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Ed Loessi

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You Are What You Wear: The Rise of Wearables and Customization in the Apparel Industry

Posted by Ed Loessi

Thu, Nov 10, 2016

I’d describe the fashion sensibility in our Boston office as…eclectic. The khaki and button-down/dresses and heels faction (hello Financial Services team!) mingles easily with the flannel and sneakers crowd (hello pretty much everyone else!). Of course, when it’s time to head to a conference or awards dinner, even the most casual CMBer will toss on something that’s appropriate to the occasion and crowd.

For most of us, especially those of us in professional services, our approach to work fashion is deeply influenced by a tension between expressing ourselves and fitting in. This tension finds an analog in two concepts from consumer psychology:

  • Personal Identity: How much a consumer’s relationship to a brand plays into their self-image and self-esteem
  • Social Identity: The sense of belonging or kinship consumers feel with others who use the brand

In recent blog posts we’ve discussed our work with the consulting firm VIVALDI to take a fresh look at their 2010 “Social Currency” concept. We evaluated how 90 brands across five industries fit into the lives of consumers.  Our results revealed seven critical components of consumers’ experience that brands must strengthen to influence the experiences and behaviors that drive engagement, purchase, and loyalty. Chief among these consumer experiences are Personal and Social Identity – which in the apparel industry are exemplified by the rise of customization and wearables.

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Customization

To keep up with the generation of customization and Millennial’s preference for personalization, brands now offer customizable products to their customers. Take footwear giant Converse. Converse is a subsidiary of Nike, Inc., which was the best performing brand in our 2016 Social Currency Report (across all industries) with an indexed Social Currency composite score of 120. 

While Converse still maintains its classic white Chuck Taylors, the brand has moved into the customization space to satisfy those consumers seeking personalization.  Customers can personalize their Converse, selecting everything from shoe type, height, collection, color, and size. Even though consumers are still “fitting in” by sporting the notable Converse brand, the personalized shoes also satisfy their need to express themselves.

Although not limited to apparel, the ability to offer customization on a broad and relatively affordable scale offers a tremendous opportunity to support and reflect fashion consumers’ personal identities in particular. [Tweet this!]

Wearables 

Brands that do well are those that continue to find ways to meet the needs of their customers. Enter the rise of wearable technology. Why? Because wearables can enhance both a consumer’s personal and social identity. Let’s again look at Nike. Nike scored 119 in Social Identity in our 90-brand study – highlighting its success in fostering a sense of belonging and kinship among its customers.

Nike entered the wearable space a few years ago with the introduction of the Nike FuelBand. Even though FuelBand had a short life, it was this wearable that got people engaging and competing with other users (even though FitBit was already in the market).

So why is the short-lived FuelBand’s narrative important? Because it underscores Nike’s commitment to finding innovative ways to enhance customers’ personal and social identities. Even though the physical bracelet didn’t work out, Nike remained committed to the wearable tech space by introducing Nike+, an Apple and Android compatible app that connects Nike users to its online fitness community.

And Nike isn’t the only successful brand in wearables. Many other companies that our report looked at are invested in wearable technology, notably ones that have scored high in Social Currency:

Social Currency - fashion.png

Notice the top scoring brands we measured are each engaged in wearable tech. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s a consumer’s world and brands are just living in it

A key finding of our research (you can download our free report on apparel here) is that consumers are loyal to brands that fit seamlessly into their lives and help them express who they are, what they like, and who they feel connected to. For example, does a brand reinforce a consumer’s self-image? Is a brand fostering a sense of belonging or kinship among its customers—a hallmark of true consumer-centricity? If brands can answer “yes” to the above, they’re doing something right.

 

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Get our FREE apparel report and learn how Social Currency can help brand transformation:

Get the Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

  Interactive Dashboard

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail research, Social Currency

How Top Beer Brands Brew up Social Currency

Posted by Ed Loessi

Thu, Sep 08, 2016

Last month, we released the results of our 5 industry, 90 brand study: Business Transformation through Greater Customer-Centricity: The Power of Social Currency—a collaboration between CMB and VIVALDI. In the coming weeks we’ll release 5 industry specific reports covering Beer, Fashion, Airlines, Automobiles, and Restaurants. This week we’re taking a closer look at 14 of the top brands in the Beer Industry in our new report: The Power of Social Currency: Business Transformation in the Beer Category.

