Monday, January 27, 2014

Super Bowl Ad Engagement Playbook: Who Will Win, Lose, Or Draw?

It turns out not all TV programs are right for all brands – no matter how super they are in attracting an audience. Not even if it turns out to be the Super Bowl itself. Findings from the Brand Keys 12th annual Super Bowl Engagement Survey shows that when it comes to winning, only half of this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII’s advertisers will score big based on their big investments.
According to Super Bowl advertiser playbooks, brands are all wishing for ads that score big: big audiences, big creative, big buzz, and big emotional engagement. Well, all advertisers can count on at least two of those wishes to come true, because the Super Bowl has long been a showcase of big creative and it always attracts big audiences. Usually around 160 million viewers. More, depending on the teams that reach the title game. Remember the game?

Ultimately all advertising should be judged not just how an ad entertains, but how it performs off the field – in the marketplace arena. Does the ad engage and build the brand?  Does it build a brand defense against competition? Does it engage enough to drive sales? That’s how brands really keep score. Super Bowl advertisers are already guaranteed awareness in a game known as much for the payers as it is for the players. Viewers go out for a pizza or beer run during the game, so they don’t miss the ads, and this year that costs around $134,000 per second. Brands that can afford that aren’t usually in contention for an awareness trophy.To find out which of the 29 brands reported in the press to be Super Bowl advertisers are going to rack up big numbers on the engagement scoreboard on February 2nd, Brand Keys conducted its annual Super Bowl Engagement Survey, polling a national sample of 1,660 men and women who indicated they were going to watch the big game, and measured to what degree advertiser brand values were influenced by appearing on the Super Bowl.

In this instance you need more than a 2-point conversion to ensure an engagement touchdown. Advertisers are classified, as “winners” (scoring 5 or more points, an engagement touchdown), “losers” (getting sacked and ending up losing 5 or more engagement points), and brand “draws” (where engagement ratings are left unaffected, a kind of very expensive advertising version of “no harm, no foul.”) Here are this year’s results:

Doritos +13
Pepsi +9
Jaguar -5
Coca Cola +12
Butterfingers +8
Dannon -6
Hyundai +11
Wonderful Pistachios +8
H&M -8
M&M’s +11
SodaStream +7
Oikos -8
Axe +10
Toyota +6
Volkswagen -8
GoDaddy +10
Audi +5

Squarespace -9
Heinz +9 

TurboTax -10
Old Spice +9

Intuit -12

And as much fun as it is watching and chitchatting about Super Bowl ads, push-to-shove, in their heart-of-hearts, but particularly on their bottom lines, all clients want more than just knowing they were seen and/or buzzed, twittered, emailed, texted, posted, Facebooked or Pinterested about. Yes, yes, we know, Monday-morning creative quarterbacking is interesting, talk is generated, social networks tracked and percentages of ad “discussion” calculated and reported, numbers of GIFs tallied, and all that’s fine, but it’s not enough. Or shouldn’t be. With 30-second spots selling for $4 million this year (plus mind-bogglingly high production costs), it should be a whole new game plan when it comes to ad effectiveness and ROI. It’s nice to entertain, but it’s always more profitable if you engage. Some brands are able to do both, but it’s always a lot harder than just casting celebrities, cute kids, or a Clydesdale colt in your ad. 

Think of being seen as the ad effectiveness pre-game show. When the brand gets into people’s living rooms, it doesn’t matter how many consumers tweet if it doesn’t increase engagement levels and sales. Otherwise the brand has just spent a ton of money for a lot of buzz and not a lot of buy. On Super Bowl Sunday, when attention is literally paid to all, the final play that matters isn’t what ad made us laugh hardest or brought a tear to our eye, but which ad moved target consumers closer to the brands sending the messages.  

The final score: Engagement assessments are separate and apart from numbers of eyeballs, and can provide a brand team with a really reliable scouting report about how super their media buy and brand engagement will actually be. The Super Bowl Engagement Survey, like the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, predictively measures consumers’ emotional and rational reactions to brands in the context of the medium, with results that correlate very highly with consumer behavior and that have been validated as reliable predictors of future brand purchase. A laugh, a sigh, or a tweet alone isn’t really an acceptable return on a budget spend this big.

Given that this is the Super Bowl we’re talking about, we’ll close with this thought that might be worth for advertisers to remember: There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there is one in ‘Return-On-Investment.

