Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Reading GE CMO Beth Comstock’s HBR blog, Innovation Is Marketing’s Job, Too, some of Dr. Seuss’ advice that ran through my mind. Paraphrased, the good Doctor said, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to innovate, but you have to know how.” Ms. Comstock’s mandate was to make GE marketing a vital operating function, including innovation, something that would drive organic growth – beyond just helping to craft advertising and external marketing. Her shared her 4-part formula about how to innovate. She suggested:
  1. Go to new places
  2. Shape the market early
  3. Incubate new business and models
  4. Invite others in
We are big fans of innovation. Going into the black hole of (YOUR CATEGORY GOES HERE) can be an exciting and rewarding exercise. But you really do have to know how. To be perfectly transparent, our own philosophy and practice centers around Ms. Comstock’s #2, “Shape the market early,” which is a lot easier said than done for many brands. The best way to shape the market, of course, is to have a deep understanding of what the consumer wants and what they expect before even they know what they want or expect.

Want to know what consumers want and expect? The easy-answer is “everything.” In virtually every category you can imagine expectations have risen, 20-25% (more if you’re talking ‘tech’), while brands have only managed to keep up by 5-6%. That gap is called, the “expectation gap.” It’s the space between what people really want and what brand actually delivers, and is a fertile place to dig if you’re looking for areas where your brand can innovate. That corresponds with Ms. Comstock’s point #1, and while her “new places” were of the more tangible kind, and ours more notional, it’s a  “new place” for a brand to study nonetheless.

The thing is, from a marketing and/or research perspective, you can’t just ask consumers what they want. Consumer decision-making is more emotional than ever before, and often those emotional values turn out to be things consumers don’t articulate. Or don’t want to articulate to an interviewer. Or just can’t articulate. So you can ask, but if a brand doesn’t know how to accurately capture those emotional expectations, they usually end up talking about or thinking about rational aspects of the category. And these days, rational doesn't usually translate to something innovative and differentiating. By the time the rational bits of the category are articulated by consumers as something they expect, they’re more likely “table stakes,” basic things you need to have in order to play in the brand’s market arena, but something everyone has, and definitely not something innovative.

Brand Keys fuses emotional and rational aspects of the category to identify how consumers really view a category and what they really expect from their Ideal. We capture predictive lead-time insights of 12-18 months as regards expectations. How well your brand matches up to the Ideal identifies expectation gaps, valuable areas (or a new place to go) worth a drill-down exercise or, at the very least, a once-over, and typically results in innovation.

Do that, and your brand – to borrow Ms. Comstock’s phrase – gets “to shape the market early,” with the added benefit of getting a jump on the competition. In the last century, and depending upon the category, that “jump” à la traditional marketing and research might have been worth a 2 or 3 year lead. Today if you get 6 months, it’s a gift. You need something that will give you a real head start on meaningful and competitive innovation. Here’s a real-life example in the Automotive category from the Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.

Over the past two years, values related to personal connectivity and entertainment has grown at nearly double anything else as regards a positive contribution to auto brand engagement and customer loyalty and, therefore, profitability. (FYI, “fuel efficiency” grew too, just not as fast). But the gap between what consumers really want, and what the best of 22 automotive brands we track delivers, leaves an emotional engagement expectation gap of 23%, a gap large enough to drive a truck through. So if innovation is marketing’s job too, the opportunity these engagement metrics identified was a perfect place to drill down and uncover something your brand could have innovated, owned, and used to shape the rest of the market.

Sure, consumers are tech-conscious, and connectivity and technology have been slowly driving their way into the automotive category. Various brands have been using ”technology” as a differentiator to one degree or another, but the fact is that consumers have wanted this increased level of car-connectivity for what’s going on 4 years, and had some bright brand been able to identify it, they could have taken ownership of it, vrooming ahead of the competition instead of having to tailgate rivals.

Last week, a 2-page ad ran in the Wall Street Journal, with the headline on page 1, reading “The Connected Car Is Here,” and on page 2 the announcement “Chevrolet Is The First And Only Car Company to Bring Built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi to Cars, Trucks and Crossovers,” which seems pretty innovative. Right now. But we’ll have to see how long that particular innovation window remains open, and how long it is before all cars have to offer it just to keep up. What was “innovation” will turn into “table-stakes.” What once delighted consumers, now has become obligatory.

