Monday, December 23, 2013

Top-10 Most Engaging Brands of 2013 And How They Did It.

“Brand engagement” is how well a brand meets expectations that consumers hold for what drives their behavior in the category where the brand competes. More specifically, the drivers of engagement are the rational and emotional attributes, benefits, and values that come together and define how consumers will view the category, compare offerings, and ultimately, how they will behave. The drivers are what create engagement and consumers have different expectations for different category drivers.

As we come to the end of the year, we thought we’d take a look and see which brands did the best job of engaging consumers and meeting their expectations this year. Why measure engagement? Well, if you can engage consumers, they’ll “see” your brand as better meeting their expectations and will behave better towards you. If they behave better, loyalty gets stronger, and your bottom line gets better. If that sounds axiomatic, it is. And because this has proven out in the marketplace again and again, it’s hard to argue against.

BTW, drivers and expectations differ category-to-category, but some simple conversion allows us to compare engagement on a cross-category basis. So we opened up the statistics app on our tablet, did the math for the nearly 700 brands currently included in our Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, and identified 2013’s top-10 most engaging brands:
  1. Samsung
  2. Amazon
  3. Apple
  4. Facebook
  5. Hyundai
  6. Google
  7. National Football League
  8. Twitter
  9. Domino’s
  10. Call of Duty
While we’re sure that you have your personal favorites in the categories represented, ultimately, if you check out the brands that made the list à la category leadership-market-share-loyalty-profitability ratings, you’ll find that it’s really hard to argue with success, too.

Keep in mind that consumers don’t buy cars the way they buy a smartphone and they’ll have different expectations about drivers, which are different in different categories. It would be a lot simpler if you could treat everything exactly the same way and if all expectations were identical but they’re not, and consumers don’t, so you shouldn’t either.

One thing you should do is to make sure you differentiate brand engagement from methods of engagement, because the terms are often used interchangeably – and incorrectly. You can be engaged with platforms or ads or events (If you’re a brand, you’re paying the platforms money for just that), but those are methods of providing the consumer with the opportunity of engaging with the brand. Ultimately what you want from outreach is brand engagement.

It’s hard to argue with the rationale that it’s nice if consumers like the TV show you’re advertising on, or the event you’re sponsoring, or socialize on the social network where your brand is striving to be it’s very social self. But ultimately – because this is, after all, a commercial enterprise and not a hobby – your brand needs to be the beneficiary of those efforts. That’s why we call it “brand engagement” and not “entertainment.”

As we enter the season of New Year’s resolutions, give a think about what problems would you like to see solved for your brand, and then give some thought to resolving to make real brand engagement assessments a goal for 2014.

Because another thing you can’t argue with is success is something that never goes out of season!

Best wishes for 2014.

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, December 18, 2013

The New (And Superfluous) Smartwatch: Everything You Ever Imagined And Nothing You Really Want

Comedian, Lewis Black, called it out: “This new millennium sucks! It’s exactly the same as the old millennium. You know why? No flying cars!” OK, to be fair, there are folks currently working on that, but true, not the sky-scape envisioned by science fiction writers and comic book artists. On the other hand, technology has focused on loftier heights – if not precisely the sky.

As brand consultants, we look to consumer expectations to show clients where to profitably look. Year-after-year consumer expectations get higher and higher in nearly every category and, as independent validations have proven, brands that better meet those expectations always see better results. The thing about consumer expectations is that they are mostly emotionally driven, are usually something that consumers can’t easily articulate, and are different from imagination. And if you want to identify where you should be digging for brand gold, you really need to know how to measure expectations.

This has been particularly obvious in the tech arena. No consumer anywhere ever imagined, “a cellphone with a built-in camera.” (BTW, the “need” did show up in expectations as an increased desire for “personal connectivity” but not something stamped, “CAMERA GOES HERE.”) But, as we’ve seen in the past five years, technology marches (and marches) on. And haven’t you occasionally marveled at it and thought, “What can’t these guys do?” And today, apparently, if they can imagine it, they can do it. The ultimate question is “should they?”

