Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Someone (probably a college student) once noted that “Pizza is a lot like sex. When it's good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's still pretty good.”
This notion came to us when someone at the Motivation Show here in Chicago, talking about the greatest invention of all time nominated pizza, but specifically Chicago pizza. As “source material” they mentioned The Chicago Pizza Club, a group of committed pizza gastronomes whose objective is to become the foremost pizza authority in Chicago, assessing only the quality of the food.
According to their website, they “have used a basic scale of 1-10, which works fine. The only problem has been that we have not used a guide for what different numbers mean. As a result, we noticed that many of our numerical rankings did not accurately reflect our feelings about the rankings,” and that, as any researcher or brand planner knows, can be problematic. The problem has since been rectified with a more descriptive scale but as readers of this blog can attest, the truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Because there are emotional aspects to virtually every consumer decision, scales often don’t reflect the nuances so important in understanding how consumers decide upon one offering versus another. So we turned to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index whose assessments fuse the rational and emotional to see how US Consumers assess pizza brands. Keep in mind that ours are ratings of National brands and don’t take into account local favorites, which, according to Chicagoans, are better than anything you have in your hometown! The results were as follows:
2. Pizza Hut
3. Papa John's
4. Godfather's/Little Caesars/Round Table
5. Chuck E. Cheese
So is pizza the greatest food invention of all time? Not according to humorist, Dave Barry who feels, “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”
Share on Facebook
Thursday, September 24, 2009
That’s the title of the 3rd Annual Motivation Show being held next week in Chicago. This year’s focus is connecting engagement, loyalty, and profitability. And if anybody knows about loyalty and engagement, it’s Brand Keys.
Engagement has been a tough metric for marketers to define, but your ultimate goal shouldn’t be that difficult to articulate. Engagement with the brand is – or should be – your ultimate objective. Nothing substitutes for it. Nothing else will guarantee brand survival and profitability.
To get there you must, of course, employ outreach — conversations, experiences, advertising, promotions and the like — and that outreach also requires engagement. But that’s not brand engagement. It is an engagement with the method the brand is using to get the consumer to engage with the brand.
We’ve identified four engagement methods and one fundamental objective that addresses the complex consumer living in the 21st Century mediascape:
1. Platform (TV; online; print; sponsorship)
2. Context (Program; webpage; magazine; game)
3. Message (Ad or Communication)
4. Experience (Store/Event)
1. Brand Engagement.
Based on numerous in-market validity studies we can confidently define “brand engagement” as the consequence of any marketing or communication effort that results in an increased level of brand equity for the product/service — and therefore loyalty, a leading-indicator of sales. Loyalty is always generated when the brand meets or exceeds customer expectations, and real engagement metrics can help optimize your efforts.
At this year’s Motivation Show, Amy Shea, Brand Keys EVP, Global Brand Development, will be teaching attendees how to “Leverage Emotions to Leverage Loyalty.” And because loyalty metrics are leading-indicators of consumer behavior and profitability, Brand Keys founder and president, Robert Passikoff will give attendees an advance look at “Ten Loyalty and Engagement Trends for 2010.”
We hope to see you in Chicago. As always, if you are unable to attend, drop us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) and we’ll be glad to send you a copy of either (or both).
Share on Facebook
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
We take a moment out from our presentations in Rome, to look through “The Keyhole” at some of our Italian branding compatriots. Today’s focus is the famous Lamborghini brand.
The Lamborghini company founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini, began manufacturing cars, tractors, golf carts, and engineering equipment in 1946. Their masterpiece was, of course, the Miura sports car of the 60’s and the 70’s. In 1981, Ferruccio's son, Tonino, a designer himself, took over the family business and expanded into branded clothing and jewelry.
One quickly learns that smart American companies aren’t the only ones who have loyalty-based research to inform them of what will truly engage the consumer marketplace. And from a market perspective, in the face of the ever-enlarging cyber boom, the Italian luxury brand has diversified into the luxury accessories segment, offering a Lamborghini-branded line of multi-media accessories.