For those of you who have been following these posts, you’ll recall that the genesis of this research was VIVALDI’s Social Currency concept. Introduced in 2012, Social Currency is a framework for understanding brands’ ability to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s social, digital, and mobile context. Measuring and understanding the 7 dimensions (below) of Social Currency are critical to building strong brands in today’s market. The age of the brand ambassador is over—consumers don’t act in service of brands, they act in service of themselves—interacting with and promoting brands that help them express themselves.

SC_Pyramid.png

The wide world of beer

By most industry statistics, Americans consume just north of 6 billion gallons of beer every year. Thousands of varieties of beer are crafted in over 3,400 breweries across all 50 states. Although 90% of the beer is produced by just 11 companies, there is still an immense amount of brand building, marketing, advertising, and storytelling aimed at beer drinkers. Truthfully, this is the stuff of nightmares for brand builders. It’s one thing to be in a competitive market; it’s an entirely different thing to be in a market with so many companies trying to build a brand for a product that pretty much looks the same when poured into a glass. Whoa now! I’m sorry if I’m offending the beer connoisseurs, I realize that I’m ignoring the the vast differences between hoppy IPAs, chocolatey stouts, and Belgian Saisons, but you get the idea.

If you’re going to build a strong brand for beer today, you need to understand the personal and social identities of the consumer. You need the customer to know who the drinker of that beer is – is s/he a quirky creative, independent thinker, old-school beer and barbecue, or the person looking for that next beach party? From that, you need to create the social opportunities and content that allow each of those consumers to express themselves through your brand.

Each of the five brands (pictured below) that topped our measure of Social Currency, have established a clear picture of the person who drinks their beer and they understand why that’s important. Each brand has worked hard to provide engaging social and content opportunities for their consumers.

top5beers.png

How are these companies using Social Currency to build their beer brands?

Sam Adams: The Boston Beer Company’s co-founder, Jim Koch, embodies the brewery’s spirit of independence. This independence has manifested itself in the name chosen for their famous lager – Sam Adams Boston Lager, and it has been a part of the brand message since the very beginning. Their most recent commercial “Stay Independent” keeps to that message and entices the independent thinker to become a drinker of Sam Adams. The personal identity of the Sam Adams beer drinker is very clearly the independent thinker, not your average corporate beer drinker.


Budweiser:
The “King of Beers” – if anyone would have cause to worry about the numerous competitors in this market, it’s the King. But, this King still has his crown. Long known for its unique Super Bowl ads, Budweiser came out of the gate this past year with a bold attack on craft beer drinking. Budweiser reasserted its beer as “not craft”, “not imported”, “not small”, and “not backing down”. In delivering this message, against the powerful backdrop of its famous Clydesdale horses, it also reasserted the identity of its target market, the no-nonsense, deeply rooted and not swayed by the trends of the day beer drinker. This identity is strong and reliable.

 
Corona: Simple message - sand, sun, and lime wedges! Corona has long been associated with those beautiful summer days being pursued by happy people, looking for a place to relax, and have fun. Corona has used these simple messages extremely well and has built a perfect image of the personal identity of someone who drinks Corona.


The beer industry is unlike other consumer industries. It has a concentrated power base regarding brewing capacity, but its brand managers, marketers, advertisers, and social media teams must deal with literally thousands of brands in the form of small brewers competing for the same customers. Understanding how to use Social Currency is of vital importance in building a brand. By crafting messages that align with consumer’s personal and social identity, and creating social and content opportunities, beer companies can differentiate themselves in this crowded market. So pull up a stool, grab a pint, and learn how Social Currency helps insights professionals and marketers create content, and share the messages that support consumer identity—spurring engagement, purchase, and advocacy.

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Download the beer report and let us show you how Social Currency can enable brand transformation:

Get the Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

Interactive Dashboard

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail research, Social Currency

How Under Armour’s Social Currency Builds a Powerful Brand

Posted by Ed Loessi

Tue, Aug 23, 2016

 Last week, CMB and VIVALDI released the results of our watershed study: Business Transformation through Greater Customer-Centricity: The Power of Social Currency.  In the report, we share insights from 18,000 consumers, about 90 brands, across 5 industries (beer, restaurants, auto, airlines, and fashion).

The genesis of this research was VIVALDI's Social Currency concept. Introduced in 2012, Social Currency is a framework for understanding brands’ ability to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s social, digital, and mobile context. This year, CMB partnered with Vivaldi to refine the concept and offer fresh insights into a changing marketplace.

