Wednesday, July 20, 2016

America's Favorite Beer

Writer Charles Farrar Browne, aka Artemus Ward, noted, “We all can’t be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots.” When he wrote that he was, of course, talking about people – not products. But certain brands think it’s a philosophy worth leveraging, and sometimes it is.

Some are very successful at it because they have an authentic foundation for making a claim to patriotism. Think “Jeep” or “Coca-Cola.” Others – and there are lots of them – think they can just wrap themselves in the flag and that will do it! The less successful of them, the unsubtle ones, are enough to drive you to drink! Maybe a beer would help. Or a number of beers.

There are lots of beers out there. That includes Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois and 200 other brands, aka Belgium-based, mega-brewer InBev. They haven’t been doing so well when it comes to their Budweiser brand, and we’d have to agree.

According to our 2016 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index – and many prior Loyalty & Engagement Indices – Budweiser rates pretty low on people’s lists and on the bottom of ours.  Of the major beer brands Sam Adams (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and an actual brewery owner) is #1, with current rankings as follows:
  1. Sam Adams
  2. Coors
  3. Corona
  4. Dos Equis
  5. Busch
  6. Miller
  7. Stella Artois
  8. Michelob
  9. Heineken
  10. Budweiser

Of the critical drivers of beer loyalty that are responsible for these consumer engagement levels, we can confidently tell you that a craft-like image and credible authenticity are not at the bottom of the list. They’re waaay at the top.

But Budweiser is at the bottom of the list. When it comes to Regular beers and Light beers (where it ranks 8th, after Amstel and Michelob). So Budweiser, aka Anheuser-Busch, unable to meet the high expectations beer drinkers hold for craft-like beers and a sense of authenticity, initiated a re-branding program. They’re replacing the Budweiser logo with the name “America” on its 12-ounce cans and bottles, which still doesn’t make it the best beer in America.

The reason they’re doing that? Well, according to Ricardo Marques, Budweiser VP, "We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen,” which sounds good but raises questions: “What generation?” and “Why would anyone who wasn’t actually drunk believe that?” Oh, and “Are you so desperate that you’d throw away billions already invested in the brand – even one at the bottom of the list – and confuse shoppers just to try to co-opt the value of “patriotism”?

A partial answer to those questions is the name change – besides concealing and/or camouflaging the true origin and source of an apparently less-than-loved brew – is, according to Budweiser, aka InBev, “to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser's shared values of freedom and authenticity.” You can believe that or not! Maybe 2 or 9 beers would help.

Note to InBev: Leveraging the value of “patriotism” may have sounded good at the pitch meeting and probably made you feel all warm inside, but Budweiser hasn’t shown up on our annual “Most Patriotic Brands” list for years now. Even back when a foreign company didn’t own you. No matter how you many flags, eagles, and slogans, you slap on the can, saying it and actually being it are two, entirely different things. That’s especially true about emotional values like “Patriotism.” Oh, which is why Sam Adams is at the top of the list. Just saying.

The cans of “patriotic” brew were introduced on May 23rd and will be available through the November election. Coincidence? You be the judge.

On another nationalism front, Donald Trump took credit for the beer’s rebranding. When asked by Fox and Friends if he thought his slogan “Make America Great Again” inspired the name change, Mr. Trump replied, “I think so, they’re so impressed with what our country will become that they decided to do this before the fact.” As one of the few, successful Human Brands, we think Mr. Trump should have ducked that one.

But make of all that what you will. And the name change. We suspect Budweiser, we mean, America, would do anything that will get consumers to stand up and salute. Funny, that sounds a lot like this year’s presidential candidates too.

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 06, 2016

Brand Keys 2016 Sports Fan Loyalty Index Scores NHL Team Loyalty

The 2016 National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs began April 13th and 61 days later the Pittsburgh Penguins took both the Stanley Cup and now the #1 spot in the Brand Keys 2016 Sports Fan Loyalty Index.

In the finals, the Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks four games to two, only the second time in 46 years that no Canadian-based team qualified for the NHL post season. The Washington Capitals made the playoffs as the winners of the President’s Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points scored during the regular season, which is terrific, although we believe team loyalty represents the ultimate trophy for any sports marketer.

According to 225 fans in each of the teams’ local catchment areas, the current 2016 NHL top-5 and bottom-5 team loyalty rankings are as follows (last season’s ranking appears, in parentheses):

Top 5

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (#5)
2. Chicago Blackhawks (#1)
3. St. Louis Blues (#4)/ Washington Capitals (#10)
4. Boston Bruins (#2)/ New York Rangers (#2)
5. San Jose Sharks (#4)

Bottom 5

30. New York Islanders (#25) 
29. Winnipeg Jets (#28)/ Columbus Blue Jackets (#30)
28. Arizona Coyotes (#29)
27. Buffalo Sabres (#29)                                                       
26. Colorado Avalanche (#23)

While there are some differences when it comes to professional hockey, all of the emotionally-based, predictive drivers have to be taken into account when it comes to NHL team loyalty. The four emotional drivers of fan loyalty look like this:

Pure Entertainment:
How well a team does. As noted, a bit more important for professional hockey.

How well they play as a team and do fans actually attend games to root for their home team.

Fan Bonding:
Are any players particularly respected and admired?

History and Tradition:
Has the game and team become part of fans’ and community rituals, institutions and beliefs?