This thought occurred to us as more and more full-page ads have recently shown up for the newest early-adopter, geek must-have, wearable computing technology, AKA, smartwatches, which apparently take all the functions of your smartphone and collection of apps and relocates them to your wrist. The ones, currently with, apparently, the largest ad budgets have been Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Sony’s SmartWatch 2, although rumors abound regarding Apple and Google entries.

Feel free to check out the specs and reviews (or rumors) for each, but if your next thought/question was, “It’s very techy/nerdy/cool, but why do I need this?” welcome to the club. Expectations – even those that seem totally unrealistic and unconstrained by reality and that are indistinctly described in form and foundation – always end up reflecting what people really want. And sometimes – particularly as regards technology – the offerings are everything the sci-fi writers ever imagined, but nothing that actually meets consumer real expectations.

Sure, wearable computing will eventually become an expectation, but based on current consumer expectations, no time soon. So technology brands beware: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Will smartwatches become as ubiquitous as smartphones? Maybe when cars fly!

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, December 12, 2013

If The Nike Brand Doesn't Fit, LeBron Won't Commit

Hard as it is to believe today, there was time when celebrities wouldn’t lend their name to product endorsements. That was not to say they didn’t, they just didn’t do it in the United States. Japan was a big market for American celebrity endorsements, and if you want a laugh, there’s probably a reel of Japanese-dubbed commercials someplace on YouTube.

Well, all that changed. Celebrities found that endorsements were an easy income-stream and a lot easier than an acting gig: lend his or her name to the product, pose for a couple of ads, maybe show up at some retail events, drinks with the agency after the shoot. Then the checks rolled in. Anyway, it turned out it was easier for the companies to hire a celebrity to stand next to their products and have the product leech some sort of borrowed equity from the celebrity than to actually create a real and resonating brand on their own. To be fair, it was always really hard to create a brand that was known for something beyond, well, just being known and being ubiquitously available, and over the years, things just gotten harder. Nowadays it’s near impossible. By the way, when we say “celebrity” we’re talking about entertainers and actors, and movie stars. That kind of celebrity.

In sports, professional athletes – today, perhaps, bigger celebrities than celebrities are celebrities – always seemed to have been immune from the taint that came with commercializing their talents and product endorsements. Derek Jeter carried VISA, Pele recently signed with Subway. Reggie White slurps for Campbell’s Chunky soup. This isn’t a modern phenomenon. “Joltin’” Joe DeMaggio sold Mr. Coffee machines and the great Yogi Berra asked America wasn’t “it time for Yoo-Hoo?” Oh, and Joe Namath wore panty hose. The trick was to find an athlete where there was some kind of “fit” (no pun intended) between the product and the athlete, where an emotional connection could be made.

It seems to work better with athletes than it does with movie stars who are supposed to be able to act any way the script goes, but there you are! And nowhere has the success of this approach been as obvious as it has in the sports apparel category – particularly for athletic shoes. Think Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for Nike. Then there’s Allen Iverson for Reebok. And Derrick Rose for Adidas. All lucrative for the athletes. But as expensive as they may seem, high-profile endorsements work really well in this category.

There’s an emotional connection that fans make when they see their sport heroes endorsing a line of shoes. It’s something that they both physically and emotionally identify with. Maybe they even think in their heart of hearts that the equipment will help them play a bit better. Maybe not. But consumers always seem to walk a bit taller and jump a bit higher when they get their hands on the season’s newest models. They certainly claim bragging rights.

Nike came out with their new $200+ LeBron-11 basketball shoes in October, calling them “one of the most innovative Nike basketball shoes to date. . . “ And while fans have been thrilled, one wonders about Mr. James.  Apparently in 18 games played since the season opener, Mr. James has only worn the new LeBron-11’s for only two complete games. A few times Mr. James started the game with the 11’s but then switched back to last season’s X model. So what are fans to think when the guy with his name on the shoe, isn’t wearing the shoe? What’s a sponsor to think?

