Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Simpsons #1 Most-Watched Animated Show Among 18-49 Year Olds. With Re-Runs Worth A Billion Dollars!

In a recent Brand Keys survey among that most-desired of demographics (men and women, 18-49 years old), we asked about the animated TV series they watched most often, here’s how the top-10 ranked:

  1. Simpsons
  2. Archer
  3. Futurama
  4. Family Guy
  5. Bob’s Burgers
  6. Venture Brothers
  7. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  8. South Park
  9. American Dad
  10. King of the Hill
You’ll probably be hearing a lot of “D’ohs!” in the near future. Not because “The Simpsons” was #1 on our list, but because the figure of one billion dollars is being floated around as regards Twentieth Television, a unit of Fox TV’s syndicated division, plan to market reruns of the network's long-running animated comedy “The Simpsons.” Yes, a billion dollars! That’s $1,000,000,000.00.

“The Simpsons” is entering its 25th year on TV and even with 530 episodes in the can, Fox has no current plans to cancel the series. The studio first syndicated the show to TV stations 15 years ago, so syndication isn’t new. What is new is that now they would license reruns to stations and cable channels at the same time with no effects to current syndication deals.

So as new episodes appear on Fox, you’ll see them syndicated on both broadcast and cable. And if that sounds like something out of a continuous loop from an “Itchy and Scratchy” episode, you wouldn’t be wrong. With broadcast and cable needing to fill a nearly bottomless mobile-access maw 24/7/365, all the platforms are looking for new content to solve that problem. Netflix and Amazon have created their own shows, but ultimately that’s only a drop in the entertainment bucket.

The Animated Show Survey results represent responses from 4,200 respondents, and is part of Brand Keys’ soon-to-be-reported 10,000-households “2013 Back to School” Survey.
So who might end up the new proprietors of the Springfield clan? FX, another News Corp cable networks seems a likely suspect, with supposed rights of first refusal, or even their nascent comedy network, FXX. Other potential buyers could be Viacom (Comedy Central and Nick at Nite) or Turner Broadcasting. Or Netflix.

When will we learn who’ll be the new beneficiary of all this syndication content? For an answer we can only offer a quote from Homer Simpson himself: “When will I learn? The answer to life's problems aren't at the bottom of a bottle, they're on TV!”
And they’re being re-run in case you missed them the first time!

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, July 24, 2013

Sears Opens Luxury Department Offering Rolex, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Alaia, & Stella McCartney

You know the saying “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have.” Well, maybe it’s a little more dangerous when you have two! Sears does. Have two ideas, we mean. See what you think. They come courtesy of, and with great sincerity, from Ed Lampert, Sears Chairman and CEO:
Idea #1: Change Sears brand image. Sell Stella McCartney clothing, Jimmy Choo shoes, Chanel bags, and Rolex Watches on the Marketplace, a third-party vendor section of their website.

Idea #2: Position the company to compete with Amazon and eBay.
If you think that there’s some kind of strategic brand dissonance going on, you’re probably not alone. What number on a list of places you’d consider buying, say, a $35,000.00 Rolex, or a $2,000.00 pair of Alaia heels, or a Zac Posen or Chanel bag, would Sears be? In the top-3? Top-10? Higher? Much higher?

A just-because-we-were-curious experiment (Full Disclosure: this was over cocktails) among some friends at Per Se in New York City, one of the top-rated and most-expensive restaurants in the city, where people who can actually get a reservation could buy pretty much any luxury brand Mr. Lampert could conceive, were asked where they’d shop for a list of 5 luxury items, and nobody listed Sears. Nobody. When we raised the name “Sears” as a possibility, we got strange looks from our dinner companions, and the bartender cut us off. Nah, only kidding about the bartender. But not the strange looks. Which at the very least proves that the value of an idea has nothing whatsoever to do with the sincerity of the man who expounds it.

For the research purists among you, we will readily admit that this was a qualitative sample, although we’re pretty confident in our targeting. And yes, Mr. Lampert really intends to sell the luxe stuff online at Marketplace, which is currently the 3rd largest online vendor by number of visits but that, of course, takes into account items other than $600 Pour Victorie boots, and still lags significantly behind Amazon and eBay.

