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BrandFx: How to Fix Brands' Consumer-sized Blind Spot

Posted by Mark Doherty

Mon, Nov 27, 2017

Today’s executives are investing money, mind- and man-power into cracking the code of the Empowered Consumer. Every client I speak with understands the importance of developing a consumer-centric culture and strategy, and they are putting millions into making this a reality. But there's a pervasive problem affecting brands across industries—while research and insights have generally kept up with this evolution in consumer-centric thinking (witness the growth of ethnographic work and customer journey mapping), brand tracking has not. Most brands are still tracking their brand health through measures focusing solely on their brand and not on the consumers.

Just as retail stores are transforming their floor plans and service firms are overhauling their operations to enhance their customer-centricity, today’s brand health measurement and tracking needs to change, too. Trackers must put the consumer first and uncover how well consumers see “what’s in it for them”—specifically—how they benefit from being a customer. This is why we’ve introduced a truly comprehensive and holistic approach to consumer-powered brand measurement—BrandFx.

BrandFx focuses on what consumers want from a brand—the benefits driving purchase, loyalty and advocacy—and provides specific guidance and critical, concrete recommendations on what to (and what not to) communicate:

  • Identity Benefits: What should you communicate about who your customers are?
  • Emotional Benefits: How do you want people to feel about your brand?
  • Functional Benefits: What should you say people will get from your products/services?

It’s true that many brand trackers already cover elements of this approach. For example, some have transformed their functional brand attributes into functional benefits, and new thinking about the role of emotion in purchase decisions has led to a battery of emotional benefits in a growing number of trackers.

However, very few have incorporated benefits associated with consumer social identity, and as a result, they are missing out on a critical piece of the brand puzzle: The more the image of a brand’s typical customer represents a “tribe” they connect with or aspire to be part of, the more that consumer will try, buy, and recommend the brand.

 Our research shows that, when consumers identify with their image of a brand’s customer, they are 12-times more likely to consider the brand. And our proprietary assessment of a brand’s performance on these Identity benefits, AffinID, has proven to be a better predictor of brand engagement than the standard brand tracking metrics (functional and emotional) most brands rely upon.

BrandFx4blog.png

Advanced analytics provide insight into how these three types of benefits—Identity, Emotional, and Functional—fit together to explain how they drive the key outcomes of consideration, purchase and loyalty. In the example below we see how benefit composition varies by brand—highlighting key areas for differentiation.

brandpies.png

After three decades of refreshing and reviving brand measurement programs, we know the challenges for insights professionals charged with running trackers. Some of these are technical (making 30-minute questionnaires mobile-friendly), and some of these are strategic (balancing trackability with addressing the needs of a changing market). Brand tracking programs need to be designed with the flexibility to meet these challenges through analytics, technology, and thoughtful strategic planning. We understand these challenges and specialize in working with clients to tackle them successfully.

The bottom line is that consumers aren’t conducting business as usual and brands can’t afford to either.

Does your brand measurement have a blind spot?  Join CMB's Mark Doherty and Kate Zilla-Ba for a webinar: BrandFx: Consumer-powered Brand Measurement to learn more about transforming your brand measurement program into one that is truly consumer powered.

Watch now!

Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, BrandFx

The Social Identity Effect: How one Millennial “Found Herself” at the MFA After Midnight

Posted by Lisa Hoffman

Wed, Nov 15, 2017

people-festival-party-dancing.jpg

Shortly after midnight last weekend, I was surprised when someone suggested that we head to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Despite my love of art, while interning at the museum in college, I learned that people like me were not its "typical" daily visitors. Asked to conjure up an image of those who go to the MFA—an imposing neoclassical building located in Boston’s Fenway—I pictured school groups, white-haired docents, and tourists…lots of tourists.  I did not envision urban millennials looking for a respite from the Boston bar scene. Not until I saw it for myself.

In 2014, the MFA set out to grow their audience and take advantage of a city teeming with recent college graduates. They needed to continue to appeal to their typical daytime patrons (those older tourists, families, and school groups), but with a new director in place, the MFA saw an opportunity to become a sought-after destination for Boston’s millennials. So, the museum launched #mfaNOW—a series of late-night parties, artistic celebrations, and lectures targeted at young Bostonians looking for a fun night out.

These events are an incredible success—hundreds of millennials are lining up at the door on weekend nights, sharing on social, and bringing their friends because they now see themselves as MFA museum goers. The MFA is experiencing the social identity effect validated by our research: to change the image of the brand, you need to change the image of the typical brand customer.

I experienced it myself that night, as I wandered through a crowd of hip overnight revelers, my perception of the museum and museum-goers began to change. It wasn’t because of the heart-pumping music and flashing lights—though those were cool. It changed because I was immersed in people like me—young city-dwelling professionals—people I could understand, relate to, and who I wanted to be with. It felt like at any point I could run into someone I knew in the crowd, making the night an experience I was excited to share with my friends, either later online, or at the next event!