Here’s what one sponsor did when the celebrity wouldn’t wear the product. Swiss watchmaker, Raymond Weil, accused Actress Charlize Theron of two- timing them after Ms. Theron was seen wearing a Christian Dior watch in a perfume ad. And at the SXSW film festival and in an ad for an AIDS charity. So they sued her for breach-of-contract. Ms. Theron explained it was all just an oversight and eventually settled with her sponsor. Sorry, no terms were disclosed.

Well, Mr. James didn’t wear a competitor’s shoe, but apparently the new 11’s don’t fit him so well. He was quoted as saying, “I just want to be able to wear them. It has been a frustrating process. But obviously I know that Nike wants to do what’s best. They’re not going to put me out there in harm’s way. So we’re redefining the shoe to fit what’s best for my foot and I feel like this next round is going to be perfect.”

The bottom line? That would be exactly what you want from your shoes and your celebrity endorsers – the perfect fit.

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, December 04, 2013

Brand And Marketing Trends For 2014

It was management consultant, Peter Drucker, who advised the best way to predict the future was to create it. Creating new things being difficult, the next best way is to have access to validated and predictive loyalty and emotional engagement metrics to help point the way. Happily, we do. And after examining over 100,000 consumer assessments, we’ve identified 14 critical trends to help marketers create their own, successful futures next year.

1.Consumers Expect More: Over the past 5 years consumer expectations have increased on average 20%. Brands have kept up by only 5%, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations, will provide significant advantages.

2.Attention Must Be Paid to Brands: Increased expectations come with a greater sense of product and service commoditization. You may be known, but you need to be known for something meaningful and important to consumers.
3.Category is King: Brands will stop trading away category-specificity for cross-category generalities in how they target, strategize, and execute content. To engage smarter, high-expectation consumers, brand wills need to be smarter about specific category values they can leverage.
4.Brands Will Get Emotional: Values that drive the brand decision process to have become more emotionally-driven. In most categories the rational aspects are price-of-entry. Successful brands will identify what emotional values exist in their category, and utilize them as a foundation for meaningful differentiation.
5.Real Brand “Engagement” Defined: For too long engagement has been associated with attention levels. Successful marketers will link “engagement” to how efforts increase how well the brand is perceived versus the Category Ideal, and a metric that correlates highly with loyalty, sales, and profitability.
6.Targeting Becomes Personal: With consumers craving – and expecting – more, and more customized and personalized products, services and experiences, brands that better respond to real consumer expectations, will find consumers engaging with brands that are able to personalize messaging and outreach.
7.Digital Done Right: With digital diversification getting bigger, and with more channels, brands need to shift their question from “should I be here?” to “what should I do now that I am here?” Success will be linked not to outreach, but brand differentiation and emotional engagement.
8.Content is King, Too: Content marketing will become a specialty unto itself. Tools like the Digital Platform GPS will optimize placement and help brands distinguish the difference between paid, owned, and earned media, more important when it comes to dealing with contextual relevance and strategically navigating brands in digital space.
9.Mobile Optimized: In 2011 Brand Keys trends identified that mobile would move mainstream. It has. For 2014 brands need to adapt strategies and delivery mechanisms, content and flow of communications to match increased consumer multi-tasking and multi-screen behavior.
10.Fewer Tedious Texts: More visually literate consumers will move from text outreach to more image-based connections. Visual content will become more important in creating viral marketing campaigns, with brands becoming more attentive to image-sharing initiatives and platforms.
11.Micro Becomes Mainstream: Micro videos will continue to rise in popularity and use. Metrics will move away from number of views and toward real brand engagement (see Trend #5). Watch for more :6 and :12 videos to accommodate digital delivery platforms and increasingly shorter consumer attention spans.
12.Integration Intensification: Brand marketing and digital budgets will fuse as teams work jointly and cross-silo. Multi-platform traditional and digital models will require social media integration into all marketing efforts, including customer experience, design, sales, and product development.
13.Data Deceleration: Data aggregations for traditional and digital will become more integrated and streamlined, allowing brands to better separate the “wheat from the chaff.” Big Data will actually get smaller and more compact. And more useful.
14.The Funnel Flattens: What used to be a “purchase funnel,” that became a “path-to-purchase,” will become an extraordinarily category specific “multi-path-to-purchase.” Content and value communication with the right platforms in the right way will become the only way to create emotional engagement – and profitability.