Sears, well known for tools and appliances, never did very well with their “Softer Side” commercials, a soft strategy they tried to make inroads into higher-end, better designed fashion sales. And then had to move back to hard sell. So moving very upscale, even on a once-removed basis? Well, we’ll leave that to you to decide. But for a more generalizable POV we looked at the 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Sears ranks #6 of seven brands we track in the Department Store category, but it also ranks 6th in the rational loyalty and engagement driver, “Range of Merchandise” (where Christian Louboutin shoes would be located), and the emotional engagement driver, “Shopping Experience” (the operative word being “shopping”). Two critical values when it comes to another category – Luxury Goods. Although in fairness, women seem to get pretty emotional about the Louboutin brand, so even more emotional engagement is going to be necessary to make this idea work.

And yes, every brand everywhere is looking to find ways to provide exposure to their brands in what’s turned into a 21st century media-scape. There are a lot of platforms out there – more everyday, in fact. But if the past few years have taught us anything about the digital world and e-commerce, it’s that it’s easy to be out there and it’s easy to target, but it’s not so easy to engage. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean consumers are going to come. Or, more importantly emotionally engage with the brand and buy.

So Sears – like many others companies – is trying out e-commerce strategies, but most-recently reported revenues have declined 9% with a $279 million loss, and same-store sales down about 3% this Quarter. Sears is trying to create a more upscale clicks-and-mortar brand personality via this integration. But long-term survival, it would seem is predicted to come from the stores and not the site. So perhaps Mr. Lampert should re-think this Sears Marketplace = Luxury Brands idea.

Is this a half-baked idea for the Sears brand? You know the joke about a half-baked idea? It’s only OK as long as it’s in the oven. But come to think about it, Sears does apparently have a pretty large inventory of unsold Kenmores to put it in!

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, July 17, 2013

Apple And Motorola Re-Visit Old Values In New Ads

Fifty years ago the phrase, “Made in the USA,” had nationalistic and quality-assurance resonance for Americans. Then came the “Global Marketplace” and here we are. But recently the phrase “Made in the USA,” or the inference of the phrase – apparently in anticipation of newer smartphone models - has been resurrected for Apple and Motorola ad campaigns.

The Apple ad focuses on a single visual of consumers using Apple products. Part of the copy reads, “This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel,” which, we have to admit, comes pretty close to how we look at “brand engagement,” a more-how-you-feel definition than a what-it-does characterization. Anyway, the ad goes on, “We’re engineers and artists. Craftsmen and inventors. We sign our work. You may rarely look at it. But you’ll always feel it. This is our signature. And it means everything.” The tagline: “Designed By Apple in California.”

The Motorola (“a Google company”) campaign raises the brand value stakes. Visually, the brand presented two people jumping into a lake (you decide what that’s all about) and offers, “The first smartphone that you can design yourself,” then asks consumers to imagine what’s possible “when you have the best design, engineering and manufacturing talent located here in the USA.” Their tagline: “Designed by you. Assembled in the USA.” So not just designed in the USA like Apple, but assembled here too. Someplace the “manufacturing” aspect got lost between the eighth line of copy and the tagline, but let’s not quibble.

The campaigns raise two questions for us: Does “designed” or “assembled” actually matter? And perhaps more importantly, does this brand position à la process create the impression that brand will better meet expectations consumers hold for the Ideal Smartphone? If you think about it, nearly half of the 300 respondents who evaluated both ads (M/F, 18-65 years of age, top-two box likelihood to purchase an Apple or Motorola as next smartphone) have lived their lives in the global marketplace, purchasing products designed, manufactured, and assembled in foreign countries.

We’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth repeating: a brand saying something, and consumers believing it are two different things. If you want believability, you attain that via emotional engagement, not just emotional copy. Increased brand engagement – always a leading-indicator of positive consumer behavior – doesn’t show up where the consumer doesn’t believe the statement or if the statement is just not important to them. It has been known for brands to create campaigns that focus on elements and values important to them, but that don’t matter very much to consumers. For a detailed description of the engagement assessment process, click here.