It was Steve Jobs who famously pointed out that “innovation is the difference between a leader and a follower.” We would add to Ms. Comstock’s praise of innovation that innovation is the best way to ensure consumer engagement, brand growth, and corporate profitability, and it can fall easily within the purview of the Marketing and Research Departments, if you know how.

Harvard Business Review has pointed out that it’s tough when markets change and your people within the company don’t. But these days it’s even tougher when consumer category values change, and companies don’t change the research tools or marketing metrics they use to measure them.

Sticking with our automotive theme, it’s worth remembering that when it comes to innovation there are no old roads to new directions.

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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 01, 2014

Celebrating America’s Most Patriotic Brands

It’s a fair bet that lots of consumers are looking forward to this celebrating upcoming weekend. It’s the Fourth of July. Independence Day. A celebration of our battle for independence. A celebration of pride. And freedom. Accompanied by flag waving and patriotic music, picnics in town squares, parades and fireworks, and all varieties of red-white-and-blue decorations. A day off too. American consumers know how to throw a party, so what’s not to look forward to?

Marketers look forward to Independence Day too because it gives them an opportunity to “help” citizens celebrate. Brands cue the marching bands and majorettes, hire the Uncle Sam look-alikes, adopt red-white-and-blue leitmotifs, and generally look to squeeze as much of the patriotic emotions that symbolize America out of the holiday that they can. But while some of these tactics are in aid of the celebration of freedom and independence, most are simply in aid of, well, sales.

Too cynical for the 4th of July? Well, for today’s consumers, saying it, doing it, and doing it believably are three entirely different things, whether they have a 3-day weekend or not. So to determine which brands actually led when it comes to patriotism, Brand Keys did a statistical “drill-down” to identify which of this year’s list of 225 brands were more associated with the value of “patriotism.”

Statistical and face validity have shown that today, brand engagement is more emotional than it is rational, and while many emotional values drive engagement, and the study asked 4,680 consumers, ages 16 to 65, to evaluate a collection of 35 values, we focused on the value of “patriotism” to see which brands were more (or less) likely to get consumers to stand up and salute.

Today, when it comes to engaging consumers, waving an American flag and actually 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 is with a particular emotional value and the more they are able to associate the brand with that value, the more likely they’ll trust that emotion and act positively on that belief.

The ranking of the top-50 most patriotic brands, including ties, follow. The percentages indicate the emotional engagement strength for the individual value of ‘patriotism,’ versus an Ideal of 100%. Only the U.S. Armed Services – the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy – rated that high, and we take this opportunity to note that and also thank them for their service.

  1. Jeep (98%)
  2. Levi Strauss (97%)
  3. Coca-Cola (95%)
  4. Colgate/Disney/ 
Wrigley’s/Zippo (93%)
  5. Ford/Harley Davidson/ 
Ralph Lauren (91%)
  6. Apple/Gillette (90%)
  7. Hershey’s/Walmart (89%)
  8. Amazon (88%)
  9. New Balance (87%)
  10. A T&T/Google (86%)
  11. Gatorade/Marlboro/ 
Sam Adams (85%)
  12. Budweiser (84%)
  13. Louisville Slugger/ Smith & Wesson (83%)
  14. American Express/Coors (81%)
  15. John Deere/L.L. Bean (80%)
  16. Facebook/GE (79%)
  17. 49ers/Cowboys/ NFL/Patriots/ (78%)
  18. Wrangler/Yankees (77%)
  19. Walgreens/
Wilson Sporting Goods (76%)
  20. Craftsman Tools/
Jack Daniels/Kodak (75%)
  21. Campbell’s/ Gibson (74%)
  22. eBay (73%)
  23. Heinz/Sears (72%)
  24. McDonald’s/KFC (71%)
  25. Kellogg’s/ Tide (70%)

It’s not surprising that many brands in the top-50 are true American Icons. It is worth noting, however, which brands in particular moved up the list into this year’s top-50: Apple, Amazon, Google, Sam Adams, American Express, Facebook, and eBay.

None of this should suggest that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don’t possess any patriotic resonance. Rational aspects like being an American company, or being “Made in the USA,” or having nationally directed CSR activities and sponsorships all play a part in the make-up of any brand, particularly as it regards its patriotic nature and public face. But if you want to differentiate via brand values, especially one this emotional, if there are high levels of believability, good marketing just gets better, along with brand sales and profits.