A new year provides brands with a chance for new resolutions and new beginnings, so, it’s worth noting Mr. Drucker also advised companies if they wanted to do something new, they had to stop doing something old. These 14 new trends provide brands the opportunity to break old habits, embrace new methods of brand engagement and brand marketing, and to help to create new and profitable futures for themselves.

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, November 14, 2013

Mobile Shortens Holiday Shopping (Schedule And Spend) So You Have More Time To Be Thankful

Shopping for the holidays yet? Probably not. Our annual 2013 Holiday Survey found fewer than 19% of consumers polled started shopping last month. That’s 5% fewer than last year. Oh, and a projected spend of $825, also down 5%.

Why? Well, according to 15,200 consumers we asked about holiday spending and shopping activities, part of the answer has to do with increased use of mobile outreach and planning. Pair that up with increased numbers of retailer-developed mobile apps, and we find that consumers can plan more effectively and find best values faster and, thus, can shop in a significantly shorter period of time. Sixty-five percent indicated they had already used, or planned to use, their mobile devices to research shopping options. All of which means the time consumer actually feel they need to shop has gotten a lot smaller this year.

And if you’re honest about it, there’s a different ‘feel’ to the holiday marketplace this year. A kind of calm. Most retailers didn’t start their I-better-get-out-there-first holiday advertising right after back-to-school. Consumers don’t seem to feel pressured to “buy it now” or “Oh my god, I had better scarf down my turkey dinner and get to the (FILL IN THE NAME OF A RETAILER OPENING EARLIER AND EARLIER ON THANKSGIVING) parking lot to be first in line for those door-buster specials!” (Brand Keys HOLIDAY SHOPPING HINT: Use the zoom-in feature on your mobile device to read the small print for an accurate count of how many $199 60” Digital TVs are actually available before you freeze your jingle bells off standing in a frozen parking lot waiting for the doors to open at 12:01 AM Friday or 11:00 PM or 10:00 PM Thursday. Well, you can use your mobile to check updates on early-openings!)

Forty-five percent of those polled indicated they began shopping November, but 35% intend to wait a bit for the traditional Shop-on-the-way-home-Wednesday-and-maybe-on-Thanksgiving-‘cause-the-stores-are-open-and-certainly-Black-Friday-because-I-have-the-day-off-and-there’s-Grayish-Saturday/Sunday-and-why-not-check-out-Cyber Monday timeframe. What the heck, the holidays are upon us and that week is actually starting to become a kind of tradition of sorts, with consumers knowing exactly what to expect, and with that sense of expectation comes preparation (traditional and mobile), and with preparedness comes a certain tranquility.

For those of you spending the time eating and watching the 17 NFL games scheduled between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, you and another 35% of consumers think early December is just fine to begin shopping. There’s leftovers and football is football after all, and anyway there’s a pervading sense that pricing for virtually everything has finally gained some sort of market equilibrium, retailers have figured out their inventory controls, and mobile devices have just made it that much easier, so what’s the rush? Everyone is buying some holiday gift online (98%) anyway, and that’s available 24/7.

Even in light of this mobile movement, you can’t write off bricks-and-mortar retailers with retail categories are up an average of 5% from last years as preferred places to shop. The only traditional shopping mode that dipped was “catalogues” (50%, down 18% from last year), but maybe that’s just reflective of how mobile screens are substituting for traditional, stuffed-into-your-mailbox, 2-inch thick stacks of four-color coated stock.

