- Four Square / Google +
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Social Networking Update: The Appearance of Pinterest, a Gaff for Google+, and the Un-Friending of Facebook
It’s no surprise to anyone who has a computer or tablet or smartphone, well, OK, literally anyone, that the digital marketplace – particularly the social networking marketplace – travels at the speed of the consumer, with new entries coming along all the time. Some are deemed more social than others.
And according to a recent update to the Social Networking Category of the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Pinterest, the content sharing service that allows members to "pin" images and videos to their pinboard along with standard social networking features, showed up for the first time since we measured the category in January of this year.
With the addition of a new entry, as well as the never-ending changes in consumer expectations, changes in the brand rankings show up too, currently looking like this:
In the re-configuration and re-calculation of the category, Facebook fell to 5th, Google + took a hit too, moving from 5th to 8th, and Yelp moved up one and MySpace moved down one.
And yes, the botched Facebook IPO couldn’t have helped the brand. But social networking brands need to manage themselves within the context of Main Street and not just Wall Street and know as much as they can about what drives their category.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
It’s been reported that after nearly 4 decades, designer Elsa Peretti may be ending her licensing relationship with luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. That’s a pretty big deal for the luxury brand since the Peretti line turns out to be a luxury brand within a luxury brand.
Tiffany has made an offer to buy the designer’s intellectual rights, but if they can’t work out the details, the two may end up at a parting of the ways. Without a new agreement, Tiffany would maintain all design rights for six months and would have an additional year to sell any Peretti-designed jewelry that they had in stock.
Peretti, of course, isn’t the only designer brand within the Tiffany brand. Tiffany & Co. maintains licensing agreements with Frank Gehry, Paloma Picasso, and Jean Schlumberger.
But the fact that for the past three years in a down-ish economy, Peretti’s line of jewelry accounted for 10% of Tiffany’s net sales, which only proves that that companies should never take their brand lightly.Or in Tiffany’s case, one can only suppose, Holly Golightly.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Remember when flat screen TVs were really expensive? Not any more. The average price is around $545. And while the prices get smaller, the sets get larger – 38 inches today, up from 33 inches five years ago. Ain’t technology grand!
The TV manufacturers don’t think so. Providers like Samsung and Sony are strong-arming retailers to pull back on discounting policies for TVs, and have come up with a new plan that would prevent retailers from advertising or selling TVs for less than a price the manufacturers set. It’s a move aimed at increasing profit margins, decreasing on-line competition, and something the manufacturers hope will eradicate “showrooming,” a consumer tactic where shoppers check out models in bricks-and-mortar stores, and then buy them for dramatically reduced prices online.
“Price-fixing,’ you say? “No, No,” says the Supreme Court. They’ve ruled manufacturers can set minimum prices at which retailers can advertise a product. Dictating policy about retailer/customer transactions? Maybe. It ends up that the law may be with the manufacturers, but ultimately not the marketplace.
All this is compounded by the fact that brands – particularly tech products like TVs – have been tough to differentiate in terms of rational equipment characteristics, which is why supporting emotional brand values is so very important, whichever category you’re watching. If you can differentiate your offering, you don’t have to play the price game, and you probably won’t lay awake at night worrying about losing sales to competitors unless you provide low, lower, lowest prices.
When it comes to TVs it doesn’t help there haven’t been all that many category innovations. We used to look at different types of TVs in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, but TVs became so similar we decided to just look at “Flat Screen TVs” as a single category. Here’s how the brands rank when it comes to loyalty and engagement:
There may be plenty to watch on TV these days, but the outlook for the category isn’t pretty. The number of TVs sold to retailers is down, as are retail chain earnings. And it turns out not all TV manufacturers are up to enforcing price controls. But until providers learn how to create real emotional engagement, or until retailers can offer consumers products they can’t get on-line, comparison-shopping via bricks, clicks, or a mix will continue.
As they say in the business, “stay tuned.”
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Google+ launched brand pages six months ago, introducing new social nomenclatures like “circles,” "hangouts," and "+1s." But it appears that anticipated ballooning of interest in "+1s" has been burst by the "pins" of Pinterest. And although Google continues to invest in product and marketing, the consensus among digital marketers seems to be that Google+ is where folks go to set up a profile, but then seldom return.
