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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Brand Loyalty In America Today

Soaring customer expectations are creating an increasingly challenging environment for brands seeking engagement, according to the 22nd annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® (CLEI).

Brand engagement is a measure of how well a brand meets expectations that consumers hold for the path-to-purchase drivers in a given category. Brands are measured against a Category Ideal (100% of what consumers expect). Brands best meeting consumers’ expectations generate loyalty and profits. Brands that cannot meet expectations lose customers and market share.

This year’s CLEI examined 83 categories including 740 brands – everything from Automotive and OTC Allergy Medications to Computers, Fast-Casual Dining, Retail, Smartphones, and Alcoholic Beverages, with brand leadership shifting dramatically in 58% of the categories. For a complete list of the CLEI’s 83 categories click this link.

Cross-category, expectations increased +23%. Brands improved by only 4%, which leaves an enormous gap between what consumers want and what brands deliver. Expectations grew the most in 1) Online: Social Networking and Entertainment (+35%), 2) Technology (+32%), 3) B2B: Services and Equipment (+30%), 4) Cosmetics (+28%), and 5) Personal Products & CPG (+26%). (Interestingly, there was only one category where expectations virtually stood still. Non-alcoholic beverages were up 9%, the lowest expectation growth in years and the reason selling soft drinks has become so problematic).

“Brand engagement” is pretty straightforward. There’s an Ideal for every product and service; it’s the yardstick consumers use to measure brands. Defining your category’s Ideal is where it gets tricky. The process is more emotionally-based than rational, so defining the Ideal, and identifying what consumers really expect has to be more penetrating and subtle than the typical 10-point scale survey. Below-the-radar psychological metrics are what you need, 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 feels.

That’s because consumers “talk” among themselves before they talk to brands, with social networking super-charging expectations and that results in massive gaps between what people really want and what brands deliver. Unfortunately, that also creates massive gaps among marketers about what actually drives brand engagement.

The Ideal describes the precise path-to-purchase drivers, how the consumer will view the category, compare brands and how they will engage with the brand, buy, and remain loyal. Most marketers look at the world through a brand lens. It’s their brand, after all. The consumer, on the other hand, looks through a category-lens and that dichotomy creates problems when marketers try to engage consumers. Drivers are category-specific since consumers don’t buy smartphones in the same way they buy cosmetics or pizza so static ratings lists can be very misleading!

This year 49,168 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age from the nine US Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they are customers. Seventy (70%) percent were interviewed by phone, twenty-five (25%), percent via face-to-face interviews (to identify and include cell phone-only households), and 5% online.

Of the 740 brands included in the 2017 CLEI, perennial brand engagement experts rose to the tops of their categories again this year: Avis, JetBlue, Hyundai and Ford, Dunkin’ and Starbucks, Apple, Discover and American Express, GEICO, Konica-Minolta,, Domino’s, Facebook, Google, Chanel and AT&T.

Smart brands are learning that engagement is the best route to profitability, and in established categories, 2017 revealed some newcomers at the top of their categories, showing up as engagement champions: Allegra, Chase, Coors, 5 Guys Burgers & Fries, L’OrĂ©al and Kiehl’s, Sabercat, Magnum Ice Cream, Hyatt, State Farm, Major League Baseball (MLB), Trader Joe’s, Zara, Nordstrom, Johnnie Walker and

We added 11 categories, with first-time engagement winners: Red Bull, Doritos, Fritos, Planters, FOX News, LEGOS, Chobani and Yoplait.

Bottom line? Brands that can best fill the expectation gap win.. And, as these metrics are predictive of consumer behavior, results will show up in market share and profits in the New Year. Want to see how all this plays out in the marketplace? Give a listen here.

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.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

A Retrospective View of Predicted Trends For 2017

If the title for this year’s Brand Keys Trends for 2017 seems a bit contradictory, think about the two biggest questions being raised just as we enter the New Year: “How did we get here and how did researchers get it so very wrong?” As market researchers and the media argue about it, the answer is actually pretty simple.

