Monday, October 15, 2018

Do No Evil. Unless You Have A Really Good Reason. Then Feel Free!

  1. YouTube
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Reddit
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Snapchat
  8. Pinterest
  9. Yelp
  10. Tumblr

Those are the top-10 social networking sites ranked by users in this year’s Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.

The full list contains 20 brands, but even if we listed all of them, Google+ wouldn’t be there. The incidence level of people using Google+ as their primary (or even secondary) social media site was so low they didn’t make the list in 2018.

Google+ launched in 2011 as a challenge to Facebook, but you needed a special invitation to join. By the time they decided to allow anyone to join, it was pretty much too late. So much for being social.

Earlier this year Google+ exposed a half-million users’ private data, but they didn’t bother to inform them. So much for “do no evil,” Google’s unofficial motto, which they replaced it in their Code of Conduct with “do the right thing,” and later added the evil stuff back in. 

BOTTOM LINE: Seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, Google is abandoning their consumer effort, shuttering the social media site.

At one point in time Google boasted Google+ had 300+ million members, but a lot of them weren’t active, just folks who clicked into the site by accident.

There’s no denying that Google is big. So big, they’ve apparently bought into the Field ofDreamscredo, “If you build it, they will come.” To be successful, the real trick in social media needs to be, “if you build it, nurture it, engage them, entertain them, and value them, they may come and stay.”

Oh, and also do no evil. 


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, October 08, 2018

A Brand Wrapped In Bankruptcy Inside An Enigma

The weekend of July 4thToys ‘R’ Us shut all 700 of their stores. They announced they were going to conduct a bankruptcy auction of its brand name, Babies R Us, and their website domains. They were betting their giraffe on it!

It turned out the auction bids they got were not deemed to be superior to a plan to revive the brand because auctioning them did not offer “probable economic recovery” to creditors or stakeholders. 

There’s equity in them thar brands, so the top lenders decided to cancel the bankruptcy auction and are going to maintain the brands as a new independent U.S. business. 

They plan to revive the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us brand names and run a branding company that will maintain existing global license agreements. Oh, and will invest and develop new retail shops.

BOTTOM LINE: As we’ve pointed out in the past, most of the time it is easier to take an old brand & leverage the values of the established brand rather than create a new brand with new brand values. 

Identifying new brand values is both difficult and painful. And most of the time isn’t as cost-effective as leveraging values consumers already value. Unless, of course, you have access to emotional engagement insights, which makes an often byzantine process more efficient and graceful.

Talking about developing new retail stores in any category complicates an already complex process, particularly when trying to revive a failing brand.

In this case, the enigma is that in the next few years nearly 85% the toys purchased will be sold online. So toy stores, not so much!

And while there’s a whole lot of shoppers out there who can still hum the “I’m A Toys R Us Kid,” tune, when they get to the line, “They got the best for so much less,” consumers are more likely than not going to flip their lids for likes of Amazon!


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Why Sears Sucks

This is not a customer complaint. Would that it were.

Sears’ same-store sales are down (again) nearly 16% this year, with total revenue down more than 25%. So anycustomer complaint would probably be welcome at this point. That would mean Sears still had enough customers so they could disappoint some!

No, the brand’s in trouble, facing what the company called, “Significant near-term liquidity constraints.” We’re not precisely sure what that means, but it sounds really bad.

Bad to the point where Sears asked lenders to exchange loans for equity stakes in the company, which assumes that Sears has an actual future in retailing. 

Our advice: DON’T DO IT!

Brand Keys has tracked Sears for nearly 40 years and can confidently say Sears‘ downfall has not been a triumph of e-commerce over bricks-and-mortar.

No, Sears suffers from a lack of meaning. The brand stands for nothing. There’s history. And the catalog, for those old enough to remember the catalog. And Craftsman tools, but shoppers are purchasing those on Amazon.

And although a validated process exists to measure, identify, and leverage meaning, the Sears brand continues to stand for nothing meaningful or emotional enough to engage customers. Or, at least, enough customers to be profitable.

What about your brand? Can you confidently say it incorporates meaningful, emotional values into its marketing and communications? Are they the right ones? Did you miss some? Are they the most leveragable values for creating profitable customer engagement? 