As the results of our research show, who consumers imagine as your brand's "typical" customer really matters. In fact, consumers are 12x more likely to consider brands when they can identify with their image of its typical user. So, brands looking to influence or change their brand perception need to consider who their typical (or target) customer is and create experiences and offer services and products that appeal to that person.

See it in action:

The MFA changed the image of its stereotypical visitor when it introduced #mfaNOW. It offers millennials—people like me—the opportunity to see their peers experiencing (and enjoying) the museum in an entirely different context than a typical daytime visit—a paradigm shift for an established brand.

Learn more about how we’re helping clients leverage the critical role of identity to create truly customer-centered brands. 

Topics: brand health and positioning, Identity, AffinID

Namesake: The Next KPI?

Posted by Laura Blazej

Wed, Aug 16, 2017

Pharah II.jpg

When my fiancé and I adopted our first dog a few months ago, we wanted to name her something meaningful… something that we wouldn’t grow tired of saying over and over. We landed on “Pharah,” after the rocket-launcher-wielding, jetpack-flying, altogether-badass character from one our favorite video games, Overwatch. As a market researcher charged with measuring brand health and loyalty, I started to wonder what naming my new pup “Pharah” says about my relationship with Overwatch?

This is the kind of question we ask when we’re measuring brand health. To gauge the strength of the relationship between consumers and a particular brand, we look at metrics—called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—to help indicate how a brand is doing. While namesake might not be a legitimate KPI (yet!), there are loads of others we measure in order to help our clients understand their brand health:

Unaided Awareness

  • Definition: The ability to recall a brand without help (This is different from Aided Awareness, which is the ability to recognize a listed brand)
  • Common question to gauge this metric: “Thinking about [industry], what brands come to mind?” (Respondent provides open ended answers)
  • Goal: Unaided awareness determines whether there is an existing relationship between the consumer and brand
  • Fit: Unaided awareness is a useful metric for smaller, newer, or regional brands who are working on improving their brand recognition. For example, the regional brand, University of Pittsburg Medical Center, would focus on unaided awareness, whereas the universal brand, Google, wouldn’t

Top of Mind Awareness

  • Definition: The first brand recalled without help in an open-end response
  • Common question wording: “Thinking about [industry], what brand first comes to mind?”
  • Goal: Top of mind awareness gauges either the most loved, the most hated, or the most prevalent brand to each consumer in any given industry
  • Fit: Useful for established brands who want to be first in consumers’ consideration set

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Definition: The willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. To calculate NPS score, we subtract the percentage of those unlikely to recommend the brand from the percentage of those likely to promote it
  • Common question wording: “How likely are you to recommend this brand to a friend or family member?”
  • Goal: This metric determines the magnitude and valence of the relationship between consumer and brand—that is, how strong or weak the relationship is (farther or closer to 0), and whether the relationship is positive or negative
  • Fit: NPS is useful to measure holistic loyalty since it accounts for both the high and low end of the scale in a single metric

Funnel/Pyramid Metrics

  • Definition: Often comprised of awareness, familiarity, favorability, preference, likelihood to purchase, and/or likelihood to recommend shown as descending or ascending bar lengths, forming a funnel or pyramid shape
  • Common question wording: Surveyed as a series of questions that touch on the aforementioned metrics
  • Goal: This metric focuses on the whole picture by following the entire journey to purchase/loyalty and the conversion ratios between each step
  • Fit: Useful as a big-picture approach to pinpoint where along the journey to focus marketing efforts

Preference

  • Definition: Likelihood to choose a brand over its competitors
  • Common question wording: “Which brand is the one you prefer?” among a list of brands
  • Goal: Preference is like NPS in that it measures loyalty, however it does so by comparing the brand against the competitive market
  • Fit: This metric is useful for brands that are already well-known and working on improving loyalty in a competitive market
Pharah-1.jpg

And very often we create a unique secret-sauce combination of some or all of these metrics, called Brand Strength Scores, for some clients. These special scores use several metrics at varying weights determined specifically for the clients’ goals, industry, and competitive market to calculate a single score to compare against competitors and evaluate change over time.

The point is, there’s no prescribed “right” set of KPIs to track when measuring brand health. These metrics are used to answer different questions, and what KPI a brand like Bank of America might use is probably a lot different than what makes sense for a regional credit union.

However, and this MAY be a stretch, I’d argue namesake would be a great way to gauge ultimate commitment and loyalty to a brand—regardless of size. When I was thinking about what to name Pharah, I thought about the things I love and wouldn't mind repeating (shouting?) for the next decade. To name a pet, or even a person, after a character or brand indicates a level of commitment to that brand that isn’t measured by the conventional KPIs described above.

Who knows, maybe “How likely are you to name a pet after this brand?” will start to show up in our brand health questionnaires.

