Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday

HERE’S WHAT OUR BRAND KEYS EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT METRICS PREDICTED:

1.    Earlier holiday shopping would become the “new normal.” 
2.    More shoppers would shop beforeBlack Friday. 
3.    Retailers would encourage this consumer-shopping paradigm, and promote “Pre-Black Friday-like” sales. A lot.
4.    (It’s a pattern we identified in 2014 and now call “Black November.”)
5.    Black Friday would still embody a retail raison d’ĂȘtre, and a “tradition” or “ritual” for some families, but would become a relic of 20thcentury retailing, with brick-and-mortar sales declining, Y-O-Y. 
6.    Cyber Monday would take over the role formerly played by Black Friday and would reap the benefits.
7.    Top-3 on-line beneficiaries would be Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy.

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:

1.    Black Friday foot traffic was down 6%.
2.    Black Friday sales were down 7%. 
3.    It’s the 4thstraight year in a row. Not an encouraging pattern.
4.    Cyber Monday sales were up 18% Y-O-Y.
5.    Amazon had its biggest shopping day in the company’s history.
6.    They sold 100 million products.
7.    Clicking “Add to Cart” has become easier than finding a parking space.

ONE MORE PREDICTION:

For now, and the foreseeable future, when it comes to the holidays, for consumers there’s only one shopping day left ‘til tomorrow.


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.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Black November

Earlier (and earlier) holiday shopping has become the “new normal.”

You’ve probably already seen ads in emails and online and on TV. “Black Friday Starts Now,” “Door-Buster Sales,” “Early Black Friday,” and (my personal favorite) “Black Friday on Monday.” 

You can’t have missed them. The deluge started 3 weeks ago. In fact, you’ve probably come to expectthem.

The earlier shopping is something Brand Keys calls “Black November.” 

Here’s how consumers are reacting to this shift in retail outreach. See our full survey results in this SmartBriefentitled, “Welcome to Black November.”

Brand Keys wishes you and your families a Thanksgiving filled with all the goodness of the season (it’s stillthis coming Thursday) and plenty of time to enjoy it!



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.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Brand Research and the New Face of Patriotism

Given the extraordinary degree of political enmity in the United States and the upcoming midterm elections, it seemed an apt time to revisit a survey analysis we cautioned brands (and tangentially, voters) about 2 years ago. 

It was based on our Brand Keys predictive emotional engagement metrics and how consumers looked at brands when it came to the value of “patriotism.” 

The study was conducted in July 2016 in our 15thannual survey of iconic American brands revealing what drove “patriotism” when it came to brands. It was about how the drivers of loyalty and engagement had changed over the past half-decade, with a not-so-subtle move toward what might more correctly be defined as “nationalism.”

Here’s part of what we wrote at the time:

“Patriotism” is pride. Pride in one’s country and a willingness to defend it. Pride in what a brand stands for. It’s courage, it’s freedom of speech, it is liberty. It is ultimately a set of values people admire and brands can use to better position themselves.

“Nationalism,” on the other hand, has become the belief in the superiority of one country over another and its usual form is aggression, hostility, and belligerence. For brands it has become, more-often-than-not, whothe brand represents. It’s the Bizarro world of patriotism. It’s mean and it’s small. It pits citizen against citizen, black against white, Christians against Muslims. Patriotism is rooted in unity and values. Nationalism is rooted in rivalry and odium, and usually results in violence. 


  • What was once “Pride” has moved closer to “Self-Importance”
  • What was unquestioned “Inclusion” has shifted to “Marginalization”
  • “Courage” has morphed to “Convenience”
  • “Freedom” has actually become the vice of “Extremism”

BOTTOM LINE WARNING TO BOTH BRANDS AND POLITICIANS:To no small degree, shifts in the drivers of patriotism have dramatically changed how consumers look at brands.

Playing the nationalism card works only with a very, very small percent of any population. Smart brands will know what consumers are willing to believe about them and will leverage the hell out of that. They end up winners. The less smart brands won’t know the difference. Oh, and there's a big difference between being patriotic and being political, another thing the American consumer is on to. 

Patriotism isn’t a campaign. It isn’t changing the name of your brand to “America.” It’s not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion – with or without flags. Those are more promotional than patriotic and – more-the-pity for brands – consumers know it. They can feel it!

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 perhaps Mark Twain’s definition is the way to go; “Patriotism is support for your country all the time – and the government when it deserves it,” a sentiment that pertains to both brands and politicians.

And if you can configure an important value – whether for a brand campaign or a political campaign into something emotional and believable, consumers (and voters) will not only stand up and salute, they’ll buy whatever it is you’re selling!




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 29, 2018

Trump Brand Update

The Trump brand has changed. Radically.

Five years ago the fabulously successful lifestyle brand made a sharp right turn away from the promise of luxury, high living, extravagance, and indulgence and turned into a political brand. Now the Trump brand’s values of conservatism, authoritarianism, social dominance, and nationalism resonate.

There’s no political or tribal bias to that observation. 

After tracking the brand for more than 30 years, it’s just a fact of brand-life. The Trump brand has fundamentally changed. It wasn’t overnight or even in a year. It took 58 months, but that’s the way it happens, especially with human brands with entrenched values.

Gone are the high-end steaks, flashy jewelry, and expensive suits and ties, replaced by political rhetoric and MAGA hats (in classic red andcamo), t-shirts, teddy bears, and dog toys, all appropriately priced for a middle class audience. The “Entertainment” portion of the brand gets buttressed every day!

To be fair, categories like “Country Clubs” and “Hotels” are still doing OK monetized more by political push and potential Presidential access than brand pull. No, now when it comes to the new Trump brand-version of hotels, it’s a mid-scale, patriotically-themed chain called, “American IDEA.” 

The times – and the brand – have changed. And whether you see this as good or bad will depend entirely upon your political affiliation, brand acumen, and self-image. And contrary to Kellyanne Conway, facts arefacts especially when it comes to brands.

Based on the emotional brand engagement assessments of 1,500 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, we invite you review our new Trump brand survey results here


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.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Politics of Actually Selling Something to Consumers

Yes, yes, tweets are terrific and social networking is swell, but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. 

You need to get consumers to purchase your products or services, and not your competitor’s. You need to make profits.

Back in January we warned brands that Political Tribalism and Social Activism had shifted the way consumers were acting – and were going to act – in the real-world marketplace. It was all dependent upon your brand, the category in which you compete, and leveraging the proper values in your marketing.

So with the mid-term elections coming up, we thought you might find our Quirk’sarticle, “When the Path-to-Purchase Turns Political” of some marketing, research, andfiscal currency.

Today, political marketing plays to people’s emotions. Successful brand marketing should too. Emotional brand engagement metrics are reliable, predictive, and both effective andcost-effective.

Because in addition to wanting consumers to “vote” for your brand in the social space you want them actually buying your brand in the marketplace.


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 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.