media’s democratization of content creation will require that brands generate more immersive entertainment and increased virtual and augmented realities allow consumers to both participate – and shape – their own brand experiences.

It’s said that a new year provides marketers and brands a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings. Also the chance to beat the hell out of the competition! But if you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old. These 10 trends provide brands with an opportunity to break habits, embrace new methods of brand engagement, and introduce new business models, new technologies, and new and profitable opportunities. If we can help you put these trends to work for you, feel free to give us a call.

In the meantime we wish you all an engaging and profitable 2016.

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.