Monday, February 29, 2016

Doing Well By Doing Mobile Well

The nice thing about predictive engagement metrics is, well, they predict. And to be sure, sometimes it takes time for the real world to catch up with engagement values, which are emotionally based and often unarticulated. For instance, while it may seem so intuitively obvious now, a decade ago one of the trends we advised brands to attend to was one related to the coming explosion of mobile advertising. It seems to have paid off for brands that planned for it.

For example, Facebook posted more than $1 billion in quarterly profits recently with mobile ads accounting for 80% of the social networking brand’s 4th Quarter ad revenue. To put that into perspective, that’s four times what it was in 2012, or  $1 for each of the 1.23 billion highly engaged, monthly active users, aka “MAUs”. Think of it of social networking’s version of retail’s same-store sales – with the same relationship to profitability – if it’s done well.

Facebook shows up #1 on our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index for social networking – as well they should. Loyalty and emotional engagement metrics are leading-indicator predictors of consumer behavior. That means if consumers are truly emotionally engaged, they’ll act positively toward you. In this case, Facebook users did. To the tune of increased revenues (+52%) bringing the grand total to $5.85 billion. All well and good for Facebook, but does the promise emotional brand engagement makes deliver for other brands?

YouTube, #2 on the list, attracts more than a billion users a month, almost one third of everyone on the Internet. Twitter tied with YouTube with 310 million MAU. Pinterest, #3, has 100 million users each month, although not everybody feels the need to pin something. Still they show up! LinkedIn was #4. They have about 450 million members, but they only average 100 million active users per month, and when we speak of real ”brand engagement” we’re talking about a behavioral measure, something that will correlate with consumers acting positively toward a brand. Reddit, #5, lists 234 million visitors accessed the site. Seven other brands are included in the Social Networking Sites category.

The CLEI brand lists aren’t pre-determined. Consumers tell Brand Keys researchers which brands they actually use in a category and the brands must be mentioned enough times to provide a statistically generalizable sample. And speaking of “statistically generalizable,” the correlation between our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index rankings (1 to 10 in these particular categories, accounting for ties) and monthly active users is 0.85. You can check that on the statistical app on your own mobile device, but possessing predictive insights like that emotional engagement can provide can help any brand plan for profitability.

And today, if your plans don’t include mobile, your plans really aren’t finished.

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, February 24, 2016

No Candidates of Color This Election, or the Movie Version, “Zero Shades of Black”

Brand Keys has done a lot of political engagement metrics over the years, mostly for Presidential elections and just like the Father of Our Country, real engagement measures cannot tell a lie. At least when it comes to predicting consumer behavior. In this specific case, the election booth, and generally in the marketplace.

Last June, when real estate tycoon, reality TV star, human brand, and hair icon, Donald Trump, officially launched his campaign for President of the United States a lot of you thought, ”He’s got to be kidding.” OK, you weren’t alone. But we conducted an emotional engagement poll of our own and – as is usually the case with engagement metrics – it gave us a predictive read on the outcome. An 84% approval rating among Republicans, which is proving out in the real world.

Anyway, it’s Oscar time again, but we’re not going step into that particular political arena where you can’t have missed that accusations have been made that the Oscars are only looking to celebrate the whitest of its content, creators, and artistes with zero out of 20 nominations going to non-white actors. The only celebrities-of-color onstage will be award presenters and that has some folks up in arms.

We can’t offer you any odds on how that’s going to effect future Academy Award nominations or elections or advertiser and viewer engagement, but just like last year we've offered up some engagement-based odds on who’ll win the Academy Awards in the “big” categories – based upon our predictive engagement assessments. We did really well last year. Please note we provide these for entertainment value only. If you’re looking to engage in some moneymaking outcomes, you’re on your own, although it’s generally a bad idea to bet against emotional engagement in any category. Anyway, here’s this year’s engagement odds:


Bridge of Spies       
Mad Max: Fury Road         
The Martian                                    
The Revenant          




Cate Blanchett, Carol                    
Brie Larson, Room             
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy                
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn              


Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight                 


Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol                       
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight         
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs               


The Big Short                                  
Mad Max: Fury Road                     
The Revenant                                  

The 2016 Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 28, 2016 on ABC, those were the emotional engagement odds for each of the key categories, and we wish all the nominees and viewers all the best.

