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Sporting Brand Loyalty

Posted by Caitlin Dailey

Wed, May 24, 2017

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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!

Removing Sam Adams from the shelves of one convenience store for a few weeks didn’t have much impact on the brewery’s bottom line, but the store owner’s boycott is an example of the potential power of true brand loyalty. The convenience store owner demonstrated his loyalty to his team, the ban culminated in some playful banter between the two parties on Twitter, and as far as I know, Sam Adams is back on the shelves of that store. So while the stakes here were low, wouldn’t executives, at let’s say Pepsi or United Airlines, have benefitted from building the kind of loyalty this Falcons fan felt —something to help brands get through a PR crises?

There are many drivers of brand loyalty. Perhaps a brand makes its consumers feel a certain way, garnering the right emotions that keep them coming back for more. Maybe the brand sends the right message about the kind of person who uses its product/service, creating a sense of kinship among its customers. Or perhaps the brand is really good at creating meaningful customer experiences. It could also be as simple as “I love the New England Patriots (or Celtics!) because I grew up watching them".  Often it’s a combination of all these drivers.

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!

 

 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, AffinID, emotion

Flying the Friendly Skies?

Posted by Chris Neal

Thu, May 18, 2017

pexels-photo (1).jpgI don’t envy the United Airlines (UAL) management team these days. Last month’s removal of passenger Dr. David Dao from an overcrowded plane in Chicago sparked a major PR nightmare for the airline carrier.  This debacle comes to a brand that was already struggling from image problems in an industry that has long been comedic fodder for bad customer experiences.

Overbooking, heightened security procedures, skyrocketing baggage fees, and shrinking legroom have made domestic air travel a very stressful experience. With emotions running high on the tarmac, in the air, and on Twitter, what’s an airline to do?

Emotions matter... and we've proved it.

Emotional analytics are a critical tool to help create a truly consumer-centric brand. Emotions are a key driver in consumer brand adoption/loyalty and will undoubtedly play a major role in how United performs going forward. In our self-funded study of the impact of emotions across 90 brands in 5 industries, CMB found that a brand’s overall emotional impact score can heavily influence future likelihood to purchase along with other key KPIs (advocacy, engagement, etc.).

We identified which specific emotions drive business outcomes in the airline industry, the top being “secure”, “efficient”, and “happy”. Of the negative emotions we tested, “anxious” proved to be the most damaging to a company:

drivers of airline use.jpg

We also found that of the five major airline brands tested, including United, UAL had the lowest Net Positive Emotion Score (NPES). NPES is the balance of positive emotions activated through experience with a company subtracted by the extent of negative emotions activated. It also accounts for overall emotional “activation” (high vs. low), and the general sentiment of that activation (positive or negative).

airline NPE net.png

Both United and American both share a special place at the bottom of the “Negative Emotion” spectrum (17 and 18, respectively), out-activating negativity by ~30% over the airline industry average of 13.

airline NPE neg.png

A Path Forward

Now let’s have a look-see at what specific emotions have the biggest impact on likelihood to consider flying United, specifically, and how that compares to the overall industry average of emotional drivers:

top emo drivers-airlines.png

The “Anxious” vs. “Relaxed” emotional spectrum is the biggest emotional driver of future United purchase intent. Lowering feelings of “Anxiety,” in particular, is much more important for United’s brand than it is for the industry average.

Unfortunately for United, their brand already generated 33% more “anxiety” than the industry average:

UAL anxiety.png

I can only imagine the anxiety Dr. Dao felt when he was removed from the seat he paid for to make room for a UAL employee. And I can also imagine the emotional connection felt by the millions of others who watched the video of him being dragged off the plane by airport security because they could relate to it in some way from their own travel experiences or common worries people have about flying:

  • “Will they arbitrarily change my flight times in a way that messes up the rest of my travel plans?”
  • “Will they cancel my flight altogether and put me on another (later) flight if it is under-booked?” (something that happens a lot on connector flights to smaller airports).
  • “Will I be forced to vacate my seat if they are over-booked?”
  • “Will there be delays that cause me to miss my connection, an important meeting, etc.?”
  • “Will I be sitting next to a 6’5” linebacker in a cramped coach class seat?”