In the meantime, here’s how the ads performed:

Apple did better than Motorola, engaging both Apple and Motorola loyalists with the key category value – “design.” Not so surprising when you consider Apple quite literally invented organic design for mobile phones. (Yes, yes, Motorola did create the “clamshell,” but that was nearly 20 years ago, and today consumers really do function in a what-have-you-done-lately mode.) So yes, “Design” has always been a critical component of the first-most important engagement driver in the smartphone category, “Product Design and Brand Reputation.”

The Apple ad increased brand engagement on that driver by 30% among consumers likely to buy an iPhone as their next smartphone. Even among those who were predisposed to purchase Motorola, their Apple brand engagement rating via exposure to the Apple ad increased 23%. Brand engagement for Motorola loyalists via “design” increased 16% for Motorola.  Apple stalwarts ceded only 7% to the Motorola brand. Oops! Probably not what Motorola was hoping for.

Both ads – for both consumer segments – did, equally well as regards “assembly.” “Assembly” showed up as a value component in the 4th most important engagement driver, “Brand Value and Support.” Motorola’s ad straightforwardly leveraged that value, but only saw a 5% engagement increase in both the Motorola and Apple respondent-segments, which might just indicate that “assembly” has not yet become an important brand engagement factor for the category. It may be something Motorola can really do, but if it doesn’t facilitate emotional brand engagement, it doesn't really matter.

As to “Made in the USA,” we’ll have to wait to see whether that value becomes a realistic option for brands. The FTC regulates that mark, a country-of-origin designator, indicating that “all or virtually all” of the product was made in the USA. “Assembled in the USA” can be used without qualification when principal assembly of foreign components takes place in the USA and the fabrication is considered to be the product’s “last substantial transformation.”

Where might all this be heading? With China’s accelerating economy, labor costs are forecast to climb. And after the recent factory devastation in Bangladesh, more consumers are looking for ethically sourced products, so we believe consumers would find real comfort and emotional engagement from a “Made in the USA” brand position. Particularly with companies like Walmart looking to boost sourcing of US products and with Chinese consumers willing to pay a premium for them. So the shift to domestic manufacturing may not be only a boon to the economy but to brand values as well.

But only, of course, for the brands consumers believe can truly produce on a promise that’s important to them.

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, July 10, 2013

Nook, Nook. Who’s There? Not The CEO.

No joke. Barnes and Noble CEO, William Lynch, resigned on Monday. The writing was on the wall, or e-reader, well somewhere, that the B&Ns digital division had failed to turn their e-readers and tablets into best sellers.

Surprise ending to this story? Well, shouldn’t have been. Not from either a financial or emotional engagement perspective. If you’ve been reading the financial reports, digitally or on old-century newsprint, you can’t have missed the fact that Nook recently reported nearly a 34% drop in sales. If you had paged through the Brand Keys’ Nook emotional engagement assessments, you would have found that a real tearjerker too.

We’ve been measuring e-readers since there were e-readers. And while there are lots of categories where being first-to-market gives you a substantive advantage, and though you’re probably thinking e-readers was one of those categories, today that’s pretty much a fairytale. New technology will, of course, attract early adopters. And while they’re the ones who set the general plotline for the category, ultimately it’s the rest of us who define the very specific emotional narrative thread that brands must follow, if they want to show up as a marketplace best seller.

The biggest Nook flop had to do with consumer expectations for the second most-important engagement driver, “Organic Design,” where Nook always seemed to be playing catch-up with Apple and Kindle and Samsung and Asus, and then ran into production/supply problems. The first most-important engagement driver had to do with “Brand Value,” and the chain’s misguided efforts to merge dead-tree physical books and e-book retailing confused the brand tale they were trying to get the consumers to read. So for the moment, let’s edit out the design and production problems and just look at most recent “Brand Value” engagement ratings: 
  1. iPad  95% 
  2. Kindle  93%% 
  3. Samsung 90%
  4. Asus 88%
  5. Sony 85%
  6. Nook 60%
We’re pretty sure none of you require a math textbook to see why these kinds of ratings translate from how consumers see the Nook brand to their most-recently published financial report. Emotional engagement metrics are totally non-fiction. In fact, they are so prescient in their ability to predict consumer behavior they might very well be science fiction. Except they aren’t and they do.