In fairness, brands have created pages but haven’t posted anything since, which is a very real and very basic problem for brands. It calls into agonizingly clear focus the problem that brands entering digital space face every single day: Now that brands know what they can do, they remain unsure of exactly what they should do to create a truly strategic digital plan that will provide real engagement and/or return-on-investments.
A new study, the Digital Platform Engagement Index℠ – a national study of 49,000 consumers looking at 83 categories and 600 brands – demonstrates unequivocally that not only does digital platform engagement differ by category, but when it comes to digital marketing, one-size-does-not-fit-all. Sure, there's a widely held notion that Google+ users skew male and are tech-savvy, but that’s just more demos and segments, and figuring out how to locate the right consumer is pretty much the last thing brand marketers struggle with today.
Via our Brand Keys Digital Platform GPS℠ measures, brands can optimize their digital investments and answer the following questions:
- Which digital platforms provide higher consumer engagement in your category and thus a greater ROI?
- How does digital actually connect with the emotional and rational drivers of consumer category engagement and how it will impact sales and loyalty?
- Ultimately, how can brands operate strategically – and profitably – in digital space, customizing high-return strategies for different audiences and different digital platforms – including high digital usage consumers, or "Higitals”?
The latest official report from Google is that more than 100 million people have been active on Google+ in the past month. But that number includes people who've set up Google+ accounts and then visited other "socially enhanced" parts of Google, like search or YouTube.
All categories move at the speed of the consumer, so when we conducted our 2012 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index© survey, platforms like Pinterest weren’t even on the radar screen. But at that moment, here’s how Social Networking Sites ranked:
More digital options to come, of course, so watch for our Loyalty Leaders List later this year. In the meantime it’s worth remembering that the internet’s strength was supposed to have been its ability to help the consumer find the right needle in the digital haystack. The Digital Platform GPS was built to help brands find the right haystack in which to build their digital nests.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
There was a time if you wanted to make a call, the nearest phone booth was probably at the back of your local candy store. Those disappeared when phone companies installed street-corner booths. Urban vandalism combined with the advent of the mobile phone facilitated the disappearance of virtually all of those as well.
Phone booths, street kiosks, and actual telephone books as well are about to have company joining them in the “Land of What-Used-To-Be.” As consumers continue moving to wireless, states are passing laws to end the requirement that phone companies provide land-line services. You know, wires that connected to that device hanging on your kitchen wall or resting on an end table.
Back in the last century we used to track phone company land-line brands in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, but of course no more. In fact, in 2000 we started to include cell phone-only consumers in our Index research just to make sure we didn’t miss that particular segment of consumers. Back then, it was only 5% of the national sample. A dozen years later it ‘s 20% of the sample, and appears that it is only going to get bigger.
We estimate that by mid-this year nearly a third of U.S. households will have gone totally wireless. But happily, we do measure loyalty and engagement among the national wireless phone service brands, and here’s how they rank:
- AT&T Wireless
- Verizon Wireless
- Sprint PCS
Phone companies and states advocating the deregulation of land-line phone service say it will allow carriers to invest in new technology rather than what appears to be a dying service offering. Advocates for land-lines think they offer a lifeline for consumers and an affordable service, especially in rural areas.
One can only imagine what the next generation of telephonic devices will be that replace current smartphones. But we can leave you with this advice: When all other means of communication fail, try words!
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Having reached the age of maturity, it is time for Facebook to go through that rite of passage reserved for those who count their wealth not only by pocketed assets, but in the promise of the one-percent’s bright future. Yes, reader, it is time for the big business equivalent of the cotillion ball: the IPO road show, where white ball gowns are replaced by Armani suits, and slightly stronger alcohol.
On May 18th, Facebook makes an initial public offering—IPO, to those of us who actually read the Wall Street Journal—and seeks a staggering valuation of $100 billion dollars. That’s about 33 times its advertising revenue. As a point of comparison, Google’s worth is $200 billion, which is 5.5 times its ad revenue. This is where one begins to see the promise part of this debutante’s pedigree, as ad revenue is kind of an important number when it comes to valuing a company.
