Thursday, May 29, 2008
Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Lancaster Fleming, the debonair creator of the equally debonair British spy, James Bond. Fleming was born in Mayfair, London and died too soon at the age of 56 in Kent, England.
Fleming only wrote 14 books, but in the best marketing tradition he created a movie franchise and string of story pastiches that started in 1962 and will continue with a new Bond adventure (penned by Sebastian Faulkes “writing as Ian Fleming”) and an upcoming film, “Quantum of Solace” being released later this year.
For the bibliophiles among you, here are all of the original 007 tales:
1. Casino Royale 1953
2. Live and Let Die 1954
3. Moonraker 1955
4. Diamonds Are Forever 1956
5. From Russia with Love 1957
6. Dr. No 1958
7. Goldfinger 1959
8. For Your Eyes Only 1960
9. Thunderball 1961
10. The Spy Who Loved Me 1962
11. On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1963
12. You Only Live Twice 1964
13. The Man with the Golden Gun 1965
14. Octopussy & The Living Daylights 1966
Bond. James Bond may be one of the most enduring pop-culture characters ever created. Ian Fleming would have been 100. Happily James Bond remains ageless.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
There’s always those moments in the brand business when you sit back and say out loud, “so, who exactly was in the room when this was green-lighted?” Beyonce’s clothing line Deréon (alliteration intended, one presumes) has embraced girls’ fashion with a zeal usually reserved for motorists with more money than sense cruising West End Avenue on a Saturday night.
“ProstiTots” is the phrase being slung about on blogs, used to describe the 7-year old girls in the Deréon catalog whose tiny feet find themselves nearly vertical in red stilettos. One can hear the phtotog now, “that’s it, Felicity, lick your lips, yes, yes, just like that, but this time without the lollipop.”
It is not unusual for celebrities to see dollar signs and extend their personal brand into everything from apparel to bed sheets—though anyone who has been through a department store clearance bin cannot have missed the celeb brands that clutter within them. But this is more serious than the plumping of celebrity pockets. These are girls posed like women. Girls who are in second, maybe third, grade. And this catalog is for other girls so they too can crave leather and lipstick—hurry, Mummy, before it gets too late and all the good boys are taken!
No, Beyonce, not all publicity is good. No brand, not even yours, can stand the kind of loss of customer loyalty seen in the blogs out there. Hell hath no fury like a mother protecting. And that’s more than bad fashion business; it’s bad human business.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
With the greening of America, more and more consumers are checking out food and beverage labels to see whether their food is up to today’s new environmental standards. Labels profess to protect the environment, preserve the rainforest, and act as the protector of the rights of migratory birds and free-range chickens. But how free-ranging are the actual claims?
According to Brand Keys, nearly three-quarters of consumers (72%) have indicated that ingredient and environmentally friendly claims appearing on package call-outs and ingredient listings are “confusing.”
So here’s some things to keep in mind when assessing those labels:
“Organic” is the gold standard for labels, which means that products are genetic engineering-free, free of conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and raised without hormones or antibiotics.
“Natural” sounds good, right? But it can mean something as inconsequential as “minimally processed.” For others it could just mean that animals haven’t been injected with hormones or antibiotics.
“Cage-Free” and “Free Range” are apparently the least reliable. One expert pointed out that “cage free could mean the animal just lives in a barn. With 100,000 other chickens. “Free range” can mean that the animals have access to the outdoors. Individual farms have their own standards – and their own vocabulary. That may be different from the consumer’s.
If you think this is both ambiguous, confusing, and a bit of puffery on the parts of the providers, help is on the way. The USDA is currently in talks with farms, cattle and chicken ranchers, and consumer groups to formulate some uniform standards for labels like “Natural,” “Naturally Raised,” “Grass-Fed,” “Free Range,” and “100% Organic.”
Good things may come in small packages, but consumers still want clarity regarding what they’re willing to swallow. And that includes the label.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It may be true that there’s a time and a place for everything, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to the problem of parking one’s car! But this year it will be a little easier. That’s because the auto industry is cutting the following models from their assembly lines:
Honda Accord Hybrid: Turns out that there were cheaper, non-hybrid cars that got more MPG!
Jaguar X-Type Wagon: Is there any other automotive brand that goes less well with the term “wagon”?
Ford Mercury Montego: Most drivers didn’t even know this model existed (although it is being re-launched as the “Sable”).
Chrysler Pacifica: A minivan as exciting as the Long Island Expressway on Friday at 5:00 PM before a three-day holiday weekend.
Hummer H1: The ultimate symbol of the worst of American wretched excess.
And so, we bid farewell to these ill-conceived automotive brands. And though they may not be missed, it is worth remembering that everything in life is somewhere else, and you can usually get there in a car.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Frank Zappa once opined, “You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons. But at the very, very least you need a beer.”
While we’re not sure that this observation applies universally to cities – at least the nuclear weapons part – this thought came to mind when we heard about a new website – beermenus.com – that aims to catalog all the beers available in New York City. One of the site creators said, “ there are a lot of people who like craft beer, but it takes a great deal of effort to find it.” And now, apparently, any thirst for singular suds can be quenched by letting your fingers do the walking.