No doubt this incident would have been a PR disaster for any airline, but the blowback was likely even more intense because it happened on a UAL flight—a brand that already activates more negative sentiments than most competing brands.

The bad news:

United Airlines was already in the hole before this incident, and now that hole is vastly deeper. Bad press and bad experiences linger longer in peoples’ memories than positive press or positive experiences, so it’s likely the image of Dao’s forced removal is here to stay (at least for a while).

Similarly, angry customers are much more likely to tell others about their bad experiences (typically with a bigger megaphone) than those with positive ones. Righteous indignation goes viral more readily than positivity. Furthermore, bad word-of-mouth has larger negative impact on a brand than good word-of-mouth has positive impact (by an order of magnitude). And some of the most prolific public haters will likely never be swayed otherwise, no matter what UAL does from this point forward.

The good news: 

In our analysis, we found that—across all industries tested—emotional reactions to the most recent experience have a much bigger impact on likelihood to buy in the future than the worst experience a customer has ever had with a brand (or the best). In other words, even brands that mess up big time can recover if they begin to deliver customer experiences and marketing communications strategies that foster the right emotions. With our “EMPACT” approach, we can identify very specific customer experiences, creative executions, and messaging that will deactivate the most damaging emotions like “anxiety” and activate key positive emotions like “relaxed.”

May the skies be friendlier.

If United wants to be a truly consumer-centric brand, they need to consider emotion measurements like NPES as a valid metric for tracking and analytics. United will need to profoundly understand which emotions matter, and how to proactively influence these emotions through specific customer experiences, promotional campaigns, and influencing what is (and isn’t) said about the brand on social media.

Emotional metrics deserve the same level of visibility and focus that traditional industry metrics like Revenue Per Available Seat Mile (RASM) and classic NPS receive. Until this happens, UAL may struggle to focus their customer experience strategies and creative campaigns in a way that helps them recover from this low point.

Chris Neal leads CMB’s Technology & Telecommunications practice. He gets emotional very easily. He is also a frequent flyer on United Airlines. While extremely angered and disgusted by the viral video of the UAL incident, he is curious to experience how UAL actually changes in future and will fly this airline again to find out.

Want to learn more about how we're revolutionizing  emotional measurement with our EMPACT solution? Watch our webinar:

 Learn More About EMPACT℠

Topics: EMPACT, emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty

Competition is fierce:  How to innovate to drive value

Posted by Judy Melanson

Wed, Mar 22, 2017

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In April, fast food giant McDonald’s will run a promotion to drive more foot traffic to their restaurants: customers will pay $1 for any size soda and $2 for any McCafe specialty drinks. While this short-term promotion may help reverse or at least slow the decline in visitors and boost short-term sales, McDonald’s still faces a long-term problem that a temporary price promotion can’t fix: how to drive more visitors and encourage those visitors to spend more money at their outlets. 

Increased competition and changing market needs are making it increasingly challenging for brands like McDonald's to acquire new customers while retaining existing ones. And this challenge isn’t confined to the food and beverage industry; marketers across all industries are rolling up their sleeves, putting on their thinking caps, and developing innovative strategies to stay relevant and competitive.

Here are a few stories to inspire you:

Evolution or Revolution: Opportunities to strengthen the core 

As the tourism industry evolves, heritage brands need to get creative to compete with new marketplace entrants. We’ve been working with a leading travel brand to identify opportunities to boost sales among its past travelers. First, we ran a database segmentation to identify groups of travelers with similar demographics and behaviors.  We then conducted product development research to uncover trip attributes and types of trips that would most motivate these past travelers to return.

Because of this collaboration, our client has a prioritized list of product features to consider offering to its most valued and engaged guest segments. Some preferred options are evolutionary, requiring only minor operational tweaks, others would require significant operational changes. In the short-term, they can use this information in their marketing efforts and develop tailored messaging that highlights elements that motivate each segment to travel.  When thinking long-term, the client can use this valuable information to make strategic decisions about the future of their company.                  