However, just as with any social function that involves strapless gowns and up-do’s, pretty goes a long way to blunt thinking of the past and turn thoughts to the possible delights found in a future dancing with the girl with the most friends at the party. Such is the hope of Facebook as it fills its dance card with investors. But it didn’t help Facebook’s popularity when Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, the world’s largest advertising company, and “da man” to many who are trying to manage a fracturing marketing paradigm, came out to question the measurement of social media.
We asked that same question, and did something about it, connecting consumer engagement with a category with consumer engagement with Facebook within the context of that category, to measure exactly what was in the cross-hairs of where they meet. In short, helping advertisers measure exactly what they should be doing on Facebook, as well as what they are getting from being there.
We were not invited to the recent IPO ball. But we will be happy to attend the many after parties where advertisers take off those tux jackets and slip off the heels, getting down to the real work of figuring out the dynamics of this new brand and Facebook hook-up.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
A Story About Occupying Digital Space. Or An Answer to “How Should I Be Measuring Digital and Social Media Anyhow?”
Long ago, in a world far, far away, brands made ads and put them on TV. People watched these ads. Not because they wanted to, but because they lacked a device called a “remote” – never mind time-shifting DVRs. The theory was that if consumers sat there long enough and were exposed to enough ad impressions, some degree of positive behavior would ultimately ensue.
Brands hoped the Internet would be the answer to recapturing those golden days of consumer attention once again – this time, not for lack of technology but because of it. The increasing sophistication of filters that can send brand-love messages exactly to that special consumer-someone in the mood for a little emotional bonding promised a land of sales on the other side, with technology enabling advertisers access to ever-more sophisticated profiles built from searches and social pages, selling this to brands as a way in. But a little scratching on the gold-plate of this ideal reveals it for what it is: a modern targeting technique, albeit a big step up from zip-codes, but certainly neither an answer to what consumers expect of brands in the digital space nor a guarantee of increased attention or ad contagion of the desired viral variety.
Yes, yes, awareness has for a very long time been a vital and necessary doorway, but it is far too often viewed as a destination by brands. In the pre-remote dynasty, brands could simply reach the largest number of folks a certain number of times, and connect using simple math. It would be great to say that brands have graduated from calculator media buying to building brand equity and engagement, but many haven't. Because along with the ability to target on the web came the ability to count really, really high. And that got really intoxicating.
Suddenly, brands had an exact number of all the people that had “seen” their message, or, at the very least, exposed to it. And, understandably, that left them a little dizzy at first, until they realized that all that awareness might have bought them some curiosity – depending on how cool the come-on was – but that awareness was often not strongly correlated to sales. Awareness, not being an end unto itself, continues to be a poor measure of whether the advertising foray engaged the person on the other end. As Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, recently noted, “clients, for the very first time, are starting to question the measurement issue on social media.” You think?
The hard-working smart folks at brands have been busy trying to solve these problems, usually being forced to piece together research that has never met, never mind have terms of agreement. There are so many syndicated studies of digital usage now it’s become the new basic black t-shirt of research companies. But studies of what digital platforms rise to the top in terms of visits and usage tells you nothing about a brand's place on any of them. To paraphrase David Ogilvy, “going where the fish are doesn't actually mean you have the right bait.”
So, digital studies started including demographic data. Who are these people anyway who are using these platforms? Maybe the brand can match the demographic profile of a digital platform to their own customer demographics and then, Zowwie Batman, we can find our kind of people easier than ever!
Okay, says the brand, so knowing things like age and gender and income and education, that's insufficient. We need to know what attitudes they have, and how they match up with what we know from that three-quarter of a million dollar study we did that gave us those cool profile names like "Cautious Wanderer" and "Conservative Rebel" and “Real Housewives of ....” Surely, now we can make this work!
And that’s as close as most brands have come to date to linking the emotional component to digital usage. Problem is, it's an emotional pulse taken completely outside the category. A brand may understand who its “friends” are, and watch where they wander in the digital world, then match those things up, but not understand at all how all that emotion projects itself into the category decision-making journey.
Just ask yourself this: do you buy a dishwasher the same way you buy a computer? Sure there are specific things you want from each, but a dishwasher evokes an entirely different set of emotional responses than a personal computer – the word "personal" being the first clue in the emotional landscape at work beneath the surface there. This matters. A lot. Because unless a brand connects the emotional and rational that are in play in the category decision process with the digital platforms consumers are using, it does not have a strategic plan for digital involvement. What it has is a sophisticated approach to targeting.