What are folks going to buy? Well, naughty or nice, gift cards (95%) have become as universal as greetings cards (traditional and e-versions), and – with the exception of “Electronics, Phones, and Computers” (-11%), which now end up being purchased when new models appear in the marketplace and not saved specially for holiday gifts, and “CDs, DVDs and Video Games” (-15%), which are being swapped out for mobile downloads and apps – what folks intend to buy remains relatively unchanged from last year:

Clothing & Accessories                 75%                                       
Electronics/Phones/Computer       50%                                       
Personal Care Products/Spa         30%                                       
Jewelry                                           20%                                       
Food & Wine                                  20%                                       
CDs/DVDs/Video Games               15%                                       
Home Décor                                    8%                                         
Books (non e-version)                     3%                                         

As it has transformed other categories, mobile has changed the shopping engagement paradigm too. ‘Shopping Experience’ still leads the way in creating engagement and generating sales, followed by ‘Store Reputation’ and ‘Range of Merchandise,’ but a category once driven by ‘Location and Value’ is now more accurately described as ‘Connection and Value,” with expectations for all engagement drivers up again this year.

The bottom line’s bottom line?  What should be as clear as the digital image on your mobile device is, retailers that can integrate the store experience with their mobile outreach are likely to have a happier holiday season than their competitors. But however you celebrate – whether watching football or waiting for door-buster specials, making gift lists or limbering your fingers for Cyber Monday, or just cooking and eating too much and spending time with your family, we fervently hope you won’t need a mobile device to find plenty of reasons to be thankful.

And with our warmest wishes for the holiday, we pass along the following verse:

We often focus all our thought
On shiny things we've shopped and bought.
And while taking pleasure in material things,
Should not forget the pleasure friendship brings.
So we wish you a Thanksgiving you'll never forget,
Full of love and joy – your best one yet.

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, November 05, 2013

BlackBerry Brand Re-Boot Boots CEO

After months of looking for a buyer, BlackBerry has given up plans to sell and has indicated their intent to raise one billion dollars to use re-booting their brand.

They’re just plain booting Thorsten Heins, current CEO, and replacing him with John Chen, former Sybase CEO. Mr. Chen was quoted saying, "BlackBerry is an iconic brand with enormous potential, but it's going to take time, discipline, and tough decisions to reclaim our success.” That kind of depends on how you define “iconic brand.”

BlackBerry, once a market leader, lost share in a dramatic shift in the business world to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy for employees, but mostly to other brands like Apple’s iPhones, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, and phones running Google’s Android software. In the smartphone category, those are the brands that have become icons, i.e., brands that best meet the consumers’ expectations for the Ideal for mobile devices, and BlackBerry doesn’t do that so well anymore. So it’s probably going to take a lot of time and a lot of tough decisions to make any gains, if any at all, and have the brand survive.

According to leading-indicator Brand Keys Loyalty and Engagement Indices, the BlackBerry death spiral of market share puts a real damper on any potential for a fast and/or significant brand bounce-back. This October’s brand rankings look like this, with percentages indicating how well the brand is seen to meet expectations for the Ideal smartphones by the brands’ own customers:

Apple 92%
Samsung 89%
LG 84%
Nokia 82%
Motorola/HTC 80%
Blackberry 54%

If you think the BlackBerry evaluation is low, it is. It was 14% higher at the beginning of 3Q’13, with a 4% share of market. As of the latest quarter the brand accounts for less than 2% of all new smartphone shipments, so pretty much an engagement death spiral, too. Oh, and they’ve reported the company market cap is only $4 billion, a 95% drop in five years. Somehow you’d expect more from a truly “iconic” brand.