Barnes and Noble said the company is reviewing their strategic plan and will be making efforts to re-write their org charts separating Nook from the brick-and-mortar stores, so we’ll have to wait to see whether that’s turns out to be fact or fiction.

But as these are books being sold, no matter the format, we feel confident in offering up some literary advice – a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The fault, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Or in this case, the brand. Some engagement advice: Get a better read on your brand and an understanding of what consumers really expect and revise from there. And finally, some financial advice: Avoid Chapter 11. It can be a killer and the brand often ends up on the remainder table!

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

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Which Brands Are Most Patriotic?

With July 4th soon upon us, many marketers are readying to wrap their brands in the American flag and cue the marching bands. As part of a brand values survey, we did a statistical “drill-down” to identify which of 197 brands were more associated with the value of “patriotism.” For 21st century, socially networked hotwired-to-mobile-device consumers, saying it and being it are two different things, the operative phrase being, well, “being it.”

Many emotional engagement values drive overall brand engagement, so consumers evaluated 35 of them. But since marketers – domestic and foreign – traditionally operate on the “Week Before Independence Day Marketing Theory,” i.e., a patriotic, flag-waving, call-to-emotion backed by majorettes and fife and drum corps will motivate consumers, we wanted to see which brands actually led when it came patriotism.

If tracking brand growth and profitability has taught us anything over the past couple of decades, it’s successful leveraging any individual brand value has always had more to do with believability via emotional brand engagement than brand awareness via ad budget. Certainly not company size or the use patriotic themes. (Don't you wish you had 1$ every time Uncle Sam shows up in an ad this coming week? Or 50¢ for every Red, White, and Blue leitmotif?)

No, consumers are expecting all this and whether patriotism can be credibly and profitably leveraged to the brand’s benefit is always more a question of whether that value is part of the brand’s equity, and whether consumers truly acknowledge it on a deeply emotional and engaging basis. Slapping an American flag on something and actually having an authentic foundation for being able to slap an American flag on something are different and the consumer knows it. More importantly, they act upon that knowledge.

So it seems manifest and reasonable that the brands that showed up in the top-25, could each be called an ‘American Icon’ in the category where they compete. Percentages indicate emotional engagement strength for the single, individual value of “patriotism” the brand gets credit for.

  1. Jeep (98%)
  2. Hershey’s/Coca-Cola (97%)
  3. Levi Strauss/Disney (95%)
  4. Colgate (94%)
  5. Zippo (93%)
  6. Wrigley’s (92%)
  7. Ralph Lauren (91%)
  8. Kodak/Gillette (90%)
  9. New Balance/Harley-Davidson (89%)
  10. Budweiser/Marlboro (88%)
  11. Ford (86%)
  12. Louisville Slugger/Smith & Wesson (85%)
  13. GE (84%)
  14. John Deere/L.L. Bean (82%)
  15. Walmart (81%)
  16. Craftsman Tools/ Wilson Sporting Goods/Wrangler (80%)
We were curious about to see how the most patriotic of patriotic brands, the United States armed services rated. The Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy were all included in the study and, as you probably guessed, each showed up rated very highly on the list. As this was primarily a study of for-profit brands, we’re calling them out separately here and thanking all of them for their service. Advertising and marketing notwithstanding, this is Independence Day we’re talking about after all. 

Sports teams showed up too: the Yankees, the Patriots, the 49ers, the Cowboys. If you’ve observed a genuine and consonant thematic when it comes to patriotism and brands, you wouldn’t be wrong. Other brands that appeared in the top-50 included Campbell’s, Gibson, GM, Jack Daniels, Kellogg’s, McDonalds, the NFL, Playboy, Sears, and Whirlpool.

All this is not to say that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don’t possess any patriotic resonance. They do. Rational aspects like being an American company, or really being “Made in the USA,” or having Nationally-directed CSR activities and sponsorships – all play a part in the total make-up of any brand, generally, and as it regards its patriotic nature and public face specifically.

But if you want to meaningfully differentiate via a brand value, if there’s believability via strong emotional engagement, good marketing just gets better. Another thing the past couple of decades has taught us is brands that make that kind of connection always have a strategic advantage over competitors when it come to the marketplace battle for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of consumers.

Happy July 4th.

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.