Last year, when the 2013 Most Patriotic Brands list was published, some readers posted comments how some of the brands didn’t belong on the list because their products weren’t actually manufactured in the United States. Alas, foreign production is something that’s become more-and-more a reality in today’s global economy. But then, it’s also worth remembering that’s the rational side of the decision-making coin, which isn’t making as big a contribution to brand engagement as it used to. And if you’re talking “brand,” emotion always trumps rational. Always.

One lesson marketers should have learned about brands over the past couple of decades is, more-and-more, brands, and what they “mean” and what they are able to stand for, have become surrogates for added-value. Those brands that can make the emotional connection with the consumer will always have a strategic – and sometimes even, tactical – advantage over competitors when it come to the marketplace battle for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of consumers. Kind of like the Thirteen Colonies and the British Empire!

Happy 4th of July!

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 World Cup Soccer: The “Official” (& Unofficial) Game-Changer For The Sport And The Sponsors

This year was our 22nd year conducting the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty Index measuring all the teams for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League. The Index rankings correlate very highly with viewership, purchase of licensed merchandise, and fan attendance. But we haven’t measured Major League Soccer. Ever.

Don't get us wrong. We recognize that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. But in the United States, Major League Soccer has been a kind of UFO of Major League Sports; out there someplace, but not actually touching down in your back yard!

And even if you’re a soccer fan, you have to admit that the 32 teams of the 2014 FIFA World Cup are something different than, say, your kid’s local soccer team or even the LA Galaxy or the Colorado Rapids or the Philadelphia Union. And if those names aren’t familiar to you, you’re not alone. Professional soccer is a niche sport, the number of TV viewers for NFL games is 100 times more than any professional soccer match – even the D.C. United, ranked #1 in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, which you likely didn’t know and, even more likely, don’t care that you didn’t know.

What we know is that the world watches the World Cup. Brazil – this year’s World Cup host – had 80% of their population watch at least 20 consecutive minutes of the 2010 World Cup, with that viewership trend showing up virtually everywhere else in the world other than the U.S. that is, where about 95 million people – a third of our population – watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup. And while it shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s expected when the numbers come in, this year’s World Cup will end up the most-watched soccer match ever, which is a pretty good doorway for brand engagement, whether it turns out you are an “official” FIFA sponsor or not.

In a survey conducted June 19th through the 23rd among 1,212 U.S. viewers of any of the World Cup matches, 875 (72%) of them indicated that they would support brands that supported teams or players they are engaged with. OK, fair enough. And when asked which brand commercials (on TV or online) they had been most engaged with, here are the top-10 brands mentioned:
  1. Gatorade
  2. Hyundai
  3. Nike
  4. Adidas
  5. Kia
  6. VISA
  7. Coke
  8. Beats by Dre
  9. McDonald’s
  10. Budweiser

Interestingly, since engagement isn’t dependent on sponsorship status, not all the brands that made the list are actually “official” FIFA World Cup sponsors.

Ranked #1, Gatorade is an official sponsor of soccer – U.S. Soccer, the governing body of soccer in the United States, but not a FIFA sponsor. Number 3, Nike, who does sponsor teams, isn’t an official FIFA sponsor either – maybe just another good example of effective ambush marketing Nike has used in the past. Beats by Dre, #8, isn’t an official sponsor of World Cup Soccer, in fact so much not a sponsor that FIFA banned players from wearing their headphones in any stadia. The “official” FIFA World Cup sponsor is SONY, which didn’t make the top-10 list. Which is too bad because official sponsors pay a lot for their sponsorships, and they’re all looking for some sort of ROI beyond good seats at the matches: exposure, increased consumer awareness, engagement, and, ultimately increased sales.

FIFA vowed to crack down on “ambush marketing” this year to protect sponsors – and their own self-interests, too. Marketing rights sales for this year's World Cup are their second largest source of income – just after broadcast rights. So in a move similar to the London Olympics’ “Brand Police,” World Cup non-sponsors are having their names taped over in Brazil stadia. Barney Ronay, sports writer at The Guardian, tweeted the following: “The brand name of the hand dryer in the Arena Sao Paulo toilets is taped over in case you see it and decide to buy one instead of a Coke.” Does that seem to you like an overreaction?