To obviate these problems Brand Keys fielded the 2012 Digital Platform Engagement Index℠ (DPEI). No, not a report of digital usage. Nor a demographic analysis of digital usage. Or another attitudinal analysis of the demographics of digital usage. All of these are based on which consumers are doing, not how brands can best participate. It explores the question, “What should the brand do when it finally arrives at a digital platform?”
The clarity of this problem is no surprise to all the brands that are on Facebook by default, because everyone else is. In brand back rooms – and you know who you are – it’s the question of what they should actually doing regarding the creation and reinforcement of attention and engagement and loyalty and sales being shared in soft whispers. Brands now have "social media specialists" and chiefs of "internet insights" and are trying hard to figure this out. Not just for Facebook, of course, but for all the major digital platforms out there.
The moral of this story? If you are a brand conducting yet another digital platform study, stop and ask the hard questions about how the study will actually illuminate what you should be doing out there, and what really matters to the consumers in your category as they engage with your category in the digital space. And whether all that attention and engagement and sales will follow. Because you already know who you’re talking to and how to reach them, and have for a long, long time. And not being especially fond of perfectly-worded, useless questions, we advocate for an end to that sort of data.
If you can't get Yoda-worthy insights, grab that remote and change the digital research channel. Then powerful you will have become.
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
And because that statement is so true, jewelers, flower shops, restaurants, and clothing retailers have hit the mother-lode this year, according to our 2012 Brand Keys Mother’s Day survey. Whereas last year’s filial consumers bought Mom trendy electronics, this year’s consumers are getting back-to-basics with traditional gifts such as brunch and bouquets in a big way.
The good news: Spending is up 10% over last year with celebrants planning to spend an average of $163.00, or a 2012 Mother’s Day spend of nearly $17.2 billion. Virtually everyone (90%) indicated they’ll be celebrating, with anticipated purchases breaking out as follows (parentheses indicate changes from last year):
- Cards 97% (unchanged)
- Flowers 73% (+3%)
- Brunch/Lunch/Dinner 60% (+2%)
- Gift Cards 60% (unchanged)
- Clothing 42% (+6%)
- Jewelry 38% (+13%)
- Spa Services 20% (+3%)
- Books/e-books 20% (+3%)
- Electronics 10% (unchanged)
- Candy 5% (unchanged)
And where are consumers buying these mom-entous presents? The survey says:
- Specialty Stores 45% (-5%)
- Discount Stores 43% (unchanged)
- Department Stores 35% (unchanged)
- Online Stores 29% (+1%)
- Catalog 15% (-5%)
As you select a present, it’s well to remember that, “the heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness."
Particularly if you buy a bauble or take her to a place only a mother could love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Kellogg’s plans to sweeten their brand offering with a touch of salt in 2012. Their newest property is the recently purchased Pringles flagship, and the buy represents Kellogg’s effort to chip away at the growing international snacks market.
But what’s a cereal monogamist like Kellogg’s doing in the international snacks market anyway? Well, it turns out cereal isn’t filling in the bowl like it once did. The category flat-lined for Kellogg’s three years ago due to a proliferation of generic taste-alike brands and consumer boredom with cereal as the convenience food that no longer seemed so convenient. Packaged snacks became the new banner-food for convenience (no bowl needed, hold the milk), and business is booming, especially internationally.
Brand Keys has researched both categories extensively in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index and found that what drives brand engagement and loyalty for snack food differs significantly from breakfast cereal breakfast. For snacks, the most important contributors are brand trust and appeal for the whole family. In the cereal category, however, it’s all about the brands that help you maintain your lifestyle (like weight management). Kellogg’s approach in this category has given them many strong entries, with rankings looking like this:
- General Mills Cheerios
- Kellogg’s Special K
- General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios
- Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats
- Post Honey Bunches of Oats
- General Mills Fiber One
- Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
- Kellogg’s Raisin Bran
- Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
- Quaker Life
- Post Grape-Nuts
- Post Raisin Bran
- General Mills Kix
It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but now if brands want to feed the bottom line, snacks appear the way to go.