The Celtics (my personal favorite Boston team) are just hanging on by a thread after last night's loss against the Cavaliers. But despite the Celtics playoff buzz around Boston, some die-hard Patriots fans are still riding the high of Super Bowl LI. Case in point, a couple weeks ago I saw a SnapChat of a friend replaying the game on his DVR just to relive the glory.
I was also just in Atlanta for some focus groups and couldn’t help but smile when my cab driver proudly pointed out the new Falcons stadium—he didn’t know I was a New Englander. So, although it may seem unseasonable to talk about the Patriots in May, I need to take the opportunity to share that Super Bowl LI was the greatest comeback in history, and as it turns out, a chance to show off the power of always seasonable brand loyalty.
In the weeks leading up to the big game, I saw a lot of social media posts and articles predicting an underwhelming Super Bowl due to Atlanta’s small fanbase. They argued the game would be more exciting if we were playing the Dallas Cowboys, a team with much sexier brand appeal. I’ll admit, we Pats fans can be a bit cocky, but can you blame us? Regardless, one pro-Pats article that ran in the Boston Globe led to a Falcons fan banning Boston-based Sam Adams in his Georgia convenience store until after the Super Bowl. That’s commitment!
Marketers are facing pressure to answer critical questions to help build loyalty. How is your brand answering the call? Is your brand conveying the right message? Do your customers feel valued enough to not jump ship? Is your loyalty programming compelling enough?
Who’s doing it right, and who’s getting it wrong? Tell us in the comments.
Caitlin Dailey is a Project Manager for the Travel/Entertainment/Finance/Insurance practice. Outside of work she is a company dancer with DanceWorks Boston. She’s a true Boston sports fan, and the only Falcons she likes are from her alma mater, Bentley University!
As a Boston-based strategy and research firm, we CMBers had high expectations for both the Patriots’ performance and of course, the Super Bowl ads. I’m happy to report that neither disappointed.
111 million people tuned into last Sunday’s game, making Super Bowl LI the fifth most-watched TV broadcast in history. But of those 111 million people, surely not all of them are Pats, Falcons, or even football fans. So while it’s hard for us New Englanders to believe, some people watch the Super Bowl (at least in part) for the commercials. After all, each year brands vie to have the most talked and tweeted about ad – setting the bar high to deliver quality, original, and memorable content.
In this divisive time, many brands were commended for tackling culturally relevant issues head on. And while I thought there were a number of really beautiful ads, I’d like to suggest a few other criteria for evaluation:
How well does the ad align with the Super Bowl occasion?
Could you connect the ad to the brand and the value of the brand?
Did it communicate a compelling image of the brand’s typical user?
Question three is of particular interest to me because it’s related to our newest research solution, AffinIDSM. AffinID helps brands understand their target consumers’ image of the typical person who uses their brand and finds ways to strategically influence that image to strengthen how much consumers identify with the image. Our research shows that the more consumers can identify with their image of the typical person who uses the brand, the more they will try, buy, pay for, and recommend the brand. This way of measuring brand perception is different from the traditional brand-centric approach (“What do I think of the brand?”) because it focuses on perceived brand user image.
AffinID measures how compelling a brand user image is based on its clarity, relatability, and social desirability; so from an advertising perspective, we’re interested in evaluating how well the spot communicates a clear, relatable, and socially desirable message of who the brand’s typical consumer is.
That said, I thought it’d be fun to review a few popular Super Bowl LI ads through an AffinID lens:
Reminiscent of the classic “pebbles at the window” scene, Skittles “Romance” features a love struck teenager throwing Skittles through his beloved’s bedroom window. The Skittles are intended for his love, but unbeknownst to the teen, she’s actually letting her mom, dad, grandmother, home intruder, policeman, beaver (?) etc. take turns catching candy in their mouths.
Clarity: Skittles is sending the message that everyone (even beavers?) eats their candy. While this inclusive message resonates with a wide audience, it may diminish the brand’s clarity of who the stereotypical customer is.
Relatability: “Romance” features a wide range of Skittles customers, making its image of the typical user highly relatable.
Social Desirability: From the looks of the ad, everyone seems to be having a great time eating Skittles. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with them?