Laura Blazej is a Senior Associate Researcher at CMB who enjoys playing video games with her new pup.

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

The Power of Identity: A Look at Super Bowl LI Advertising

Posted by Savannah House

Fri, Feb 10, 2017

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:

"Romance" from Skittles
Created by: Adam & Eve/DDB

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?

Skittles_AffinID.png

"Yearbooks" from Honda
Created by: RPA

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.
Honda_AffinID.png

"Google Home" from Google
Created by: 72andSunny

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.
Google_AffinID-2.png

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. 

Learn more about AffinID by watching our latest webinar with Dr. Erica Carranza—CMB’s VP of Consumer Psychology. And let us know which ads you found engaging (or not) in the comments.

Watch Now

Savannah House is a Senior Marketing Coordinator at CMB who places as much weight on the quality of the Super Bowl snacks as she does the commercials.

Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, AffinID

Marketer Beware: Brand User Stereotypes Bias How Consumers See Your Ads

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Thu, Jan 19, 2017

Imagine you see the picture below in an ad for Jack Daniels. Who is this guy? Where is he? What’s he like?

Man in boat_v2.jpg

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 without being 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…hipster hat (cropped).jpg

…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 AffinIDSM to 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’ current image 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?)

I’ll be talking about AffinIDSM in an upcoming webinar. Curious? Sign-up below!

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: @cmbinfo Consumers’ image of a brand’s typical user bias their perceptions of marketing https://ctt.ec/b254L+[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

When: February 1, 2017 @ 1PM EST

Register Now!

Topics: consumer insights, webinar, brand health and positioning, AffinID

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.

sc pyramid.png

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

Porsche Drivers for Trump! Why Perceived User Identities Matter to Brands

Posted by Dr. Erica Carranza

Fri, Nov 04, 2016

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. 

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!

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Topics: consumer insights, brand health and positioning, Identity, Election, AffinID

Minimalism on Trend: When Consumers Don’t Want to Consume

Posted by Laura Blazej

Thu, Sep 22, 2016

The minimalist lifestyle is having a moment. Several television shows are dedicated entirely to tiny houses—very small homes that are often no more than 250 square feet. Another popular trend is the capsule wardrobe where an entire season of clothing is limited to 33 items (or fewer). Then there’s Marie Kondo’s #1 New York Times best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which advocates for getting rid of all of that stuff in the back of your closet. Many people, particularly millennials, want to buy and own less.

One possible reason for the minimalism craze is a AdobeStock_62945676.jpegreaction to the out-of-control consumerism seen at 5am on Black Friday at any big box store. Every year, Black Friday starts earlier and earlier to give more people the chance to get that new TV or crock-pot. Everyone likes to get a good deal, but there’s a difference between buying items you need at a good deal versus buying items simply because they are a good deal. People are increasingly rejecting these external forces that tell us to BUY, BUY, BUY, and this rejection of consumerism is becoming more mainstream.

This trend can pose a real problem for companies that rely on consumers to consume. If consumers are becoming pickier about what products they purchase, and how many, then two critical characteristics stand out to help companies adapt to this shift: brand differentiation and customer-centrism.

  • Brand differentiation is the process of differentiating or contrasting your brand against others to make it stand out. This becomes paramount when consumers are pickier than ever but have a sea of choices to pick from. One example of successful brand differentiation is REI’s #OptOutside Last fall, rather than contributing to the pandemonium that is Black Friday, REI chose to close its doors and advocate for spending the day outdoors with friends and family. REI sacrificed a day of bountiful sales to send a longer-lasting message to its customers that REI values their time and experiences. Although they missed the biggest shopping day of the year, they gained brand differentiation during the most competitive shopping season, which can be much more valuable in the long run—at least REI thinks so.
  • Customer-centrism also becomes a priority because minimalist consumers are more willing to seek out products and services that serve them best. Customer-centrism places the emphasis on customer experiences and needs. When many people, but especially minimalists, decide they need to buy something, they’re going to look beyond price to make their decision, and take into account return policies, access to customer-service, ease and convenience of shopping experience, and environmental impact. The more of these areas a company can successfully address, the better chances a picky consumer will consider their product.

So, what should companies do when consumers don’t want to consume? They should make their brand stand out and cater to their customers’ experience. Marketing to minimalists may not be the easiest task, but successfully winning them over is a marker of true success.

Laura Blazej is an Associate Researcher at CMB and a tiny-house enthusiast with only 28 items in her capsule wardrobe. 

Have you seen our latest report: on The Power of Social Currency? Check out our 90-brand study of 18,000 consumers to see which brands are driving brand equity in the Airline, Auto, Beer, Fashion, and Restaurant industries:

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Take a peek at our interactive dashboard to see which brands do best among men and women, and in red and blue states:

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Topics: millennials, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

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.

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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.

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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