Well, probably not from a FIFA or sponsor brand POV. Brands invest a lot time, effort, and a lot of money in a World Cup sponsorship. Sometimes you can divine an answer by the way brands “vote” with their budgets – like counting the number of sponsorship renewals already signed: Adidas (#4 on our list) will be a sponsor until 2030, at the next four World Cups. Coke (#7), Hyundai-Kia (#s 2 & 5, respectively), and VISA (#6), have all signed up till 2022.

But with all the coverage and celebrating, the real question is will this be the year soccer goes mainstream in the United States? World Cup fever seems to be everywhere you look, but some sports and sponsorship pundits suggest that when World Cup is over, soccer will just fade away again in the U.S.

Highly engaged brands, on the other hand, are a different story. They’ll be as bright as ever.

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone Gets Great Reception

Amazon unveiled its first, very-own-branded smartphone today, the Fire Phone, and, beyond telephony, it will help create a consumer and technological connection moving beyond tablets with a direct line to Amazon’s commerce platform. It’s a tech introduction that should help Amazon close any remaining gaps between consumers seeing products and buying products, and will provide a real advantage over other retail competitors and based on a first-viewing, smartphone competitors too.

You have to have been totally disconnected from the mobile and retail worlds to have missed the fact that the lines between retailer and technology have blurred over the past couple of years, a consumer trend that an Amazon phone can take more advantage of, perhaps even a little bit better than others who have tried in the past. The Nexus One, turned out to be a phone that could only be purchased directly from the Google online store and was then connected to the weakest of the U.S. mobile carriers, T-Mobile. And certainly better than Facebook’s 2013 phone introduction, where Facebook Home dominated the user experience, a smartphone paradigm variation that consumers apparently weren't calling for.

Sure, consumers are emotionally engaged with brands like Apple and Samsung, but they’re also emotionally engaged with the Amazon brand.  Apple and Samsung have jockeyed for the #1 smartphone spot in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index for years. But Amazon has been #1 in the Online Retail category for the past 18 years, since we added the then-nascent category to the Index. OK, not apples-to-Apple’s we’ll admit, but it's worth keeping in mind that Online Retail has many technological aspects to it and, you know what they say?  “No risk, no mind-bogglingly enormous reward,” and Jeff Bezos seems to have done it.

Here are some specs gleaned from today’s announcement:
  • A 4G LTE Fire Phone.
  • 4.7-inch HD display, optimized for one-handed use.
  • Rubberized frame, Gorilla Glass on both sides, CNC aluminum buttons, polished button chamfers, injection-molded steel connectors for a tight and precise fit.
  • 590 nits brightness, dynamic image contrast and circular polarizer.
  • Comes with a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB RAM.
  • As phones are also our primary cameras (they noted) a 13MP rear-facing with f/2.0 lens and OIS.
  • Free unlimited photo storage.
  • Sound is important so Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.
  • No tangled headphones: Flat cables with magnetic earbuds that clasp together. 
  • People use phones more and more to watch video, so they “made video awesome on this phone with more than 200,000 videos, including exclusives all accessible through Instant Video.
  • Amazon is bringing second screen and X-Ray to the Fire Phone so you can fling your video to any Miracast device (such as the Fire TV). They’re bringing over features from Fire TV, like ASAP, so they can predict what you're going to want to stream, and they pre-buffer it so the streaming starts right away.
  • Prime Music, which launched last week, includes a million songs right now and in case a million isn't enough, there are other apps you can get, like Pandora, and Spotify. 
  • Also, Audible, Kindle Newsstand, and Comixology with immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice featured.
  • Customer Service? Mayday Options: it's 24/7, and takes 15 seconds or less. Free.
  • Firefly: uses the camera to recognize books, DVDs, phone numbers, QR codes, CDs, URLs, games, bar codes, etc. It recognizes them and finds them in its database. Firefly can not only see, but listen, so just like you can do on Shazam and related services, the phone can listen to music, and pull it up on services like iHeartRadio and Amazon Music. It can recognize TV shows and once it does you can view details, purchase it and so on.
  • Oh, Firefly can also recognize art too. It recognizes over a hundred million items. 
  • Recognizing phone numbers aren't a problem, even if it's on a street sign. Email addresses too even if there are complications like glare, wrinkles and curves. Semantic boosting helps improve the probability that the character recognition gets the phone number right. They did a test to show how a number 708, which features glare made it look like a 703. But since the computer can recognize that "703" isn't a valid exchange for that area code (206), it knew that it had to be 708.
  • There's a dedicated Firefly button, that lets you access this service anytime in 1 second.
  • There's also an SDK, so 3rd-party developers can use the same text, audio and image recognizers, as well as the content databases, and just add a custom action like iHeartRadio and Myfitnesspal.
  • There’s 3D. The Fire Phone with Dynamic Perspective changes the view of a picture as you move the phone around. You can do this for maps as well. At the introduction, Jeff Bezos showed a 3D image of the empire state building from an aerial view that made it look like the building was sticking out of the phone.
  • The web browser also uses dynamic perspective. You can tilt the phone to scroll the browser. Same thing goes for e-books. Small tilts make it scroll slowly, bigger angles of tilting make it scroll faster and you can also lock the scroll speed into place.
  • In addition to the tablet-style carousel, you can have an Android-like app grid and if you go to email, you don't have to launch the email app to see messages, because you can see the first few emails on the bottom of the screen. With calendar, you can see your next appointments. With the camera, you can see your latest pictures. Third-party stuff apparently works as well.
  • Music has a 3-panel design that means the left panel is navigation (playlists & artists), a central panel lets you see album art and pause or go forward or backward, and the right hand panel shows you the lyrics.
  • The Dynamic Perspective tech gives gamers a view of different levels and perspectives.
  • Mr. Bezos noted, "The key is knowing where the user's head is at all times." But not with headgear which would be really geeky in a bad way, but computer vision. A face-fronting camera won’t work so these cameras have a 120-degree FOV. But you also need stereo vision. So there are two cameras for that. But, because users hold their phones in a whole bunch of ways and end up obscuring the cameras, Amazon added two more. So four corner cameras, and no matter how you hold your phone, you can pick two cameras.
  • There’s infrared light -- one for each camera, invisible to human eyes, but great for cameras. They're much more efficient because they use a global shutter instead of rolling shutter.
  • But everybody's different Mr. Bezos noted. So how do you capture all of that variety? It's a difficult machine-learning problem but they’ve figured it out. And there’s an SDK is also available for the dynamic perspective. 
  • Small touches: like going into the calendar realizing you’ll be late to the next meeting so you can go to the right panel and there's a list of quick messages, like "go ahead and start without me." There's an option to keep the ringer silent for 3 hours and then it goes back on automatically. When you’re messaging, you can pull up pictures by swiping from the right.