For a complimentary Meaning Diagnostic of your brand, call or write, Leigh Benatar at 212-532-6028 or leighb@brandkeys.com  

Because in today’s complex, socially-networked branding environment, being known isn’t the real challenge. 

Meaning something is.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

No Need For Brands to Reinvent the Wheel. Or Predictive, Cross-Media ROI.

For many years, we’ve urged clients to trust predictive brand metrics. They work really, really well for brand and media planning.

Our media application, “Brand-to-Media-Engagement,” or B2ME, was created just as media planning was moving into the digital world, and that’s when “digital” pretty much translated to “banner ad.”

Well, no surprise, like the rest of the marketing world, planning for digital became more complex. So Brand Keys came up with some new approaches, which the ARF applied in their cross-media ROI work for the  “How Advertising Works, Today” initiative. And our predictive metrics did precisely what they were supposed to do. Predict.

They predicted how well media platforms reinforced consumers’ emotional engagement with a brand and what combinations of media worked best for the brand. Strategically. If you do that, you’ll alwayssee positive behavior in the marketplace, meaning sales and profits, as opposed to just tweets and likes. 

Correlations of our B2ME assessments with sales were 0.80+, so worthy of a validated designation, “predictive!”

Last week, a MediaPost article announced brand data has become more pivotal in determining which combinations of digital ad stacks will deliver the best strategic advantage. Essentially, it welcomed brand metrics back to a seat at the Media planning table, something we heartily applaud.

Happily, there’s no need for brands to reinvent the wheel, or in this case, a way of identifying which combination of media platforms will work more effectively for your brand. We’ve already done that with B2ME.

If you’re interested in optimizing your digital ad stack (or any other set of media platforms), we’d be happy to help. Because we can confidently predict increased brand engagement and sales for brands that predictively plan.

In the digital or analog world.



Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! President Less Trustworthy Than Newspapers.

A recent Brand Keys study measured “trust” among readers of their newspapers-of-choice. 

Sure, ideology self-defines selection when it comes to subscribing to a newspaper (in print or digital), but “Trust” accounts for 41% of actual newspaper brand engagement. 

The remaining 59% is accounted for by content and values addressing “entertainment listings and sports,” “an ability to educate and inform via news reporting, columnists, and editorial,” and providing insights into the “economy and local events and markets.”

Three thousand eight hundred six (3,806) subscribers (hard copy) or “regular newsreaders” via digital or app (3+ times a week) evaluated their newspapers, with the following results:


SIDEBAR: Since President Trump has labeled The New York Timesas “failing,” and virtually every other news platform as “fake news” and/or “enemy of the people,” we also measured how much “trust” newspaper readers had in the President. 

Mr. Trump was rated an overall 24% (five percentage points lower than TV news viewers, 64% lower than The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal). 

Democratic newspaper readers rated Mr. Trump 9%, Independents 16%, and Republicans 29%. Eighteen percent (18%) of the sample had “No Opinion.
The next wave of the Brand Keys Media Trust Tracker will visit “Online” Platforms. 



Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top-100 Loyalty Leaders & 3 Brands Taking Over the World

Brand Keys 22nd annual Loyalty Leaders List is an analysis providing a comprehensive, cross-category perspective of brand loyalty today. 

Loyalty’s Top Line: Digital and tech brands held their ground. Traditional brands worked harder and moved up the list an average of 11 positions. Big winners included T.J. Maxx, 5 Guys Burgers, Zara, and Lyft.

For an analysis of this year’s results we invite you to read Paul Ausick’s 24/7 Wall Street article, “Tech Brands Dominate Brand Loyalty Rankings.”

Oh, joke all you want about certain brands taking over the world, but from a loyalty perspective it’s a reality. 

So not so much of a joke, and the loyalty Rule of Sixplaying itself out in the real world. Consumers that exhibit high degrees of brand loyalty in one category are 6 times more likely to use the same brand in another category. Brands in multiple categories this year were Amazon, Apple, and Google.

For this year’s top-100 Loyalty Leaders click here. 

Loyalty’s Bottom Line: Brands that make loyalty and emotional engagement a strategic priority alwaysappear high on our list. Most importantly, they alwaysappear at the top of consumers’ shopping lists too.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Churchill on Branding

There’s a Churchill quote that can be applied to brands. (OK, there’s a Churchill quote that can be applied to everything, but this one happens to work for brands!)