Win-loss ratios may be the only thing when it comes to making the playoffs, and a great win-loss ratios can contribute up to a 20% bump in a team’s loyalty. But to be fair to NHL fans, loyalty in professional hockey is a little different than other major league sports. Winning contributes more to loyalty for the NHL – about 10% more for several reasons: first, the sport moves faster than the others, so more attention is necessarily paid to the Pure Entertainment driver wherein wins and losses reside. Also the scores are much closer in hockey.

For the NHL, the Authenticity driver correlates very, very highly to at-home attendance figures, and makes a slightly higher contribution to engagement and loyalty than it does for the NFL, MLB, or the NBA.

And sure, hockey fans have their favorite players, but the protective equipment makes instantaneous identification of individual players difficult, so Fan Bonding makes a slightly smaller contribution in the case of this sport.

Of the four major league sports that Brand Keys tracks in its’ Sports Fan Loyalty Index, the National Hockey League is #4 again this year. The National Football League is currently 1st followed by Major League Baseball, with the National Basketball Association in 3rd place. 

Overall team rankings – no matter which league – are based on predictive engagement metrics and correlate with viewership and licensed merchandise sales and, in the case of hockey, attendance. And, since rankings can be influenced depending upon how different loyalty drivers are managed, it’s critical that NHL team marketers act as strategically off the ice as players do on the ice.

It was Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One” and the leading point-scorer in NHL history, who noted that a good hockey player plays where the puck is; a great player plays to where the puck is going to be. Great sports marketers know that same maxim can be applied to fan loyalty too.

Particularly if you have the right metrics in place.

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.

Most Patriotic People in America: 21st Century Version

Name anyone – alive or dead – you feel best personifies the value of “patriotism” in the United States.

For the first time since Brand Keys’ Most Patriotic Brands survey was conducted 10 years ago – in addition to asking consumers to evaluate the 248 brands included this year – we asked that question. We asked respondents to name “anyone – alive or dead – who they felt best personified the value of ‘patriotism’ in the United States,” because – particularly in light of some of the political rhetoric this year – we thought it would be provocative to see how people put a human face on such an extraordinary value. So a national sample of 4,750 consumers, 16 to 65, stood up to be counted, with the research conducted May 16th – June 15th 2016.

The question was asked on an unaided basis, that is, we didn’t give anyone a list to choose from. We did, however, edit out historical, likely suspect mentions, like Washington, Lincoln, Betsy Ross, Nathan Hale, Abigail Adams, Thomas Paine, and Alexander Hamilton. They’ve already earned their place in history, and besides, we were looking for a more contemporary list.

And, for all the obvious reasons you can think of, we ducked the current crop of presidential hopefuls and candidates running for office, although in all fairness, none of the major candidates were mentioned enough times to vote them into the top 20 list. That, in and of itself, should say something about our political process and Americans’ views of patriotism!

When we did all that, we ended up with a list of people Americans felt best personified and humanized the value of patriotism. It’s an interesting mix of entertainers, soldiers, athletes, explorers, and cultural influencers and commentators. We think it says a lot about how people view patriotism.
  1. John Wayne
  2. Tom Hanks
  3. John Stewart
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Stephen Spielberg
  6. Oprah Winfrey
  7. Neil Armstrong
  8. Eleanor Roosevelt
  9. Stephen Colbert
  10. Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  11. Martin Luther King
  12. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  13. Antonin Scalia
  14. Angelina Jolie
  15. Lin-Manuel Miranda
  16. Jackie Robinson
  17. Bill O’Reilly
  18. Tim Cook
  19. Gloria Steinem
  20. John Oliver
And sure, with the exception of someone in the military, patriotism may not a top-of-mind value when it comes to personifying anyone, but if you move beyond the immediate, emotional connections that exist, it’s highly likely you can find all the rational reasons citizens thought of these people first. Or at all.

John Wayne was never shy about his love for America – on or off the screen. Bill O’Reilly has written four books dealing with American history. Tom Hanks standardly plays unlikely American heroes and has worked tirelessly to strengthen the legacy of the Greatest Generation. Won an American Spirit Award, too. John Stewart has railed against false patriotism, and Lin-Manuel Miranda has reframed American history and created a new paradigm for patriotism. And the first man to walk on the moon? Come on, this is the moon we’re talking about! If you take a moment to think about it, everyone on the list ultimately has a valid and significant stake when it comes to how Americans see patriotism.

Remember these were people and not brands we were asking about. The term “brand” is one that has become grossly overused. It seems today anything that has a degree of awareness or celebrity calls itself a “brand.” But the reality is a real “brand” must be imbued with something more than talent or celebrity, and certainly more than awareness or notoriety. It needs to be a value people recognize and desire.

As to the actual brand part of the study, consumers identified the following real brands as leading 2016’s patriotism parade. Percentages indicate brands’ emotional engagement strength for the individual value of patriotism.
  1. Jeep/Disney (98%)
  2. Levi Strauss (96%)
Ralph Lauren (95%)
  4. Ford (94%)
  5. Coca-Cola/Jack Daniels (93%)
For a complete list of 2016’s top 50 Most Patriotic Brands, click here.

Look, patriotism isn’t a campaign. It isn’t changing the name of your brand to “America.” It’s not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion. That’s more promotional than patriotic. Based on this year’s lists, one could reasonably agree with the position that real patriotism is the quiet and steady dedication of a lifetime’s work – whether you’re speaking of a brand or about a person. Some approaches can be categorized as “liberal,” and others “conservative.” But looking at the list respondents generated, we think that statement is true about every one of the names, no matter where you personally stand on the political spectrum.

Although, perhaps, Mark Twain’s definition works best for everyone; “Patriotism is the support of your country all the time – and the government when it deserves it!”

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.