For the advertisers who paid a reported $1.8 – 2.2 million per thirty-second commercial, we calculate the odds of advertising engagement success to be about 8 to 1 given past performance statistics and the current list of sponsors, so it might be worth remembering the words of Walt Disney, who noted, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make movies.”

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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Most Engaging Brands in the United States

Emotional engagement – a leading-indicator of consumer behavior, loyalty, sales, and profits – is more difficult for brands to achieve than ever before. The key drivers of brand engagement have shifted dramatically toward emotional values in 88% of the 72 categories surveyed in Brand Keys’ 2016 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® (CLEI), our 21st annual survey.

Rational stuff is price-of-entry, and emotional values are more problematic for brands. It’s not the brand outreach or messaging. That’s the easy part. How to accurately identify which emotional values a brand should leverage, that’s an entirely different challenge. Imagery and – what many marketers mistake for engagement – are so vastly different from real emotional engagement, it’s not only hard to describe, it’s really not funny!

So seriously, for 2016 we interviewed 42,792 consumers (18 to 65) from the nine US Census Regions, and they self-selected categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are top-20% customers. Seventy percent were interviewed by phone, 25% percent via face-to-face interviews (We did that so we didn’t exclude cellphone-only households. Bragging Rights: we were the first research company to do that back in 2007 when that group was less than 5% of the population. How times have changed. Along with consumer and category values!), and 5% online to backfill category and brand quotas. This year, the 10 categories with the highest expectations for emotional values (in parentheses) – and the brands consumers assessed as best meeting those values – included the following:

Athletic Footwear:               New Balance/Nike  (Personal Innovation & Success)
Automotive:                         Hyundai/Ford  (My Life Is Always Connected Wherever I Go)
Breakfast Bars:                    Kind/Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain  (My Grab-n-Go Tasty Lifestyle)
Fast Casual Restaurants:   Panera/Shake Shack  (Customization & Well-Being)
Instant Messages:               WhatsApp  (Making My Impact)
Online Retailers:                  Amazon  (Immediate Gratification)
Online Video:                       Netflix  (Always Amused, Never Bored)
Smartphones:                      Apple  (I Can Do Anything Wherever I Am!)
Social Networking:              Facebook  (Personal Connectivity & Real Influence)
Whiskey:                              Jack Daniels  (My Brand Is Me)

For a complete listing of the 72 categories and the brands that best emotionally engaged loyal consumers, go to:

What were those brands’ secrets? Well, primarily they recognize the fact that marketers who can increase brand engagement levels always see positive consumer behavior in the marketplace. Always. But to succeed at that, marketers need to accurately answer these three questions:

1) What drives my category,
2) What are the emotional engagement values I need to focus on, and
3) How can my brand exceed consumer expectations for those values?

“Easy peasy,” you say? Alas, most brands can’t. The real marketplace proves it. Eighty-three (83) new brands showed up in the survey year. That nearly 14% new brands that consumers are using at statistically generalizable rates. An increased number of brands appearing in consumers’ consideration sets confirm category volatility. And brands that aren’t emotionally engaging consumers are going to face a whole new competitive set. When consumers mention new brands at significant levels, it’s an indicator that current options are not meeting their expectations. When that happens, consumers look to new brands to do that. You really don't want that to happen to you.

Brand Keys uses independently validated research that fuses emotional and rational aspects of individual categories. The technique is a combination of psychological inquiry and higher-order statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, and provides results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries. Oh, and they’ve been independently validated to correlate very, very highly with positive consumer behavior and, axiomatically, sales and profitability.