With a worldwide explosion of new computers, laptops, i-phones and i-pods, and smarter (and smarter) phones, Lamborghini will now offer signature branded computer backpacks, i-phone, Blackberry, notebook, and digital camera cases at their mega lifestyle retail stores.
The brand is apparently targeting college students and young executives, who make short-haul trips in Europe with their laptops and other digital accouterments. And although one might question a brand extension like this in a world just recovering from the economic turmoil for the last two years, Mr. Lamborghini may just be following the Italian philosophy, “Il lusso non è un requisito di vita. Tutto che dobbiamo renderli realmente felici è qualcosa essere entusiastico circa” (Luxury is not a requirement of life. All we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.)
The Lamborghini brand may just be able to do that.
Share on Facebook
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By now, Kanye West’s latest trip to the social trash bin has been commented on by both blogs and media alike. Proving just how inappropriate a celebrity can be is a game that will always have its audience—especially when that audience has been invited to watch, as it was the night of the MTV Video Music Awards.
West’s taking the stage from Taylor Swift as she was accepting her first VMA in order to present his personal vote for Beyonce was painful to watch, as Ms. Swift’s devastation was inescapable to anyone with feelings. That same night at the VMA’s, post Kanye’s “episode,” Beyonce did indeed win an award in another category, and used the opportunity to recall her own first win and call Taylor Swift back on stage to finish her acceptance speech and “have her moment.” But there is pain, and triumph, beyond that of Taylor Swift’s that ripples out from such an event.
Both West and Beyonce are human brands—brands that are impacted by the persona they craft in the public eye. West, as is clear from the blog posts swelling the internet highway, has some damage control to do, and may want to consult Beyonce for some lessons.
As a brand, Beyonce has not been without challenges, coming by way of the very adult dressing of young girls for her House of Dereon clothing catalogue last year. But clearly Beyonce has not only found her way as a brand, but also as a human being—adding grace and class to her product line, along with clothing and jewelry, and a soon to be announced fragrance. These are values that matter to fans, who are also, it turns out, consumers. Kanye would do well to take note and remember that, when it comes to brand stars, clever songwriting may make fans but it takes values to make music with consumers.
Share on Facebook
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Last Sunday GM launched a campaign called “May the Best Car Win.” It was, apparently, designed to address a lingering image of GM as a financially struggling company with substandard products. The campaign offers customers a refund within 60 days on any GM vehicle if not completely satisfied. Edward Whitacre, GM’s new Chairman recruited by the US Government and former AT&T chief, is the face of the new campaign. Shades of Dieter Zetsche!
This begs the question, of course, if the belief that GM has sub-standard products is really GM’s problem.
This has now escalated from a mere marketing question batted around a conference room table to real news, seeing as the American taxpayers coughed up $50 billion dollars to bail GM out, with the US government holding a 60% ownership stake in the company.
Clearly the guarantee element was included as an “insurance policy” of sorts. A creative way of expressing a “quality” proof-point in the ads. After all, would GM make the offer if they actually thought the cars were of poor quality?
But the truth is that real brand loyalty research has shown it’s been a good long while since consumers thought about GM in that way. The GM cars are, generally speaking, thought of as being as good as any comparably priced competitors. Really. So why even raise the issue?
Part of the answer likely has to do with the way in which GM has been evaluating the brand and its cars. Nothing so crude as “So, do you think GM still makes inferior cars?” where a “yes” or “no” reinforces a second-rate image any way someone answer—but you can bet some question or scale akin to that is being used.
No, the core of the problem resides in the fact that GM stands for “generic car company.” In the past we’ve called them the “ACME Car Company of the 21st Century.” GM was never very good at branding, and is still failing to present their cars in any context that is meaningful to consumers. When you’re just a “car” you never end up being rated better than a brand that is seen to be somewhat more than just a car.
But this is not a recent condition. A number of years ago The New York Times covered a new Buick campaign in their Ad column. It had some sort of tag like “Technology” or “Creative Motoring” or “To Infinity and Beyond.” When asked about why a positioning (such as it was) was selected, the Agency VP said something like, “Well, we had to give buyers something to tell their neighbors as to why they bought the car!” We don’t know about you, but none of us can ever remember using a tagline in any conversation that was not either work related or a hotly-contested game of trivial pursuit.
