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.