Saturday, February 25, 2017

What's In A Name?

Shakespeare answered that question with, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, that was then, but today that question has taken on new import. For brands the question is will a name change affect the marketing, positioning, and awareness of a business or product? You need to be cautious because, as Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “We do what we must, and call it by the best of names.”

Does doing what you must always work? Well, in hindsight it worked pretty well for “Brads Drink,” which became “Pepsi Cola.” And for Tokyo Telecommunication Engineering Corporation that changed their name to “Sony” when their products become more famous than the parent company. It worked out really well for Haloid that ultimately changed its name to “Xerox.” And really, really well for Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which ended up as “IBM.” There were rationales behind those name changes, but sometimes corporate and brand name changes are just a form of duck-and-cover.

Cigarette giant Philip Morris changed its name to “Altria Group.” claiming the name change was made to emphasize the company’s wide array of products. But an anti-tobacco group called the change “a PR maneuver meant to distance the corporation’s image from its deadly business practices” – selling tobacco.

“Accenture” was created when Andersen Consulting disassociated itself from accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which was embroiled in the Enron scandal. That tarnished the Andersen name – particularly when they were found guilty in of improper auditing of Enron and had to surrender its license to audit companies, thus putting the company out of business. Andersen Consulting hoped “Accenture” would connote “putting an accent or emphasis on the future, just as the firm focuses on helping its clients.”

During the most recent Presidential campaign, Trump Hotels announced that a new brand of hotels would not bear the “Trump” name. Instead, the new line of luxury hotels – aimed at Millennials –was to be called “Scion.” That stands for “offspring” biologically or a “graft,” botanically speaking. At the time, Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said, “We wanted a name that would be a nod to the Trump family and to the tremendous success it has had with its businesses, including Trump Hotels, while allowing for a clear distinction between our luxury and lifestyle brands.”

Smith & Wesson – the 165-year old gunsmiths and the nation’s largest armorer – asked shareholders to approve changing the name of the S&W holding company to “American Outdoor Brand Corporation,” although it will continue to use “Smith & Wesson” for its best-selling handguns.

The rationale for the name change is based on the company’s diversification plan to move into the recreational market – via acquisitions of makers of hunting knives, flashlights, and camping equipment. According to a spokesperson, S&W believes “the new name really better reflects our many brands and products and our growth strategy.” See, it’s a business strategy, which has nothing to do with the rise of gun violence in the United States. And it mirrors the strategy of Vista Outdoor, one of the largest commercial ammunition makers in the United States.

Logo changes are a familiar sight on the brand landscape, and not strictly falling under the rubric of “name change,” but here’s a recent one too good not to mention. Lyft, the rideshare brand established only five short years ago decided to shave off their pink mustache, its signature car decoration.

They’re replacing it with a glowing dashboard amp that can change colors to match the display of the message on the passenger’s phone.  The company’s head of Ride Experience said the new look would help passengers match up more easily with drivers in crowded pickup areas like airports, concerts, and sports events. Makes sense to us. Also, who wants to show up at a business meeting in a car festooned with a pink handlebar moustache?

Bottom line: Sometimes changing a name can be a powerful move and sometimes it’s a risky proposition that can confuse current, loyal customers as well as prospective customers, and interrupt the sales process. Also successful name changes usually require significant investments of time and money and an entirely new set of off- and on-line marketing materials,

So before you decide to tilt at brand windmills, it’s probably a good idea to remember what Miguel de Cervantes wrote: “Words have meaning, but names have power.”

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. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Emotional Engagement and the Academy Awards: Odds of Winning

The concept of emotional engagement is pretty straightforward. Consumers have an Ideal for every product and service – including entertainment and experiential events – and, particularly, movies. Ultimately, emotional engagement is the yardstick consumers use to measure brands and entertainment. But defining the category's Ideal is where it gets very tricky for one particular reason.

To do it accurately it needs below-the-radar psychological metrics because today's consumer does not behave as he or she says, does not say what he or she really thinks, and does not think what he or she really feels. So a 10-point scale just won’t do it anymore! It’s all about emotional engagement, with the emphasis on “emotional.” Consumers talk to themselves before they talk to brands. They’re hot-wired to social networking, which generally super-charges expectations for the category being “shared.” The result? Massive gaps between what people really want and what brands/entertainment/experiential events deliver.

The Ideal, of course, is not static. It changes according to how consumer values for the category change. Or, in the case of movies, the particular category the movie or actor or actress or director falls into. And because today it’s all driven (mostly) by emotional values, changes to the Ideal – and how well something meets that Ideal – are predictive of how consumers will behave. Or in the case of movies, how they’ll react to them. And tweet about them and share with friends and family.