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, January 22, 2014

A Love Song To Mr. Sears & Mr. Roebuck. They Could Use One About Now.

For nearly 100 years Sears & Roebuck, the dynamic duo of marketing, was America’s greatest retailer and consumers loved them. Even sang love songs about them. Hard to believe today? Well here’s a bit from a 1949 song by Ray Gilbert, William Okie, and Al Gannay. The first verse of the love song went like this:

Dear Mister Sears and Roebuck:
I been sittin’ here a-thumbin’ through your book.
Page a hundred ninety-nine
Shows a stove that’s mighty fine
And a feller in an apron like a cook.

Dear Mister Sears and Roebuck:
That electric stove’s away above my class.
It’s a beauty, yes indeed,
But the thing I really need
Is that man to teach me how to cook with gas.

It ended as follows:

Don’t mean to fuss, poor Roebuck,
But you’ll never fill my order, it appears.
If the shortage is acute,
I’m an easy girl to suit.
I’ll shut up if you will send me Mister Sears.

The “book” the song referred to, was the Sears catalog, first published in 1888. It eventually came to be known as "the Consumers' Bible,” offering catalogs as large as 500 pages long, featuring everything from phonographs to bicycles, milk pails to automobiles, even sold headstones and ready-to-assemble house kits. By 1896 you could order toys and groceries. It was a kind of 19th century paperback In 1933, Sears issued the first of its famous Christmas catalogs, called the "Sears Wishbook.”

Based on actual market results, along with some actual market research à la our annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, it’s pretty apparent that there aren’t a lot of consumers singing love songs to Sears today, and that Sears Holdings are wishing for happier days. Sears Holdings just announced they plan to close its flagship Loop location in Chicago this April, and will begin liquidating merchandise at the store next week. CEO Edward Lampert indicated that he believes Sears can better serve customers with less space and fewer stores. When you figure that one out, let us know.

Sears ranked 4th (of 5) national Department Stores we track in the annual survey. The stores’ own customers do the brand evaluations, but alas, for Sears this is becoming a smaller and smaller segment of the buying public. Brands like Sears end up at the bottom of their respective lists because they fail to meet expectations consumers hold for what drives loyalty in their category. You’ve got to watch those expectations because they almost always move up and brands have a hard time keeping up in the best of circumstances.

Engagement and loyalty metrics always prove out: meet those expectations and you do well. Don’t, and you show up on the bottom of your category list and that always shows up on a brand’s bottom line. Emotional engagement and loyalty metrics are leading-indicators of consumer behavior and it’s axiomatic that it consumers don’t behave well toward a brand, it’s not likely that the brand is going to do well either.

How is Sears doing? Well, not well. The struggling Department Store reported same-store sales declines of 7.4% earlier this month, with year-to-date sales down 3.9%. The closure shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. Sears has been selling off stores and leases to raise desperately needed cash for a financial infusion to stem declining revenues.

Co-Founder Richard Sears was once quoted as saying, "If you buy a good watch you will always be satisfied, and at our prices a good watch will influence the sale of another good watch; and that’s our motto: "Make a Watch Sell a Watch."  Today a better motto for Sears Holdings to follow might be “Watch Those Expectations, Sell A Lot of Product.”

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, January 15, 2014

Cyber Stick Ups At Target & Neiman Marcus (& Others) Discounts Brand Engagement. Up To 85% Off.

We figure that one in three of you are pretty concerned about this because, as it turns out, the cyber attack on personal and credit/debit card information previously reported by Target to have included 40 million consumers, turns out to be closer to 110 million. So about one-third of the U.S. population.

Neiman Marcus, working with the U.S. Secret Service and a forensics team, is investigating a similar, mid-December breach of yet-undetermined size, but the term “millions” is being bandied about there too. Neiman Marcus tweeted last Friday that they “are taking steps, where possible, to notify customers who cards we know were use fraudulently after purchasing in our stores.”

Target ran full-page newspaper ads this week apologizing for not protecting the consumer information they gather when you shop with them, indicating what ‘next steps’ they were taking in order to “earn back your trust and confidence and ensure that (they) deliver the Target experience you know and love,” which we’re pretty sure didn’t include turning all your personal and financial information over to cyber criminals.