Anyway, it might be worth pointing out to Mr. Chen that being “iconic” as the term gets so loosely tossed around today – a synonym for “recognizable” – doesn't quite work as well for brands as it did in years past. Sure, you need to be recognized, but today you need to be recognized for something that emotionally or rationally differentiates you from the pack. And, at the very least, you need to be able to meet consumer expectations at some reasonable level. If you can’t, consumers just fly off to other brands that can. 

Anyone remember Pan Am?

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, October 30, 2013

Problem: AT&T Losing Phone Customers. Solution: Take Two (Or More) Tablets & Call Me Next Quarter

It was Mark Twain who noted that names are not always what they seem. Take AT&T, for example, the acronym for the “American Telephone & Telegraph” company, although we’re not so sure whether many consumers actually remember that. Partially because they’ve used “AT&T” for a long, long time, but mostly because telegraph via wires disappeared in the very early 20th century thanks to Marconi, and traditional telephones gave way to cellphones and smartphones, thanks to Motorola in the early 1970’s.

But today – given consumer trends – the AT&T acronym would be better translated as “American Telephone & Tablet” company, because according to reports of 3rd Quarter growth, consumers buying data plans to support tablets are fueling AT&T’s net subscriber growth, which is good news. But from a bottom-line basis, consumers who just buy data plans bring in less revenue, which is not such good news.

The trend has been reflected in what drives the Wireless Carrier category. According to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, the category that was once driven by “Brand Reputation and Technological Leadership” has shifted to “Equipment,” with tablets at the top of the list of technology consumers crave most. And “A Selection of Calling Plans” has changed to “Data Options,” including elements like daily data options for tablets and lower-data plans for smartphones. What hasn't changed are consumer desires for “Larger/Faster/Uninterrupted Networks” and “Customer Service.”

As this is technology we’re talking about, it’s not surprising to find that consumers have very high expectations regarding delivery on these drivers, but particularly when it comes to “Data Options.” If we calculate the consumer Ideal at 100%, here’s how the wireless carriers’ own customers currently evaluate the major brands in meeting their expectations:
  1. Verizon Wireless 89%
  2. AT&T Wireless 83%
  3. Sprint 80%
  4. T-Mobile 79%
While AT&T added more contract customers than it lost, most were for tablets. To combat that shift, they’ve added a range of plans for smartphones; $40.00 for 450 minutes of voice calling plus added costs for data usage and texts, upwards of $100.00 for 2 gigabytes of data, plus unlimited calling and texting. But as consumers can get 3 gigabytes of data for their tablets, as low as $30.00 a month, you don’t need a calculator app on your tablet to do that math and see what is (and isn’t) more lucrative for the carrier.
It was technology columnist, Walt Mossberg, who said, “After spending hours with it (the iPad), I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.”

And apparently the primacy of contract calling customers for wireless carriers, too.

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, October 24, 2013

Why Cheap Doesn’t Always Drive Sales

Here’s our mantra: You need to know what people think, not what they say they think.

And, not so much a mantra as a universal truth – commodities notwithstanding – consumers may say they want “cheap,” but that’s usually not what they really expect. Oh, sure, they want to pay a little as possible, but it’s not the way they’ll actually behave when they get around to factoring in what they really expect. The “cheap” part is the rational aspect of decision making, but the expectations part is mostly emotional, and it’s a really good idea to have a fix on those expectations before creating products and taking them to market, because relying only on what people say, can take you down the wrong highway.

For example, four years ago we wrote about the Nano, from India’s Tata Motors. It sold for under $1,800.00. No, not a typo, it was priced to drive off the lot at just under eighteen hundred dollars! Sure, this was the Indian market, but it was conceived as the people’s car. Small, economical, and because the target audience said they’d buy such a car if it was “cheap.” And it was. Cheap, I mean. In lots of ways. Low sticker price, sure. But the car, too. It had a tiny, 0.6-liter engine with only 33 horsepower. The front and rear bumpers were plastic and most of the construction was glued, not welded. Seats couldn’t be adjusted. It had only one side mirror and windshield wiper, hand-cranked windows, a manual transmission and no airbags, hubcaps, or radio. And no AC. It didn’t even have a glove compartment. Sure the engine sometimes sounded like a broken lawnmower, but the Nano got 50 miles to the gallon, so what’s to complain about? Basic car? Sure. Cheap? For sure.