So, again this year, as an emotional engagement test of our own we put this year’s roster of Academy Award-nominated films (and actors and actresses and directors) to the emotional engagement test. Results below indicate the degree to which the films (etc.) lived up to the movie-going public’s Ideal translated into odds. We did pretty well last year, so here are this year’s Academy Awards engagement odds:

Best Picture
La La Land                            1/6
Moonlight                               6/1
Hidden Figures                     10/1
Manchester By The Sea       16/1
Fences                                  50/1
Hacksaw Ridge                     60/1
Arrival                                    80/1
Lion                                       80/1
Hell or High Water              100/1

Best Actor
Casey Affleck                         4/9
Denzel Washington                3/2 
Ryan Gosling                        12/1
Andrew Garfield                    30/1
Viggo Mortensen                 100/1

Best Actress
Emma Stone                           1/6
Natalie Portman                      4/1
Ruth Negga                           40/1
Meryl Streep                          50/1

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali                      1/10
Jeff Bridges                           11/1
Michael Shannon                  12/1
Lucas Hedges                       15/1
Dev Patel                              15/1 

Supporting Actress
Viola Davis                            1/25
Michelle Williams                    9/1
Naomie Harris                       15/1
Nicole Kidman                       25/1
Octavia Spencer                    50/1

Best Director
Damiel Chazelle                    1/10
Kenneth Lonergan                   7/1
Barry Jenkins                           8/1
Denis Villeneuve                    50/1

To identify the Ideal, Brand Keys uses an independently validated research approach that fuses (mostly) emotional and rational aspects of the category, identifies the four behavioral, path-to-purchase drivers for the category-specific ‘Ideal,’ and identifies the values that form the components of each driver.

What consumers expect is expressed as index numbers and is configured versus a category benchmark of 100. These assessments not only identify the Ideal, but also allow us to measure the degree to which movies (and actors, actresses, and directors) meet consumer expectations for the path-to-purchase (or in this case, the path-to-the-pictures) driver that defines the Ideal – in this case translated into odds.

The research technique, a combination of psychological inquiry and higher-order statistical analyses, has a test/re-test reliability of 0.93, accounts for 96% of the variance in a category, and provides results generalizable at the 95% confidence level. It has been successfully used in B2B and B2C categories in 35 countries including motion pictures and award ceremonies.

Please note we provide these odds for entertainment value and engagement diagnostics 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 because it’s predictive of how people will behave in the marketplace.

Or in this case, the movie theatre or multiplex.

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 01, 2017

Brand Disengagement Is A Death Sentence: Why Sears Sold Craftsman

Don’t know if you missed it, but struggling retailer Sears was forced to sell its 90-year-old Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Sears got either $775 million or $900 million for it depending upon the source, which may sound like a lot at either end of that range, but a fair price, given it was one of very few sub-brands of any substance Sears has left.

Millennials don't, of course have any memory whatsoever of the Sears (& Roebuck) catalog, the of its time, but while conducting this year’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Brand Keys asked Millennial respondents some side-bar questions, one of which was, “You know Sears?”

After gazing into space, the respondent would either say something like, “It’s a store, right?” or say nothing, look down, thumbs tapping, and proudly hold up the screen of their smartphone and say, “A store, right?” OK, the average age of Sears’ customers (not including shanghaied teens and grandkids on their way to the movies or the food court) is pretty well north of 50, but the thing is that Millennials knew Craftsman was “tools.”

They also knew DieHard. It was either a Bruce Willis film franchise or a car battery. We accepted both answers, but kidding aside, they did know they were batteries. They were a little less sure about “Kenmore,” but got a reasonable level of association with “appliances.” But the real questions were, “Why weren’t all those sub-brands strongly associated with Sears and why didn’t they bolster Sears?” Predictive emotional brand engagement may help to answer those questions.

’Brand engagement’ is how well a brand is able to meet expectations the consumer holds for the path-to-purchase drivers in a category. Those drivers and expectations come in the form of a Category Ideal. Brands best able to meet consumers’ expectations for the Ideal generate greater loyalty and are profitable market leaders. Brands that can’t meet expectations lose customers and market share. Always.

We conduct a psychological and statistical analysis and a comparison of how well the brand does versus the Category Ideal (configured at 100%), which allows us to assess brand engagement strength. So the reason the sub-brands were more engaging than Sears was that they are seen to better meet the expectations for their categories. It also helps, one can only suppose, that people actually know where the sub-brands compete.

Here’s how Sears, Craftsman, DieHard, and Kenmore rated for engagement over the past 5 years. See if you can catch the brand engagement pattern.

2017               65%
2016               68%
2015               68%
2014               70%
2013               70%


2017               89%
2016               88%
2015               87%
2014               88%
2013               85%


2017               86%
2016               85%
2015               85%
2014               83%
2013               82%


2017               90%
2016               90%
2015               89%
2014               89%
2013               87%

The nice thing about emotional engagement brand metrics is that they track very highly with consumer behavior in the marketplace. Where emotional brand engagement is high, customers are six times more likely to behave better toward that brand. Sears has been losing engagement strength for, well, as long as we’ve tracked the brand, which is over a quarter of a century. This year comparable-sales have been down 12%. We’re pretty sure Millennials don’t know the term “death spiral” but Eddie Lampert, chairman and chief executive of Sears, does.

Which is why a classic brand like Craftsman is on the block and why eventual bankruptcy has to be in Sears’ future. After all, eventually Sears is going to run out of sub-brands to sell!

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.