Bust out your high tops and cassette tapes because Honda’s “Yearbooks” will take you for a trip down memory lane. “Yearbooks” features animated yearbook pictures of heavy hitters like Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Steve Carrell, Missy Elliott, Viola Davis and Jimmy Kimmel celebrating the notion of “chasing dreams and the amazing places they lead” yearbooks typically evoke.
Clarity: While it’s fun to see high school versions of celebrities like Amy Adams and Magic Johnson, the ad features so many different people that it’s not clear who the typical Honda CR-V driver is.
Relatability: I think to some extent we can all relate to someone in this ad. Even though they’re famous celebrities who may not be relatable in real life, in the ad they’re portrayed as normal high school students excited about their future. And really, who didn’t go through an awkward high school phase?
Social Desirability: This is undoubtedly a fun ad, but there’s not a strong social desirability here. Though warm-hearted, it doesn’t portray an aspirational social identity like other car commercials do – specifically ones that feature successful and sexy drivers.
The Google Home spot hasn’t gotten much love in “best of” articles about this year’s Super Bowl ads, but it may have helped Google Home take major strides across “the chasm”—while unintentionally setting off a bunch of the systems in homes of those who already had it. In the 60 second spot, the voice-activated smart speaker “welcomes” home people from a variety of backgrounds (younger, older, parents, pet-owners) and is used, seemingly with ease, to do things like turn on the lights and translate helpful phrases like “Nice to meet you” from English to Spanish.
Clarity: Mass market consumers probably lack a clear image of kind of person who has a virtual assistant—or assume that it’s an affluent early-adopter. While the people shown in the Google Home spot were diverse, they all shared an “everyday” quality that was likely clearer and more relevant than the image most Super Bowl viewers had had before they saw it.
Relatability: Where Google Home lacks clarity, it makes up for in relatability. Since the ad features people from all walks of life, it’s pretty easy to find someone you can relate to – whether it’s the young couple with sleepy kids or the mother in need of an ingredient substitution while she cooks for her family.
Social Desirability: The ad’s feel-good theme throughout makes me want to jump into any of the scenes – it’s 60 seconds of friends and family hugging, laughing, and loving. If that’s not socially desirable, I don’t know what is.
As marketing, insights, and advertising professionals know, there’s way more to developing and testing messaging than my quick “analysis”. That’s why we created AffinID – to help brands and their agencies develop effective, consumer-centric strategies for growth by recognizing the power of consumer identity in brand decision-making.
Imagine you see the picture below in an ad for Jack Daniels. Who is this guy? Where is he? What’s he like?
I see a middle-aged man somewhere in the south. He’s out fishing. He’s a stoic, rugged, “salt of the earth” kind of guy. He drives a truck—and if it breaks down, he can fix it himself, thank you very much.
But what if, instead, you saw this image in an ad for the clothing brand Patagonia? What would you think about the man in the picture?
I’d imagine him on adventure vacation someplace exotic. He’s from California. He cares about looking good, feeling good, and doing good. Later, he’ll be scaling a mountain and drinking a juice cleanse.
In other words, if he’s in an ad for Patagonia (vs. Jack Daniels), I’d make a whole different set of assumptions.
This effect is driven by our tendency to develop stereotypes. After all, consumers are people, and people are social animals. We tend to categorize other people into types, and use our beliefs about those types to guide our perceptions, expectations, and behaviors. Stereotypes can be nefarious, no doubt. But they’re a fact of life. They’re a mental shortcut we’ve evolved in order to navigate a complex world—and they’re hard to avoid because they often operate at an unconscious level.
A brand can easily become the basis for a stereotype—an image of the kind of person who uses that brand (e.g., the kind of guy who drinks JD, or wears Patagonia). And that image can bias how consumers see the brand’s advertising.
Case in point:Research we conducted for a financial services brand with a reputation for being popular among older, affluent consumers.
The goal was to test advertising that would broaden the brand’s appeal—particularly among Millennials. But when we showed Millennial prospects an ad with a picture like the one above, they assumed that the man was much older. They said things like: “He was a Wall Street businessman. Now he’s retired and canoeing alone on a lake… This is probably his last vacation.” (Ouch!) To succeed in shaking-up their image of who uses the brand, the ads had to unambiguously portray customers in young adult life stages (e.g., a couple having their first baby).