OK, so a nice sentiment and an interesting turn of phrase. Apologies and contrition are always the first steps in trying to turn around a brand debacle of any magnitude, let alone one that touches a third of the population. But to avoid a real disaster you need to understand the degree to which and in what specific ways values – in this case – those of trust and security – affect brand engagement in the category in which your brand competes.

Looking at the Discount Retail category, “Trust and Security” (defined precisely as related to this specific set of circumstances) is the 3rd most-important engagement driver in the category and makes a 28% contribution to consumer engagement and loyalty. That’s based off what consumers expect from the category Ideal. (BTW, it makes an even bigger contribution for Online Retailers.)

Before the breach, the Target brand met consumer expectations for those values about as well as Walmart and Kmart. None of those three brands actually met expectations consumers held for those values for the Ideal. Consumers expect a lot these days and almost always more than brands deliver, but in this case all three retail brands fell within perfectly acceptable ranges, which is important even if we’re not talking about personal and financial information. Brands that better meet expectations for specific values or on an overall, category basis always do better than brands that don’t.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, Target isn’t meeting trust and security expectations in that acceptable range anymore, having lost nearly 85% of their brand equity on those values. In fact, according to assessments from our 2014 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Target’s current brand engagement level – the degree to which the brand is seen by customers to be able to meet their expectations for those values – is currently assessed at about 6%. So not doing too well and, based on metrics that correlate very, very highly with consumer behavior, not likely to in the near-term.

Target has already seen effects to consumer behavior or, more precisely, the lack thereof, and has already reported sales as being “meaningfully weaker” after the cyber-hack was disclosed. They expect same-store sales to fall in the quarter through January. Based on these engagement measures, so do we.

This has not, of course, been the first time retailers have been hit in this way, but Target may turn out to be the biggest. In times past retailers had days to reach out to customers quietly to try and deal with breaches and mend brand fences. But with the kind of mobile and social networks in place now, news of such attacks go viral in a matter of hours.

W. Edwards Demming, American statistician and professor, who made significant contributions to Japan’s reputation for innovative, high-quality products by creating design and quality standards that exceeded customer expectations said, “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

But under the circumstances, perhaps satirist Jean Shepard’s version is a better catchphrase for Target: “In God we trust; all others pay cash!”

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, January 08, 2014

Hindsight May Be 20¢ a Ton But An Ounce of Prediction Is Priceless

It was humorist and social commentator, Will Rogers, who noted, “Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.” Which is likely true these days in the case of, well, lots of things.

But from a brand POV, with a more complex marketplace and mediascape, an increasingly undifferentiated brand landscape, and smarter and more empowered consumers (with and without mobile devices), that quote is perhaps truer today than it was when Rogers made it 80 years ago. From our own perspective, it’s particularly true as regards many traditional brand research forays. So for marketers, not so funny.

That being the case, there are a lot of questions smart CMOs, marketers, planners, and brand strategists should ask about their research. Questions like “Is it something more than a qualitative opinion?” “Does it go beyond imagery and does it really measure consumers’ emotions? And, perhaps most importantly, “Is it predictive of what will happen in the marketplace?” 

As regards that last question, the sad truth is that making predictions based on traditional and legacy research tends to be a far more popular pastime than actually checking back on their accuracy. But prediction becomes remarkably less risky when one employs very smart emotionally-based loyalty and engagement metrics, because they point to what people will actually do, instead of what they say they’re going to do. In short, they provide marketers with the answer to the ultimate question: What’s going to happen to my brands?

As our own annual test, Brand Keys again examines how closely what we said during the year in 2013 on this blog, The Keyhole, and in our Forbes columns (all based on metrics and insights from our validated and predictive Customer Loyalty Engagement Index) about how strategies brands were – or were not taking – matched up with actual market results. In short, to see, “What happened?”

This year’s assortment of recordings includes topics from smartphones to beer, retailers to cars, sandwiches to streaming media, cautious brands, patriotic brands, and just plain foolish brands, along with far-from-plain white bread – that we hope will inspire you to demand smarter insights from your research efforts.

We invite you to pull up your computer or mobile device and listen (or download) again this year, or for the first time, to find out, What Happened?

We wish you all the best of luck for 2014. But we’d be remiss if we also didn’t remind you of another saying. “The smarter you work, the luckier you get!”

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.