The last part goes, “But the past should give us hope.”

We mention that because, more older brands – “legacy” brands – are repositioning themselves and their marketing to be more attractive to younger consumers. And let’s be honest about it, an older brand’s awareness, gives it a big head start versus having to create a new brand from scratch. The older brand already has some values built into it. 

All it takes is time and insight into what another generation values most in the category in which you’re going to compete. Imbue your brand, advertising, and marketing with those values and, voilĂ , you’ll have a new old brand! 

You know the luxury brand Shinola? They sell handbags for $1,400, watches for $1,200 and bicycles for $3,000.  Not bad for a brand started life as a shoe polish in 1877.

Want to know what other brands are up to? We invite you to read Janet Morrissy’s New York Times Advertising column, “Legacy Brands Tell Younger Generations: We’re Not Just for Your Parents.” Or in some cases, your grandparents.

As to the beginning of what Churchill said, it went, “The future is unknowable,” and maybe that’s true about history, but not about predictive brand assessments! 

Today you don’t have to rely on just hope, because our psychologically-based, emotional engagement metrics canidentify values consumers can’t, won’t, or haven’t yet articulated about what they truly desire beforeyou start your re-branding efforts. More importantly those metrics identify values that get consumers to buy. 

No matter how old your new brand happens to be.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The 24th annual Brand Keys Back-to-School (B2S) survey conducted among 7,950 U.S. households (with school-age children pre-school through 12th grade) indicated slightly higher spends YOY. The average-spend – $730.02 – is a combination of consumer confidence and tax reform, but mostly due to consumer technological smarts and networking.

Regionally, B2S spending looked like this:

Northeast:    $817.60
West:            $728.08
Midwest:       $700.80
South:           $673.60

And yes, those are the hard numbers households expect to spend, but “value,” isn’t just pricing.

Real value is brand differentiation and brand engagement, and how consumers see brands meeting their expectations. Retail brands that can emotionally engage consumers will be seen as surrogates for price-based added-value.

Brands that have learned that lesson will benefit most over the nearly 4 months that now make up the B2S marketplace. For specifics on what and where B2S consumers are spending, click here.

These days, providing more than just low-lower-lowest prices is a fundamental lesson back-to-school retailers have to already mastered if they hope to just pass the B2S break-even profitability test.

Retailers that develop more loyal and engaged customers, on the other hand, will see bottom lines that translate in Quarterly “Report Cards” as A+.



Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Who Are The 20 Most Innovative Tech Brands?

Our 6th annual Most Innovative Tech Brands survey found consumers’ identification with brands and innovation continues to broaden and transform categories.

The 21st century may not have delivered on the promise of flying cars, but it is clearly meeting its potential in better meeting consumers’ technological innovation expectations – including, for example, the concept of self-driving cars.

Top-5 most-innovative brands were:
  1. Amazon
  2. Apple
  3. Google
  4. Netflix
  5. Samsung
For the remaining 15 tech innovators – six of which were new to the top-20, some very surprising – click here. Each new brand that enters our list stands for something that advances the category in which they compete, responds to consumer expectations, and provides a lot of consumer-to-business crossover.

Three brands fell off this year’s top 20: Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Line, and are proof of this year’s bottom line: Consumers have come to see innovation and change as an expectation within virtually every category and want it now!

And, it’s the wise brand that remembers it’s not about having ideas any more.

It’s about making ideas happen!



Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, August 06, 2018

“Fake TV News” Engenders More Trust Than The President

Drawing from our Brand Keys 2018 Customer Loyalty and Engagement Index, (www.brandkeys.com) we examined 150 categories and 1,287 brands to determine how much the single value of “trust” contributed to brand engagement and market success.

The category, “Media,” was #1 in terms of “trust” contributing most (34%) to consumer i.e., viewer/reader/visitor engagement. For broadcast and cable news – independent of other media formats and platforms ­– “Trust” was slightly higher, contributing 39% to network brand engagement.

The remaining 61% was accounted for via attributes and values like quality of hosts, levels of commentary and insight, and credible and engaging guests.