From the beer brand perspective, marketers have always had an unquenchable thirst for consumer loyalty and market share, and – according to respondents in our 2008 Customer Loyalty Engagement Survey – the major beer brands rank as follows:
1. Coors Light
2. Miller Lite
3. Bud Light
4. Michelob Light
5. Amstel Light
1. Sam Adams
2. Coors/Miller Genuine Draft (tie)
4. Corona/Michelob (tie)
These rankings are based on the brand’s ability to meet – or even exceed – expectations that beer drinkers hold for the drivers of loyalty for beer. So while Plato noted, “He was a wise man who invented beer,” we note for the record that it’s also a wise marketer who knows what really drives his category and what consumers really expect. If you can do that, you’ll have loyal customers, more sales, larger market share, and greater profits.
And that’s something every marketer can drink to!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal had us wondering if the seismic shift in the retail landscape we predicted earlier this year came with an echo.
According to the May 8th article entitled The War on Returns, defects aren’t even in the top three reasons for returns in the electronics category, according to Mike Abary, a senior vice president at Sony Electronics. The number one reason? The products “didn’t meet expectations.” Since Brand Keys created the predictive model where engagement, loyalty, and profitability are all governed by how well a brand meets or exceed customer expectations, this didn’t come as a total surprise to us.
As the product watering hole has expanded beyond what anyone could have imagined a mere ten years ago — with the Internet supplying much of that variety and choice — consumer’s ideals in category after category have shifted one way: up. Our metrics of the expectations consumers hold for brands bear witness to this dissatisfaction.
Electronics brands specifically can fall prey to the practice of counting angels dancing on the head of a pin, with only the geekiest among us able to remember five minutes after we leave the store what features made Brand A superior to B. Take, for example, the LCD HDTV Category rankings from our 2008 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index:
1. Samsung/Panasonic (tie)
2. RCA/Toshiba (tie)
4. JVC/Hitachi (tie)
There have been more ties this year in more categories than in any of the prior 10 years of the survey, virtually all of them due to increased customer expectations.
The most frightening finding in this article, however, is not the rate of returns due to unfulfilled expectations, but the fact that technology-consultant Accenture found that one-quarter of people who return an item don’t buy that brand again. Ever.
Clearly this calls for brands to have a deeper understanding than ever before of what exactly consumers are expecting, so they can better meet those expectations — or the echo won’t only be us reading our own warning in the headlines, but the sound of feet walking back into the store, products in tow, with the consumer ready to buy your competitor’s product.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Put them all together they spell. . . Mother’s Day. This Sunday. And according to 1,200 men and women, 18-65 years of age, from the 9 U.S. Census Regions, and part of our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, 9 out of 10 consumers are planning to celebrate Mother’s Day, spending an average of $140.00.
Click here and see why!
Thinking back, we suppose the real question we should have asked was, “do you think that $140.00 is enough?”
Happy Mother’s Day!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Rising gasoline and food prices are causing Americans to find creative ways to cut costs on routine items like groceries. Though the trade-offs seem relatively small - more pasta and less red meat, fewer organics and more basics – they’re adding up to an important shift in consumer behavior. People haven’t stopped spending. They’re just spending differently, trading what they view as luxuries for necessities.
Wal-Mart, for example, has reported stronger-than-usual sales of peanut butter and spaghetti. Purchases of brand name cookies and crackers have fallen. Supermarket chain Safeway reported higher-than-expected quarterly profits, attributed mostly to consumers trading down to lower-priced food items. Cut-rate supermarkets, like Save-A-Lot, have seen increases in shopper traffic in recent months.
Retail sales figures and consumer behavior confirm that Americans are strategically cutting corners, starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, and organic retailers like Whole Foods are expected to feel the pinch more than most. Maybe.
While an ounce of loyalty is still worth a pound of store-brand groceries, the brand and how well it meets or exceeds customer expectations is really the scale that will determine the degree to which a store will suffer defections. The decision won't be entirely rational. Emotions come into play -- on average they make a 70% contribution to the decision/loyalty process.
Brands like Wild Oats, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s are all possible loyalty beneficiaries. Especially if loyal consumers follow Oscar Wilde’s clearly emotional dictum, that if they have the luxuries, they’ll dispense with the necessities. Of course, there's always the rational side: if you have to ask how much it cost, you probably can't afford it!
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Shoppers were not excited to exchange hard-won dollars for invented Wal-Mart brands like Metro7 and George that offered little in the way of design difference but took more cash – a bullet Target missed by using real designers for their offerings. Now, in a different approach, Wal-Mart is joining forces with established clothing brands like Op and l.e.i. jeans, and most interestingly Norma Kamali of 80’s football-shoulders fame – a designer who has, with Cher-like tenacity, managed to hang on to a bit of floor space in upscale chains and even her own boutique.
An appetite for apparel brands shows no signs of slowing: the 2008 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index from Brand Keys shows Macy’s in the number one spot among non-discount department stores. Macy’s new retailing approach—heavy on the celebrity brands like Jessica Simpson, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump—appears to be working, and would bode well for a non-store brand strategy on the discount side of the store aisle. With the celebrity associations Op is calling on to publicize the launch, and even the faded celebrity of Ms. Kamali herself, Wal-Mart may indeed be finally getting the mix of product and celebrity brand right.
A lot depends, as it always does, on what the product delivers because in the category in which Wal-Mart competes, the Merchandise Range and the Quality of the Merchandise hold the highest expectations for consumers. Celebrity will sell, but only if they are backed up by something people actually want to wear.