Back in 2005, after reporting a $1.1 billion loss (it was only stockholders money back then), the remedy that GM management suggested was to put the GM Mark of Excellence logo on all models in an effort to link the corporation to its divisions. This was deemed a good idea, presumably, because, as the company pointed out with its usual mid-20th century bravado, “everyone was familiar with the GM brand!”
It was, to say the least, an interesting marketing proposition: Link automobiles that stand for little in the consumer’s minds with a manufacturer that stands even less. Consumers knew, of course, GM made cars and trucks, but on the rare occasions they thought about GM, they didn’t think much about them at all (including anything having to do with substandard vehicles), and therein lies the real problem. GM brands never stood for anything in the minds of car buyers, and they still don’t.
It can’t have gone unnoticed – even in insular Detroit – that about a decade ago the consumer decision-process became far more emotionally-based than rationally-based. A lot of that has to do with the fact that with process-reengineering, Total Quality, advancements in robotics and the fact that consumers didn’t really didn’t like the door handles falling of their cars as they drove them off the lots, car manufacturers – all car manufacturers including GM – pretty much got the nuts n’ bolts fabrication formula down pretty well. Cars – price points notwithstanding – were pretty much the same. But the cars that did better in the marketplace were the ones that did better in the minds of the consumers. They “meant” something. They stood for something important to consumers. They thought, and they bought. At the very least they ended up in the consideration set. Of the four remaining GM brands, three stand for nothing.
Doubt me? OK here’s a little brand word-association test to determine whether any product or service is a brand. Ask the consumer to tell you the first thing that comes to mind when you name a particular product. In the car category it would go something like this (answers come from our most recent Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index):
You: General Motors
(OK, a little bit more explicit)
That “uhhh” is the sound of a brand dying. If you have no values or meaning to leverage all you can do is resort to tactics like offering a money back guarantee.
In their last campaign we heard a lot about “reinvention” from GM. But what they really ought to remember is that if they want to do something new, they have to stop doing things they way they did 50 years ago and start some sort of meaningful branding.
Because when it comes to successful auto sales, meaning is what sets us apart from other life forms – or at least the ones with driver’s licenses.
Share on Facebook
Thursday, September 10, 2009
A number of years ago we identified a trend among wealthy consumers. We observed that these households were suddenly patronizing Discount Retailers, even though they didn’t really need to the way households with far lower incomes needed to. It turned out that they wanted to be seen a “wise shoppers.”
Most of this trend had to do with the commoditization of products and services, and the fact that “brands” (the quotes are intentional) had actually become “category placeholders.” Stuff people knew, but didn’t really stand for anything different than their primacy of product or service. You know, GM had become the ACME Car Company of the late-20th Century. Like that.
Anyway, we’re not sure if the recent economic upheaval reinforced or destabilized that trend, but the rich would have been wise to have listened to the advice offered up by Ben Franklin, “If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting,” because bankruptcy filings have skyrocketed 73% in recent months among people who own homes worth more than $1 million, who can't afford them anymore and can't sell them, either.
Instead of liquidating and walking away, the rich are spending extra legal fees to file Chapter 11 reorganizations, actions reminiscent of another quote: “Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which you put your money in your pants pocket and give your coat to your creditors.”
Share on Facebook
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Labor Day is a strange holiday. Think about it. There are no gifts, no decorations, no cards or flowers, no fireworks or costumes. There are the usual B-B-Qs, but then, a worker’s got to eat!
But whether you are celebrating or not, playing or reclining, consumer confidence has been working overtime. A leading-indicator of consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the nation's economic activity, consumer confidence jumped much more than was predicted last month. The job market outlook and business expectations have improved and the measure moved up nearly 15% from August’s numbers – especially regarding expectations for the economy six months from now.
This may not traditionally be a holiday that rings the registers, but this year there is something for America’s retailers to celebrate!
Share on Facebook