4,012 viewers rated broadcast and cable brands they watched regularly (3+ times a week) via our Emotional Engagement Analysis to determine how much – that one value in particular – trust – was engendered by the brands, with the following results. 5% indicates a significant difference at the 95% confidence level:


As President Trump has assailed news (of all varieties) as “Fake News,” and more recently, “the enemy of the people,” Brand Keys was interested to see how much “trust” viewers actually had in the President, versus the TV brands.

Mr. Trump was rated an overall 29%, less than a third of that attributed to the BBC, and half that of Sinclair. By political affiliation, Democrats rated Mr. Trump 14%, Independents 22%, and Republicans 35%. 18% of the sample had “No Opinion.”

NOW READ ALL ABOUT IT! Our next wave of the Brand Keys Media Trust Tracker will report on “Newspapers.”



Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Postmortem of the Ivanka Brand

Ivanka Trump announced the death of her brand last week.

It was famous (“Thanks, Dad!”), but it wasn’t desired.

It was famous, but it wasn’t very big.

It was famous, yet it only made a tiny flicker in the constellation of much larger, more desired, fashion-brand stars.

Listen to what we had to say to Reuters TV.

Ms. Trump forgot that being famous wasn’t enough. A real brand has to stand for something to consumers – besides being pretty and available.

To exacerbate things, Ivanka, who described her “life’s mission” as “seeking to improve the lives of working women,” wrote a book, “Women Who Work” – how women could achieve personal satisfaction and professional success. Just like Ivanka and her brand. The book ended up being an ill-timed and ill-conceived branding exercise. According to one critic, “It was not really offensive so much as witless!” Another critic thought, “Reading it is like eating scented cotton balls!”

If the book said nothing, Ivanka said nothing about anything related to being First Daughter or Presidential Advisor. Her comments regarding, well, everything was to say, well, nothing. “I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence. . . Where I disagree with my father, he knows it.” That silence, the lack of standing up for anything, eventually leeched into the brand.

To further aggravate things, she was not only speechless, she was tone deaf.

While 2,000 immigrant minors were separated from families she shared photos with her children, one captioned “on a date night with my daughter.”

She was unable to comment about the White House’s 2nd annual "Made in America" celebration. Ivanka-branded clothes and shoes (along with most Trump-branded products) come from pretty much anyplace that isn’t the USA.

And sure, some of the retailers who dropped her line may have been politically-motivated, but businesses don’t make money-making political decisions, they make money-making business decisions, and consumer purchase attitudes toward the Ivanka brand are significantly down YOY, so retailers weren’t making money for the stores. So the brand got dumped, just like lots of brands. This one was just more famous.

Brands should be more interested in meaning something, saying something, standing for something, than just being famous.

Because the bottom line is, when brands don’t speak to consumers, consumers speak to each other then speak for the brand.

Usually with their wallets!


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What do you use to fix a broken pizza brand?


Usually, tomato paste.

Unfortunately, better claims notwithstanding, that’s not going to work for Papa John’s founder.

Our 2018 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index pizza rankings look like this:
  1. Domino’s
  2. Papa Murphy’s
  3. Pizza Hut
  4. Little Caesar’s
  5. Papa John’s
  6. Chuck E. Cheese 
How did the brand sink from its perennial #2 spot to #5? First there was the NFL blame-game debacle, when founder, John Schnatter, blamed disappointing sales on players kneeling during the national anthem. 1st Quarter ’18 sales fell 5.3%!

Then this week, Forbes reported Schnatter used the N-word during a conference call. University of Louisville removed his name from its football stadium and Center for Free Enterprise. Major League Baseball indefinitely suspended a promotion that offered fans discounts at the pizza chain after grand slams. The company is pulling his image from all marketing efforts.

Mr. Schnatter apologized and resigned as chairman, although as of the writing of this note has been making noises that he shouldn’t have had to. So not a good week for the founder. But the good news is there is hope for the brand.

There’s a difference between being “founder” and “brand.” Dave Thomas was the founder and successful spokesperson of Wendy’s, but not the brand. Col. Sanders was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken and oft-imitated spokesperson, but not the brand. Richard Branson was founder and spokesman for Virgin, but was never, ever mistaken for the brand.

There’s a big difference between being “founder” and being “brand,” and a brand can be saved if managed properly. That’s not always true for a founder no matter how many apologies or denials they issue.

Because, particularly in this category, when customers emotionally engage with a brand, they also give up a pizza their hearts.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.