The Fire Phone is an AT&T exclusive. AT&T Mobility CEO, Ralph de la Vega, noted for the record "It's addictive and an absolute breakthrough. I’m going to buy a whole lot more things now!"  

Even with all the technology, the Amazon Fire phone is something the brand couldn’t really avoid for long, particularly given the growth in the mobile sector. Consumers usually spend more time on smartphones than tablets and pretty much have their phones always on and within easy reach, and Amazon knows a little something about technology and selling technology, à la their Kindle eReaders and their Kindle Fire tablets. They priced them to sell and then provided customers a platform for books and videos and content. As to additional content, how better to leverage Amazon’s newest service, Prime Music, streaming music, free to customers who are members of Amazon Prime. So it seems as if Amazon’s got your number, well, they do.

Oh, and speaking of numbers, keep in mind Amazon already has close to 260 million customers already buying a lot of stuff a lot of the time, much of it online. Want to guess how many like the idea of smartphones and are already highly engaged with the Amazon brand, so the Amazon phone is sounding pretty good to them about now? It looks to cost $199 with a 2-year contract or $299 for the 64GB version. And it comes with a free year of Amazon Prime, and current Prime Members will get the 12 months for free too. Fire Phone is due to ship July 25th.

And given all those possibilities, Amazon’s entry could actually end up being the industry’s very, very, first sell-phone. 

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

To Err Is Human. To Forgive Divine. To Blame It On Someone Else Is Just Business.

When the waiting time for loading video got sluggish, Netflix used social media to advise consumers they should blame Verizon. “The Verizon network is crowded right now,” they tweeted, but informed customers that Netflix was in the process of adjusting for smoother playback. That’s the message that was sent to customers.

Verizon, as you might expect, disagreed – pretty vehemently as it turns out and sent a message of their own to Netflix. Through their attorneys via a cease-and-desist letter that in part said “false accusations have the potential to harm the Verizon brand” and that the allegation was “self-serving, deceptive, inaccurate, and an unfair business practice.”