Engage and Grow: Offer benefits to acquire and incentivize the next generation of customers

Travelers today have more lodging options than ever before. As Millennials and Gen Y grow into “tomorrow’s best guests”, traditional hotel brands are looking to foster loyalty.  We partnered with a leading hotel loyalty program to redesign its pricing model so that members can now pay for rooms by combining earned hotel points and cash.  This change is engaging "future best guests" by allowing loyalty program members to get value from earned points in smaller increments.  Guests can redeem points earlier in their engagement cycle, incentivizing them to choose one of the hotel’s dozen brands now and in the future.

Build solutions to solve pain points

Customers and prospects may have difficulty articulating their needs (particularly when it comes to technology) but they have no trouble articulating what causes problems or pains.  Companies can take advantage of this by proactively identifying and solving for customers’ pain points. We worked with a leader in personal computers, servers, and networking products to identify, size, and target specific pain points with traditional data center infrastructure projects. With this knowledge, we designed and tested different form factors to see which type of disruptive product would be most attractive to target buyers, and how many would actually switch over in specific buying scenarios.

Strengthen foundational insight about today’s path to ‘purchase’

We’re a far cry from the traditional broadcast days. Not only are new players entering the market and pushing out original content, but now consumers can access this content when, where, and how they want.  This increased competition and increasingly complex distribution and consumption model is making it more challenging for broadcasters to connect and engage with viewers. To help understand this evolution, we collaborated with a leading broadcast network on a foundational study in the content discovery path to viewership and successfully identified specific actions and high impact segments to connect with and engage. 

The fact is, solutions like McDonald’s temporary price promotion may alleviate short-term sales slumps, but brands need to be thinking “bigger picture” to develop innovative, sustained solutions to address long-term challenges like increased competition and evolving customer needs.

 Judy Melanson leads CMBs Travel & Entertainment practice and enjoys working with clients on innovative strategies to stand out from competition, remain relevant, and break through the clutter.  She’s an aspiring painter, a yogi and a slow long-distance runner. 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

Don’t get ganked! What the rise of esports can teach us about building products that survive

Posted by Josh Fortey

Tue, Mar 14, 2017

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PAX East just left town and if you don’t know what esports is—let alone what “ganked” means—you’re missing out. While traditional team sports continue to rule the roost in the American sports landscape, esports have become the fastest growing spectator sport.

To put this into perspective, the 2016 NBA championship finals game garnered 31 million viewers, the highest count of a NBA finals on both ABC and ESPN in over 10 years. Yet more people—36 million in 2015 and 43 million in 2016— tuned in to watch some of the world’s best League of Legends teams battle it out across the Summoners Rift for the world championship crown. But these remarkable figures aren’t unique to League of Legends. Twitch, the world’s largest gaming-orientated streaming platform, clocked in 95 million hours of esports streaming across the top 10 esports titles in January 2017 alone. And that 95 million hours of esports streaming is just one third of all the streaming that happened in January for these top ten esports titles. In addition to these staggering numbers, esports has effectively carved out a niche of digitally-engaged younger gamers; approximately 1-in-5 of all Millennials are now regularly watching esports online.

Based on this strong viewership, it’s no surprise that the esports category is estimated to surpass the $1.5 billion mark by 2020. But looking beyond these remarkable numbers, esports serves as an excellent example of an industry—comprised of brands, publishers, and developers—that continues to successfully deliver on rapidly changing consumer needs despite being in a constant state of adaptation, progression, and evolution. These factors are all important in understanding the meteoric rise of esports, but they also serve up a number of lessons about listening to your customers. Lessons that brands, marketers, and product innovators must learn if they want to develop products that stand the test of time:

  • Deliver meaningful experiences. The esports graveyard is littered with failed games that sent the right message to consumers and appeared to have the “winning formula”, but ultimately just didn’t cut it. Let’s look at Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis launched with all the makings of "the next big thing” in esports gaming: development by Turbine, the reputable gaming studio owned by Warner Bros., financial backing from a major IP in DC Comics, a spin on the hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre, an extensive beta testing phase, and a highly accessible free-to-play business model. But despite these attributes, just two months after launch, development of Infinite Crisis ended. Why? Because its makers failed to nurture a critical mass of consumers across a generic gaming audience and ignored users’ complaints of unbalanced gameplay. Infinite Crisis serves as an example of what can happen when a brand doesn’t consider what its community of users/customers is telling them about their experience.
  • Nurture your community. The Infinite Crisis example also emphasizes the importance of nurturing and listening to your community. The growth of esports is largely driven by its engaged users, and so fostering these communities is key. Fostering a community is mutually beneficial to the brand and the user—the brand enjoys increased user retention while its customers have the satisfaction of knowing they are valued.
  • Community interactivity and engagement. Brands committed to their customer communities enjoy a more genuine dialogue with their users—ultimately helping strengthen customer loyalty. Strong brands recognize this as a cornerstone to a successful esports game. Take gaming giant Blizzard and its wildly successful game Overwatch. Overwatch developers pay close attention to feedback provided on their forums (underscores the importance of my first point, too), updates users on product developments, enhancements, and innovations (or product patches), and provide detailed product roadmaps. In the world of gaming, players aren’t just customers; they’re fans, loyalists, and advocates who deserve to be engaged and updated.
  • Embed consumers in product development. When gaming companies foster a community, they open up the possibility of embedding consumers into the early stages of product development. Across many of the most successful competitive gaming titles, publishers rely on the customer voice to formulate and enhance the brand experience from early alpha testing to open public test environments. Dota 2, a successful MOBA title, takes an innovative approach to embedding customers into its esports product strategy by crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. For example, the proceeds from players’ in-game cosmetic (items that don’t affect gameplay) purchases are partially donated to its competitive tournaments prize pools. Users can also create their own cosmetic items that can be sold through an online marketplace. Both initiatives resulted in Dota 2 customers amassing a staggering $20 million in prize money for its 2016 world championship tournament, The International—the largest overall prize pool in esports history.

Esports and competitive gaming are gleaming examples of how an industry has successfully used its customers’ voice to create sustainable and attractive products/experiences. It also demonstrates the perils of ignoring customer needs. Infinite Crisis is just one example among myriad others, including Dawngate, Battleborn and Minions. If there’s an overarching lesson to be learned from the explosive success of esports, it’s that brands should first and foremost prioritize the needs of its customers.

Josh Fortey is a Project Manager at CMB who is all too familiar with the feeling of being “ganked”.

Topics: product development, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

A Lesson in Brand Loyalty and Emotion from a Pure Barre Fanatic

Posted by Cara Lousararian

Wed, Mar 08, 2017

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Two and a half years ago, I fell in love with Pure Barre–a full-body workout inspired by ballet, yoga and Pilates. There are a bunch of barre studios with similar workouts to choose from, but I started with Pure Barre and am now fiercely loyal.

This loyalty didn’t develop overnight; the morning after my first class I could barely make it out of bed. I couldn’t understand why barre had such a big following. It felt like self-inflicted torture, and I definitely felt this guy’s pain.

I was never one to enjoy working out, so what’s so special about the Pure Barre brand that’s kept me addicted for years and kept me from heading to another barre brand? The physical pain is the same (intense) and the class prices are a little higher than other similar workouts. After giving it some thought, I realized that what I love so much about Pure Barre is how being part of the Pure Barre community makes me feel.

Pure Barre makes me feel confident, motivated, and strong. It evokes such positive emotions from me that I’ve found myself altering my behavior in order to incorporate Pure Barre into my life. For example, when I plan a vacation, I specifically look for hotels that are near Pure Barre studios, I get up extra early on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can squeeze in a class, and I schedule my weekend social life around my classes. Not only that, while I'm normally a fairly frugal shopper, I’ll spend $17 on the special Pure Barre sticky socks used for class without batting an eye (I own 6 pairs!!!).

I’m also proud to be part of the Pure Barre community. We’re a network of loyal followers bound by our love of the Pure Barre experience who constantly support and encourage each other.  I’ve witnessed deep friendships begin at Pure Barre studios–maybe enduring the pain together is a strong bonding force? Either way, there’s a camaraderie among Pure Barre members unlike anything I’ve experienced at other gyms/studios.   