First, you shouldn’t use mid-20th century survey (digital or not) to measure 21st century consumer values and behaviors. Those metrics don’t work the way they did 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Second, today’s consumers don’t behave the way they say they will and traditional techniques are more likely to measure what consumers say, rather than what they really think. And third, because the consumer decision process is far more emotional than rational, consumers don’t think what they really feel.

The reality is more effort has been expended figuring out how to better target consumers than to actually understand them, which explains how we got to where we are and why almost everyone else is anguishing over the fact that they failed to predict the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election. This is not the first time researchers have gotten something wrong, and it won’t be the last, it’s just never been on this kind of grand scale! Happily, Brand Keys got it right. Back in September 2015. Take a look at what we said. So, as researchers who only have eyes for emotionally-based, accurate, and actually predictive research, we appreciate having a real foundation for insights, particularly when it comes to trends.

Trends ultimately reveal themselves when consumers’ emotional expectations surge. Brand Keys has been measuring those for over 30 years. Our research is based on leading-indicator metrics and annual interviews of nearly 100.000 consumers. And because consumers and their actions in the marketplace are a product of their values, we have been able to identify trends well ahead of the “global” research shops and “hip” trend watchers, well before they show up on traditional research radar screens and before consumers articulate them. When it gets to that point it’s too late to be of any real use. Beyond postmortems.

That said, because everyone is asking how they got it so very, very wrong, we decided to take a retrospective look at some key trend themes Brand Keys identified years ago, that will make themselves felt in 2017.

Brands will get more emotionally in tune with consumers: Values that drive the decision-process for virtually everything will be more emotionally based. Rational is price-of-entry. Accurately measuring consumers’ real emotions will be critical for both precision and success. (2008)

Expectations will increase and brands will need to predictively measure them: Over the past 5 years customer expectations have increased on average by 25%. Brands manage to keep up by only 6%. That’s a big gap that a new brand can come in and cash in on. (2007)

Consumers will talk to (and about) themselves about bespoke products and services: Consumers’ heightened awareness of their actual control and their ever-increasing access to information will result in intensified cravings for customized and personalized products and services. (2012)

Unfulfilled expectations = consumer rebellion: Consumer engagement has been inaccurately associated with consumer attention levels, time-spent, and personal entertainment. Marketers will need to measure how well the brand is perceived versus the Category Ideal if they want a real measure of brand engagement. (2009)

Brands will need to prove themselves: Veracity, accuracy, and trust will become more critical than “inspiration,” and “entertainment.” Social media’s democratization of content creation will require brands to actually prove themselves. Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” is something consumers will need to be on the lookout, so brands beware. (2006)

It’s not going to get any easier being just green: Ethics – beyond fair trade, sustainability, and corporate responsibility are going to be expected – and questioned – more and more. CSR will be an expectation not a differentiator. Climate change will still be a catalyst for change, but given the ease of consumers’ abilities to pull back the brand curtain, watch for ethical standards to have a greater influence in the consumer decision process. (2010)

Naked truth will be more important than well-dressed lies: It’s going to be showing versus talking. Storytelling is well and good as long as it is fact-based and believable versus just being an entertaining fairytale. Consumers will become more wary of brands that betray their trust. (2015)

Brand will matter more: Outreach and consumer accessibility will become more laser-focused and but brand will still matter. Being known will not be the same thing as being known for something meaningful. Campaigns and metrics will need to move beyond just the transactional or marketers will just end up selling commodities. (2006)

Consumers will not wait: Instant connectivity and a culture-of-now will result in consumers frustrated with red-tape processes and bureaucracy. Brands will have to react faster and faster if they want to keep (and keep up with) consumers. Real-time and real answers will become real important to consumers. (2011)

We’ve said this before – but in light of the research and media industries’ self-doubt and self-examination – it bears repeating. When it comes to truly predictive measures and trends there are three kinds of marketers: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.

We hope our view of what’s coming down the road next year provides brand marketers with the opportunity to embrace new methods of brand and consumer engagement and insight, build new business and consumer measurement models, and create new opportunities – so they end up in the group that makes it happen.

We wish you all an accurate, engaging, and profitable 2017.

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.