Verizon pointed out that Netflix’s systems for streaming are complex and so you can’t just go ahead and blame Verizon without substantiation. Oh, and they also wanted Netflix to produce a list of the customers who were sent the notice. There are issues about who pays what for connecting directly to the Verizon network and bypassing the ‘go-between’ that carries content through the Internet, what makes it faster or slower, and other Internet/digital minutiae that’s generally left to lawyers and technology expert-witnesses to sort out. Anyway, that’s the legal perspective.

Here’s the brand perspective: Ultimately it comes down to whom the consumer believes – or doesn’t believe. And believability is always ceded to the brand that consumers are most highly emotionally engaged with.

Sure, there’s rational right and wrong, and nobody likes a slow download, but the more emotionally engaged a consumer is with a brand always translates to higher degrees of loyalty. We’re talking about real loyalty and the benefits that come with it and not just collecting points – the benefits of genuine loyalty.

Real loyalty is accompanied by better behavior toward the more-emotionally-engaged-with-brand. More usage, increased recommendations, and other good things successful brands aspire to. Engagement and loyalty also translates to higher degrees of believability and the consumer’s willingness to give the brand with the highest engagement the benefit of the doubt in uncertain circumstances. Six times more, in fact.

While engagement is category-specific, it is possible to compare Online Video Streaming and Broadband Providers via their individual category Ideals, configured to be 100%. When we do that, Netflix comes out significantly higher than Verizon – 89% vs. 77%. And, as engagement correlates with all those positive behaviors and attitudes and compassion, consumers should feel the same way in the real marketplace. And they did.

Out of 1,000 U.S. consumers who have streaming video, when asked who was most likely responsible for slow program-streaming/downloading, their primary Video Provider or the Broadband Provider, 86% blamed the Broadband Provider.

And of 400 consumers in the sample who cited Netflix as their primary provider, when asked whether the blame would fall at the feet of Netflix or Verizon, 365, or 91%, blamed Verizon. That’s the nice thing about engagement and loyalty metrics, they’re predictive consumer attitudes and behaviors in the real marketplace.

The letter to Netflix warned that Verizon could “pursue legal remedies,” and, again, that’s up to Verizon’s lawyers. But in this instance, given the brand’s current emotional engagement levels, they probably want to avoid a jury trial.

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun. Or A Burger, Apparently.

Following in the footsteps of Chipotle’s announcement of their a gun-free policy a few of weeks ago, other national brands like Applebee’s, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, and Wendy’s, have added something new to their menu: a request that patrons stop bringing automatic weapons into their establishments.

Now, biting the bullet, Chili’s and Sonic Drive-In have joined them, after finding themselves literally under the gun when members of the gun-rights group, Open Carry Texas, loaded for bear, walked into Texas-area outlets of Sonic and Chili's carrying assault rifles, their version of Pink Floyd’s “The Gunners Dream.” So Sonic and Chili's, following RZA’s suggestion that patrons “Put Your Guns Down,” both issued statements late last week requesting that customers keep guns out of their restaurants – even if they do have open carry permits. The rationale behind these new policies rests on the premise that – wait for it – weapons can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other diners.

Wow! You think?

Brinker International who owns Chili’s said they were “dedicated to providing a safe environment for our guests and team members.” Sonic asked customers to "refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our outdoor dining areas." The request extends to the inside of the restaurant too, even if it is a Saturday night special dinner out!

Now we measure a lot of category values in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index – attributes, benefits, and values for nearly 100 categories and 900+ brands – and normally in columns like this we’d provide a list of quick-serve and casual restaurants and how they ranked according to how well customers saw the brands meeting their expectations regarding a particular category value. But in this case, we’re stumped! While we pride ourselves on a high caliber value inventory for our analyses, we overlooked the attribute “has a no-gun policy” in any of the restaurant – or retail categories, for that matter, that we track. Maybe it’s time we re-consider that.

Many retail businesses have taken to putting up signs reading “No Guns Allowed,” or “This Establishment Has a No-Gun Policy.” Signs reading “ Ties and Ammunition Bandoliers Optional” haven’t shown up yet, but last year Denny’s released a commercial, titled
“Greatness,” indicating that the right to bear arms is one of the critical values that makes this country great. Now before you go ballistic, the “Dad” in the commercial was apparently asking about one of their sandwiches. Still. . .