Pure Barre makes its members feel good and valued by doing little things, like celebrating attendance milestones. For example, you’ll get special recognition at your 100th, 250th, 500th, 750th, etc. class. You also get a free class on your birthday. Or, as Pure Barre calls it, your “barrety”.  Touchpoints like these makes me and my fellow Pure Barre addicts feel celebrated and drive attendance.

Pure Barre instructors also play a huge part in fostering positive emotions from the clients. Filled with upbeat energy and techniques for encouragement, they have a friendly way of ensuring that everyone works their hardest (for example, they won't call out the final 10 counts of the exercise until everyone has the right form). Instructors also learn the names of regular attendees and will call out your name if you are doing something particularly well during class. This “in the moment” recognition motivates me to push myself beyond my limits and get the most out of every class. 

I love talking about Pure Barre and am a huge promoter of the brand. I want others to have the same positive experience with Pure Barre, and so I regularly encourage friends to take classes with me.

Pure Barre is a great example of how successful a brand can be when it’s tuned into how its product/service makes their customers feel. When brands know what emotions they (and should) evoke from their customers, brands can more effectively create techniques to drive consideration and loyalty.  Pure Barre motivates, encourages, and supports its customers. The end result? A loyal following of barre fanatics willing to pay a premium to plié.  

Want to learn more about how we're revolutionizing  emotional measurement with our EMPACT solution? Watch our webinar:  

Learn More About EMPACT℠

Cara Lousararian is a Senior Research Manager at CMB and rarely passes up an opportunity to #LTB (that’s lift, tone, burn for those not familiar with the Pure Barre lingo).

Topics: EMPACT, emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty, emotion

Innovation Requires Truly Understanding the Customer's Needs

Posted by Julia Walker

Thu, Dec 01, 2016

business-561387_1280.jpg“Innovation” has enjoyed a long reign as king of the business buzzwords—you’d be hard-pressed to attend an insights or marketing conference without hearing it.  But beyond the buzz, organizations pursue innovation for a number of reasons: to differentiate themselves from other brands, establish themselves as an industry leader, or to avoid producing stale products, services, ad campaigns or content.  Smart brands know that complacency is not an option and recognize they must adapt to accommodate the ever-changing consumer landscape. 

Innovation is a significant investment—the stakes are high for these new ideas to deliver meaningful results, whether by boosting the brand, successfully introducing a new product, growing the customer base, or adding to bottom line profitability. No matter how disruptive a product, service, or idea is, at the core there must be a deep understanding of customer needs. (Tweet this!) Let’s take a look at two very different attempts at innovation, and where they stumbled:

 The Case of Google Glass

For any new product (innovative or otherwise), organizations need to answer “yes” to two questions: (1) Is there a market? (2) Does it solve a legitimate problem?

No matter how revolutionary the product may be, it won’t succeed unless there’s a market for it. It's possible that a product can be too forward-thinking, leaving customers confused or unwilling to try it. Take the case of Google Glass:  though the product itself was revolutionary and consumers were intrigued, it was unclear why consumers needed Google Glass and what problem it was designed to solve.   Google Glass ended up generating low demand since there wasn’t an easily identifiable need for it. 

The key here would’ve been to first identify what customers need and then develop a product aimed to satisfy that need.  Here’s where market research can help with innovation. As market researchers we can help brands get into the mind of consumers and identify the gaps between what they are currently receiving and what they want to receive. By identifying these gaps, we can shed light on where there’s a need to be met.

 The Febreze Scentstories Flop

Other innovation flops in recent years have proven that beyond identifying customer/prospect needs, it’s also important to test how messages play to real consumers prior to launch.  

A lesson illustrated by the failure of P&G’s “Febreze Scentstories”. In 2005, the company caused confusion because they failed to educate customers properly about what the product actually was. Febreze Scentstories resembled a disc player that emitted different scents every 30 minutes (they looked an awful lot like CDs). The ads told consumers with Febreze Scentstories they could "play scents like you play music."  And while P&G partnered with superstar Shania Twain to drum up excitement, its advertising campaign confused consumers by making them think the product actually involved music.  Clearer messaging that would’ve helped prevent this misunderstanding.