OK, back to the say-versus-think paradigm. Automotive brand success – all brand success, for that matter – is based upon how well a brand meets or exceeds customer expectations for the category Ideal. Expectations will vary by category and demography and geography, to be sure, but most of those expectations are emotionally-driven (no pun intended), many of which go unarticulated. And brands that are able to meet real expectation always do better in the marketplace. But, since folks said they would buy something cheap, Tata Motors produced a really cheap car and thought it was going to be a real growth area for them.

But after nearly 5 years, sales ran out of gas. Why? Well, even though consumers said they wanted “cheap,” there’s cheap (as in price/rational) and there’s cheap (as in image/emotional), and – as usually happens – emotion won, and Tata Motors lost. Turns out that consumers really wanted a more upscale image, expectations for automotive imagery being really high even among the more price-sensitive consumer segments, and pretty much true around the world. So Tata is bringing the Nano in for an image tune-up, to move it from “common” to “cool.”

With that in mind, the new models will have hubcaps. And a Bluetooth-enabled stereo with four speakers, a more comfortable interior, and chrome trim. Oh, and a glove compartment. The top-end Nano LX will cost about twice what the original models cost, so just under $3,600.00. Their new advertising tagline for the new models? “Celebrate Awesomeness.”

Of course, when it comes to “awesomeness,” you may expect something else. Which is probably why it’s a good idea to measure what your target audience really thinks and really expects before you disappoint them – and your shareholders.

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, October 16, 2013

Coming Soon the Apple iPhablet (Maybe)

Four years ago, when we were examining leading-indicator values and expectations of what was the then-nascent “tablet” category, we saw consumer values dealing with tablets and telecommunications were blending. The result? Tablet attributes, benefits, and values combining with something that let you make a call. A little ahead of its time? Sure, but that’s the nice thing about real loyalty and engagement metrics. They’re leading-indicators, meaning they’re signs of what’s going to happen down the road.

Anyway, at the time we called the fusion of smartphone and tablet technologies a “phablet.” OK, not the most creative of titles, but at that juncture it really didn’t matter what we called them because there weren’t enough of them to matter, and certainly not enough to measure. But all that said an amalgam of the two was showing up on the radar. Dell introduced a hybrid back then they called the “Streak,” but after a year and only a 3% share of market, it vanished from the market.

Four years later and it’s no surprise to anyone that technology moves fast, but it sometimes even technology has to decelerate to keep up with to consumer expectations. Those values we talked about four years ago have created even more heightened phablet blips on our loyalty-engagement radar screen, according to our most recent Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. So here we are, back to the future. And while the “phablet” category is still too new and too small to track, the way customer expectations are going and technology has been, perhaps we’ll have those numbers for you sooner rather than later. 

Samsung has been introducing larger and larger smartphone screens, and larger smartphone screens seem extremely popular with consumers. In the Asia-Pacific market they’ve been reported as outselling tablets. With that kind of success it can’t be too long before other brands follow. In fact, the most recent tech rumor is that the Apple iPhone 6 will come very close to having a 6” display. With these kinds of category reports and brand rumors, questions abound: Which values will supersede others? Smartphones or tablets? Does size really matter? Will “phablets” finally become a category unto itself? Will consumers flock to this new configuration? And, where can I get one?

Three things for sure. First, consumer expectations will continue to grow, especially when it comes to fusing technologies that have previously delighted consumers. Second, predictive loyalty and engagement assessments can help to answer those questions, and quite specifically at the early stage. And third, you want those answers because it prevents brands from confusing the art of possibility with the art of profitability.

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.