The output identifies 4 behavioral drivers for the category-specific ‘Ideal,’ and the emotional and rational values (and their percent-contribution to engagement) that form the components of each driver. Drivers – and component values – are category-specific since consumers don’t buy smartphones the same way they buy cosmetics or pizza. Our assessments measure how well brands meet expectations that consumers hold for each driver in their categories.

For more information about these validated and predictive emotional engagement and loyalty-based assessments, contact Leigh Benatar at or call 212-532-6028. Or watch a video of the methodology on our YouTube channel:   

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, February 04, 2016

Super Bowl Advertising ROI

Only 39% of Super Bowl 50’s advertisers will score big on their really big investments. In this case, “scoring” refers to generating consumer behavior. In the marketplace. You know, sales. Consumer traffic. Brand profits. That kind of stuff, advertising being a business and not a hobby after all.

When it comes to Super Bowl ad playbooks, brands look to score big in five ways: 1) big audiences, 2) big creative, 3) big buzz, 4) big social networking, and 5) big levels of emotional brand engagement. That last one is most important because it’s a leading-indicator of consumer behavior in the only arena that counts – the real world marketplace.

Last year nearly 115 million viewers watched the Super Bowl, many for the ads alone, making it the most-watched show in U.S. history, so the need to level the ad playing field has not been lost on marketers. Every year brands start earlier to create up-front buzz sneak-previewing ads and hashtagging everything in sight. And sure, brands need to entertain if they want their ads “to trend,” but if advertisers want real ROI, entertainment alone is not enough.

Consumers need to be emotionally engaged with the ads so they come away feeling the brand better meets the expectations they hold for the category Ideal. Puppies are cute and all, but the ultimate question is what did it do for the Budweiser brand? Beyond collecting all those shares, likes, and tweets. Which do correlate with “entertainment” but not so much with sales.

So our approach is a bit more precise than counting likes or interpreting MRI images. Mobile software developed to mine social data streams is overlaid with validated emotional brand engagement assessments to identify the intersection of engagement and entertainment within the context of the Super Bowl. The output allows us to calculate whether a brand’s ad will engage and entertain, entertain only, engage but not entertain, or neither engage nor entertain. Like all things “marketing,” each variable results in a different outcome for the brand. For the map of this year’s results, click here.

The bottom line? Only13 of the 33 brands (or 39%, significantly lower than the 13-year historical average of 49%) included in this year’s survey were assessed by consumers as both engaging and entertaining. Those included:

Amazon Echo                    
Mountain Dew
Taco Bell                             

Brands assessed to be highly entertaining but with modest to low engagement included virtually all of the beverage brands:

Bud Light                             
Shock Top

Look, we understand that agencies and marketers hope their ads will entertain. That’s a dimension that’s easy to measure. And unquestionably advertising entertainment and social networking reviews generate lots of chatter, traditional and digital. So there you are. You managed to entertain 115 million viewers. But these days that’s not enough. Or shouldn’t be.

With 30-second spots selling for $5 million plus, marketers need a new game plan when it comes to assessing advertising ROI. A laugh, a sigh, or a tweet alone isn’t really an acceptable return on budgets this big. Advertising should be judged not by entertainment ratings or social networking trend metrics alone, but how it ultimately helps the brand perform in the marketplace. Does the ad engage and build the brand’s equity?  Does it drive brand share, consumer behavior, and sales? If so, you’ll score positive bottom line impact, even if the advertising wasn’t as entertaining as envisioned. A brand that can both engage and entertain is usually a Super Bowl winner.

But on this particular Sunday, when a brand gets into people’s living rooms or on their computers or mobile screens, it doesn’t matter how many consumers tweet, like, or share the ad if it doesn’t increase emotional brand engagement. Otherwise what you’ve produced is a very short, very expensive movie!”

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

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.