The ads also had to show activities that were appealing withoutbeing too out-of-reach. Pictures of twenty-somethings yachting, or at the ballet, just reinforced prospects’ ingoing image of uber-wealthy customers with whom they couldn’t relate. ("I don't identify with any of these pictures! I don't own a boat… I never go to the ballet.”) And, for some prospects, these pictures just seemed unrealistic. Yachting Millennials didn’t fit with any type of person they knew.
Another pitfall were pictures of young people that struck prospects as realistic, but inadvertently triggered other negative stereotypes. For example, a picture of a man wearing a hat like this…
…triggered a “Hipster” image, and that was a turn-off. Prospects didn’t think they had much in common with him, didn’t aspire to be like him—and definitely wouldn’t want to hang out with him.
These perceptions matter a lot. Consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user needs to feel real and be compelling—because, as I wrote in an earlier blog, consumers’ image of the kind of person who uses a brand can really help (or really hinder!) brand growth. To attract consumers, the image should feel like a kind of person they know and like, or would like to know.
Here’s the good news: Marketing can play a powerful role in shaping that image. Not to say that it’s easy. Great marketing is art + science. So we developed AffinIDSMto support brands and agencies with science that can help them get the art of the marketing right. More specifically, AffinIDSM is a research solution designed to tackle three key questions:
What is consumers’ currentimage of the brand’s typical user? Note: They may not have a clear image, which is a challenge and opportunity for the brand—but that’s a topic for a different day!
How compelling is that image?
How should you optimize that image? In other words: What should marketing and brand initiatives seek to communicate about the kind of person who uses the brand in order to drive consumer engagement?
Then we can test ads to make sure that they convey the intended image, and that they avoid hard-to-predict missteps. (See above re: the “Hipster” hat… Who knew?)
In the meantime, “The More You Know” lesson for today is that consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user—and their stereotypes of people in general—will bias their perceptions of marketing, whether we like it or not. The best course of action is to understand what those images are, the effect they have on consumers, and how to strategically influence them so that they work in the brand’s favor. [Tweet this]
Erica Carranza is CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. She has supplier- and client-side market research experience, and earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University.
PS – Have you registered for our webinar yet!? Join Erica as she explains why to change what consumers think of your brand, you must change their image of the people who use it.
What: The Key to Consumer-Centricity: Your Brand User Image
Take a moment to think about the kind of person who drives a Porsche. What is that person like? Paint as clear a mental image as you can. Is it is a man or a woman? Young, old, or middle-aged? How would you describe that person’s personality, passions and values?
Now think about the kind of person who drives a Volvo. What is that person like? Or the kind of person who drives a Subaru? Or drives a Chevy? Or a Cadillac? Or a Mini?
If you’re like most people, for each of these cars, you picture a very different driver behind the wheel.
In fact, this summer we asked over 18,000 consumers to describe the typical user for 90 different brands, across 5 different industries, using their own words and batteries of perceptions. Our results uncovered images of typical users that differed vastly by brand and industry on a range of dimensions. For example:
The typical Porsche driver is often seen as a rich white man who is single or divorced. He is sporty, stylish and ambitious—but also arrogant, materialistic and self-centered. He’s into fashion and luxury. He likes to party.
The typical Volvo driver is also seen as a wealthy white man, but he’s more of a Northeastern intellectual. He’s into books and the arts. He’s responsible, self-assured, and a parent. His politics are progressive. He is not into sports or partying.
The typical Subaru driver is seen as a more middle-class, family-oriented parent who is smart, practical, responsible and caring—a nature-lover with a soft spot for pets and a desire to support good causes.
The typical Chevy driver is seen as a white, middle- to lower-class family man from the rural South or Midwest. He is reliable, humble, relaxed and genuine. He likes hunting, sports, and the great outdoors.