One of the most powerful lessons from our research is that today’s customers don't see themselves as serving brands as the traditional “influencer”  or “brand ambassador” was thought to, but instead act in service of themselves. We see people looking for brands that help them represent who they are and what they believe. Today, the brand is in the hands of the customer and brands that facilitate experiences and behaviors that help consumers explore, develop, and express their identities are the brands that outperform their competitors. This level of performance difference includes high levels of Consideration, Loyalty, Price Elasticity, and Advocacy.

So, how does Social Currency come together? There are two parts; one is an overall score that is a weighted average of the 7 core factors or dimensions (shown below) that influence brand success. Topping that list of dimensions are two important forms of Identity—Personal and Social. Our research shows that identity is a key driver in people’s relationships to brands. The other piece of this framework is a Social Currency Assessment that helps brands develop truly customer-centric activities – messaging, advertising, content development, and digital media that align with customers' needs and wants. It’s important to note that we’re not just talking about brands being good at social media campaigns—it may be that customers express their needs and wants quite often in social media channels, but they also express themselves in many other social situations, and capturing that full spectrum is of vital importance.

SC_Pyramid.png


The Case of Under Armour

Let’s dig in! One of the stellar performers we uncovered was Under Armour. Founded in 1996, Under Armour is a relative newcomer in the sports apparel space, especially compared to well-known brands such as Nike (1964) and Adidas (1949). Without question, UA founder Kevin Plank had his work cut out for him when he began carting around his unique moisture-wicking T-shirts from the back of his car. It’s hard to imagine how a company with such humble beginnings has risen so quickly to take on many other well-established competitors.

As customer influence has grown, we can see patterns in the performance of those brands that create and nurture the activities that allow customers to identify and share their interaction with the brands. This concept was borne out very clearly in our study, which showed how Under Armour has eclipsed Adidas in its overall ability to deliver Social Currency, and edges closer to the top performer across all industries—Nike. Despite Under Armour’s size, it has done a masterful job understanding its customer and its customer’s needs, and through messaging, shareable content, and the linking of its customer’s Personal and Social Identities to the Under Armour brand, it has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the sports apparel space. You can see in the diagram below “The Under Armour Success Story” that Under Armour scores particularly well in Personal Identity, Information, and Conversation dimensions.

UA_Success.png

How does Under Armour achieve these high marks of Social Currency and build its brand?

The Misty Copeland example:

From our report: “Like Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, Under Armour’s “I Will” messaging, is empowering, inspiring, and inclusive. Under Armour’s messaging also celebrates the underdog with the competitive spirit embodied in its “I will what I want” campaign, featuring Misty Copeland, the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. The campaign produced $35 million in earned media and was particularly effective with women with a reported 28% increase in women’s sales. This success is supported by our research, while overall men’s Social and Personal Identity scores are higher across all sports apparel brands, Under Armour’s Social Identity scores among women (44.5) coming closer to those of men (48.1) than any of the others we tested in the category (Reebok, Adidas, Nike).”

The Michael Phelps Example:

You know we wouldn’t let this post go by without an Olympic reference, and neither would Under Armour. The Michael Phelps featured “Rule Yourself” campaign (part of the “I Will” strategy) and video has grown to become one of the most shared Olympic videos of all time. What’s so appealing? Why are so many people identifying with the message of “Rule Yourself” as put forth by Under Armour?

Katie Richards, writing for Adweek“For one, it's striking the right emotional chord with its target audience: millennial men between the ages of 18 and 34. The dramatic nature of the Phelps spot (with a killer track from The Kills) and its ability to take viewers through the swimmer's intense training process elicited a sense of inspiration among 47 percent of overall viewers, and 68 percent of millennial men.”

“Droga5 co-head of strategy Harry Roman echoed Prywes, adding that the Phelps ad is so shareable because it's able to convey the sacrifice that the swimmer makes each day to prepare for Rio.”

As someone who grew up playing every sport imaginable as a kid, and continued to do so through high school and beyond, I can relate to the “Rule Yourself” idea. I’ve now converted to low-impact sports to save my aging knees, but there is part of me that identifies with that idea of not letting go, of taking one more shot. It’s a natural bent of athletes, elite or otherwise. Under Armour has made it easy for me to identify personally, join the conversation through the videos created for the campaign, and express myself regarding the brand. A pale comparison it may be, but I can see that small bit of Michael Phelps in myself, the person who says “I will.”

One final note about the “Rule Yourself” campaign. According to Adweek, to date, 56 percent of the spots' shares are coming from Facebook, followed by Twitter at 28 percent. You’ll also notice, in the chart below, that across the social spectrum, people are expressing their personal and social identities in virtually every type of social environment.