On their Facebook page, Open Carry Texas said it would "cease taking long guns into corporate businesses unless invited," because as every diner knows, nothing adds to a restaurant’s ambiance like a loaded automatic weapon. A post on the National Rifle Association’s Legislative Action website says: Demonstrators bringing long guns into Chipotle and Chili’s is really, really bad for business. And it’s starting to look “weird,” and it’s degenerating into “downright foolishness.” You think!?

If the Second Amendment activists would only listen to Johnny Cash, and “Don't take your guns to town,” nobody will have to to go into any restaurant and order this way: “I’ll have a burger, fries, small drink, and hold the deadly weapon, please.”

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

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, May 29, 2014

The Most Loyal Fans In Hockey

Hockey fans are on the edge of their seats watching NHL teams gliding through first two rounds and into the conference finals and playoffs of the 2014 Stanley Cup – commissioned in 1892, named for Lord Stanley of Preston, the then-Governor General of Canada – the championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League winner at the conclusion of the finals. And just before the conclusion of hockey’s greatest competition, Brand Keys has released the results of their Sports Fan Loyalty Index for the most loyal fans in the NHL.

Sure, winning is good, and winning a championship trophy is even better, but doing that alone doesn’t automatically skate a team to the top of the loyalty list. Winning gives fans bragging rights but there are other engagement values that have to be taken into account. And from a marketing perspective, loyalty – because it’s a leading-indicator of positive consumer behavior correlating, highly with viewership, licensed merchandise sales and, to a more-or-lesser, degree, attendance – represents the ultimate trophy a sports marketer can win.

These assessments come from 150 self-classified fans in each of the teams’ own DMAs, and the current 2014 NHL top-5 and bottom-5 brand loyalty rankings are as follows, with last season’s ranking in parentheses:


1. Chicago Blackhawks                                         (#2)
2. New York Rangers                                             (#1)
3. Boston Bruins                                                    (#2)
4. San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues               (#3 and #6)
5. Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings &
    Philadelphia Flyers                                            (#4, #5, and #5)


30. New York Islanders                                         (#30)
29. Columbus Blue Jackets                                  (#29)
28. Phoenix Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets              (#28 and #27)
27. Buffalo Sabres                                                (#23)
26. Tampa Bay Lightening                                    (#26)

Win-loss ratios may be the only thing when it comes to making the playoffs, but as we’ve said again and again, when it comes to loyalty it’s not the only thing.

Rule-of-thumb is that win-loss ratios can contribute up to a 20% bump in a team’s loyalty. But to be fair to the NHL fans, professional hockey is a little different from other Major League Sports. Winning games contribute a bit more to loyalty for hockey. About 10% more, for a number of reasons: first, the sport moves faster than the others, so there’s a bit more attention necessarily paid to the Pure Entertainment driver wherein wins and losses reside. For the NHL, the Authenticity driver correlates very highly to at-home attendance figures, and makes a slightly higher contribution to engagement and loyalty than it does for the NFL, MLB, or the NBA, probably because in recent years NHL TV access has been comparatively limited versus other Major League Sports.

And while we’re sure hockey fans have their favorite players, the protective equipment makes it hard to instantaneously identify a player (with the possible exception of the goalie), so Fan Bonding makes a slightly smaller contribution in the case of this sport.

So while the final scores and game attendance tend to contribute more to loyalty for professional hockey, all of the emotionally-based, predictive drivers really have to be taken into account when measuring team loyalty. The four emotional drivers of fan loyalty look like this:

Pure Entertainment:
How well a team does but, and a bit more important for hockey than other Major League Sports. But also contributing, how exciting is their play?

How well they play as a team and do fans show up to root for the home team.

Fan Bonding:
Are there players that are particularly respected and admired?

History and Tradition:
Is the team part of fans’ and community’s rituals, institutions and beliefs?

Of the four Major League Sports that Brand Keys tracks in their Sports Fan Loyalty Index, the National Hockey League is #4 again this year. The National Football League is currently 1st followed by Major League Baseball, with the National Basketball Association in 3rd place. 

Overall team rankings – no matter which league – because they are based on predictive engagement metrics, and since rankings can be influenced depending upon how loyalty drivers are managed, it’s critical that NHL team marketers act as strategically off the ice as the players do on.

Wayne Gretzky, aka “The Great One,” and leading point-scorer in NHL history, noted that a good hockey player plays where the puck is, and a great player plays to where the puck is going to be. Great sports marketers know that same maxim can be applied to fan loyalty too. Particularly if you have the right loyalty and engagement metrics in place.

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