Consumers’ perceptions even differed on who each of these drivers was supporting in the presidential primaries. Who did they think the Porsche driver supported? Trump. By a very large margin. And while the Volvo driver was seen as supporting Bernie or Hillary, the Subaru driver was seen as feeling the Bern. Most assumed the Chevy driver would vote for Trump, but consumers were also twice as likely to say he’d vote for Cruz than they were for most other brands we tested.
We found a skew towards one of the candidates for nearly every one of the ninety brands we tested across the auto, airline, beer, fashion and food industries. Curious to see more? Select any brand from the drop-down and take a look!
Consumers’ generally held beliefs about the kind of person who uses each brand are driven in part by experience (e.g., all the Subaru drivers you know), and in part by marketing (e.g.,ads like this one).
But does it really matter what consumers think of the kind of person who uses a brand?
YES!It does. A lot.
The more consumers identify with their image of the kind of person who uses a brand, the more they will try, buy, pay for and recommend it. That’s because consumers are people, and people are driven by their identities. They embrace brands that help them reinforce, enhance, or express who they are—and the brands that do this best are ones that help them feel connected to people like them, people they know and like, or people they’d like to know. Consider: Would you rather be like the kind of person who drives a Porsche, a Volvo, a Subaru, or a Chevy?
In fact,consumers’ perceptions of the typical brand user matter more than their perceptions of the brand itself. We see clear mathematical evidence of this with AffinIDSM, our approach to uncovering consumers’ image of who uses a brand, and ways to strengthen how much they identify with that person.
As part of this approach, we calculate an AffinID℠ Score to quantify how much consumers identify with their image of the brand’s typical user
The score is based on the clarity, relatability and desirability of that image
Across industries, brands with high AffinID℠ Scores win on consideration, loyalty, price elasticity, and advocacy
In our research with 18,000 consumers, AffinID℠ was the #1 predictor of brand performance, beating out every brand perception we tested
Including: high quality, trustworthy, useful, easy/convenient, a good deal, worth paying more for, safe, secure, exciting, fun, reputable, innovative, socially responsible, understands its customers, cares about its customers, and rewards customers for their loyalty
The power of AffinID℠lies in the fact that human beings are social beings with identities shaped by our social groups and relationships—they provide self-knowledge, self-esteem, and the social norms that guide our behaviors. So we are particularly attentive to other people. And brands aren’t people. Brand users are.
Furthermore, while perceptions of brands and the people who use them are interrelated, they usually aren’t the same. Case in point: Consumers who love amazon. When we ask them to describe amazon, they say it has “great” customer service, prices, variety and convenience. When we ask them to describe amazon customers, what do they say? “Smart.”
To close, I’ll give one last example—a personal one. Porsche.
Let me start by saying to any Porsche owner who might be reading this that I’m sure you’re a lovely person who doesn’t fall into any stereotype. I think now is a good time to go get some coffee and consider how well you’ve done for yourself—I mean, after all, you have a Porsche! And, go ahead, donate more to Trump. It’s not too late. You can skip the next few paragraphs.
(Is he gone yet? Great—let’s continue…)
If you asked me what I think of Porsche the brand, I’d say: cool, reputable, fast, high quality, expensive. But if you asked me what I think of the typical Porsche driver, my response would be similar to the mass-market view described above: white male divorcee, wealthy, materialistic, in a midlife crisis, likely overcompensating for something.
So, as nice as I think Porsches are, I’m not spending my next bonus on one. I’m not like the person I envision as the Porsche driver, nor do I want to be. I’m a happily married mother of two. (Incidentally, the last mother I saw driving a Porsche was Carmella Soprano.) To get me to ever consider a Porsche, you’d have to really shake-up my image of the kind of person who drives one. But I’m sure there’s a marketer out there who could do it. Gauntlet thrown.
If you take away anything from this longer-than-usual blog (thanks for reading!), make it this: To change what consumers think of your brand, change their image of the people who use it. In today’s competitive marketplace and identity-driven culture, it is more important than ever that brands communicate a clear, compelling image of their typical customer.
Are you communicating the right image of the kind of person who uses your brand?
Erica Carranza is CMB's VP of Consumer Psychology with supplier- and client-side (American Express) experience. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University.
Contact us to learn more about identity's role in building brands, and CMB's AffinIDsm approach!