 AA_UA.png

It’s clear, after studying the 90 brands, that those brands that facilitate digital, socially-driven experiences and behaviors that help consumers explore, develop and express their identities are clear winners. Under Armour, in particular, has done an exceptional job in this regard. They have built on the experiences of Misty Copeland and Michael Phelps and made them identifiable to their customers, and hence identifiable with their brand. Under Armour has then made it possible to share great content and express oneself as a function of that brand. Anyone, dominant athlete, former athlete, weekend (or weekday) warrior can see that underdog, and know that “I Will” also!

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Download the full report, and let us show you how Social Currency can enable brand transformation:

Get the Full Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

Interactive Dashboard

 

 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, consumer insights, brand health and positioning, Social Currency

CMB Conference Recap: Uncovering Innovation - the Clay Street Project at P&G

Posted by Ed Loessi

Mon, May 23, 2016

Light_bulb_with_plant.jpgThis month, I had the opportunity to attend the Front End of Innovation conference here in Boston. One of the most exciting keynote addresses was provided by Karen Hershenson, Leader of the Clay Street Project at Procter & Gamble (P&G) and was titled Innovation from the Inside-Out. The idea of innovation from the inside-out is especially intriguing to me, because CMB has committed to extensive efforts in product development and innovation. We’ve formed an innovation group within the company—drawing participation from people all across the organization. Having been involved in innovation programs for the better part of 10 years, I've learned innovation is not a one-size fit all proposition and that it’s essential to learn from other leaders and companies about how they harness innovation within their organizations. Karen’s story and ideas did not disappoint.

5 Key Lessons from the Clay Street Project:

Karen leads a team of designers, educators, and marketers that solve innovation challenges for P&G brands and noncompetitive Fortune 500 companies. The group—the Clay Street Project—was formed in 2004 and has been instrumental in building innovation teams, individual innovation and creative skills, and impacting many P&G brands. The group is often tasked to solve problems that keep their leaders up at night, addressing cross-business-unit challenges, and looking at entirely new products, or processes that have hit roadblocks.

Karen highlighted some of the key things that drive the delivery of innovation for Clay Street and P&G including:

  • Use a defining question – “How might we?”: I found this to be an excellent question because it's entirely open-ended, it doesn’t pre-suppose or seek to direct a particular path, it just asks “how” and lets the person take that first step.
  • Create the conditions, innovation from the inside out: This is essential. Innovation is not something that can be mandated. Innovation is something you seed, water, nurture, and see what happens, course correcting along the way. On their website, Clay Street notes that innovation is a by-product of work, team, and systems and that many organizations make the mistake of focusing on only one of those, which kills the entire process.
  • “All practitioners of innovation have a process, and we're no different”: I, in particular, liked this idea. I could clearly see the team has a process, but it’s an open process. The process of starting with the right question and creating conditions, which seems a bit fluid, are in fact a process. It’s just that the process doesn’t dictate how you work, nor does it say that your challenge can be solved using this templated idea. By letting the team figure these things out on their own, it’s more likely they’ll learn the lessons and that knowledge will stay with them as they move out into the organization.
  • Help teams deliver better long-term value: Ultimately, this is the mission of the Clay Street Project. Innovation impacts so many areas within a company, and there are many individual measures along the way, but in the end, it’s about better long-term value.
  • Understand your environment: As a global company, P&G requires deep consumer insight and long product pipelines filled with solutions for many different types of customers. The types of innovation that P&G need are different from other companies. There are many innovation methods and philosophies to embrace, but you must choose the ones that match your company’s culture and customer environment.

I saw many things within Clay Street’s guiding principles that are relevant to CMB. In particular, the need to create the conditions for innovation. As a company, CMB has been innovating for three+ decades; we may not have always called it innovation, but we have now put a stake in the ground, and we are calling it out, putting resources towards harnessing innovation as a defining principle. We are clear in our minds that innovation is how we are going to create long-term value for our clients and the company. Finally, we understand our environment, which is part of a rapidly changing service and information industry. Market research is being impacted by technology, changing service models, big data, and client competition. Our need for innovation has its drivers, but I could see that it has many of the same requirements as those of a larger multi-national company like P&G.

Ed is the Director of Product Development and Innovation at CMB. He thinks there is a game changing product or idea within everyone and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi

Topics: product development, consumer insights, conference recap, growth and innovation