Advanced analytical techniques along with strategic qualitative methodologies are a boon to brands. There has never been so much information available nor computing power capable of parsing and modeling it. But as two very different product innovations demonstrate, that sheer volume of data is not enough. What is needed for successful innovation are insights grounded in a truly consumer-centric approach. After all, only the consumer knows what the consumer wants (and needs).

Julia Walker is a Senior Associate Researcher at CMB who enjoys being innovative in her everyday life.  For instance, she loves to find creative ways to eat healthy without sacrificing taste. 

Topics: consumer insights, customer experience and loyalty, growth and innovation

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

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

Getting Virtual at IIR Omnishopper: The Future of Retail

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Jul 26, 2016

cy.pngAt this month’s IIR Omnishopper conference, all anyone could talk about was Pokémon Go.  Several research suppliers told me they’d downloaded it and everyone was marveling at its stellar adoption and usage rates.  I had my 13 year old son’s account on my mobile device, so I began the conference naively thinking ‘I’ll go out before the sessions start and catch a few Pokemon for him.’  I couldn’t stop, and despite the fact that CMB works with leading gaming companies, and we’ve got more than a few die-hard gamers on staff, I don’t consider myself a gamer.

How had I morphed into Cheffen Yobs from the moment I began to play? The answers are a case study in consumer motivation:

  • Primary motivation/goal: My initial, primary motivation/goal for Pokémon Go, of course was getting more creatures and points because why not? It was a hot new marketing opportunity and I anticipated being able to talk about it over lunch at the conference (the game rates high on helping me build my social and personal identity)!
  • Secondary motivation/goal: I quickly learned that Pokémon Go has history embedded in each stop, so I started learning interesting things about the city of Chicago. This motivated me to alter my destinations, because I was curious about a particular building or statue. I was looking in the ‘corners’ of Chicago city center, and I was discovering new art, new monuments, and new bridges.  Over the course of the 3-day conference, I walked through several great sections of Chicago. I went to about 12 hours of conference material but I set my clock to wake up earlier to play that game.  Typically at a conference I fly in and then I sit.  And I sit. And I sit.   
  • Unintended benefit: Many of my colleagues share their gamified solution to fitness at our office, and they push each other to exercise more, but my life is hectic and I just don’t add fitness to my priority list. Imagine my surprise when one of the unintended benefits of my trip was that I actually walked 10 km in a level of heat that I can’t even describe, and I didn’t even know I had walked so much until I got home and my son told me!

Questions and excitement about Pokémon Go also found their way into the conference sessions.  The Mall of America’s Emily Shannon talked about the Mall’s digital strategy. There’s the mundane—assigning every bathroom a different text number so you can text that the bathrooms are dirty, and there’s the delicious—hungry shoppers can ask ‘where can I get a great ice cream?’ and because the Mall of America has 12 ice cream stores, the Mall staff ask further questions about the ice cream preference (via text) and deliver an exceptional experience.  Shannon said that the Pokémon Go was definitely delivering the excitement and enthusiasm that are central to the Mall of America’s value proposition, so they were meeting and selecting strategies to increase engagement and delight among mall goers.  In the week following the conference, the Mall of America has launched a Trainer Lounge and tips for playing Pokémon Go at the Mall. 

The conference was exactly about engaging consumers along the path of discovery through purchase and repurchase to loyalty and advocacy.  Each presenter had a different take, and each brought us through their approaches, from full body Virtual Reality to eyeglass technology, cash register data, landscape assessment, qualitative consumer diary, strategy platforms, ideation, and survey trends.  Many speakers, including Ron Wetklow of Treasury Wine Estates, to Scott Young of from PRS IN VIVO, and Laura-Lynn Freck, of Red Bull talked about digital engagement driving physical engagement. 

In the consumer insights industry, engagement, primary and secondary motivations and unintended consequences are central to our work.  In the weeks since the conference, I’ve logged in a few times, but I don’t feel motivated to play.  Why?  1) the history of my suburb just isn’t that exciting, 2) there are only a few stops near my house and it’s not that interesting to go to the same spot 10 times 3) thanks to in-group norms—I’m not going to stand outside the library with 10 kids under 18 years old to play a game on my mobile device because they’re ‘not my tribe’. But, combine the game with my frequent traveling and make me learn stuff on my timetable and maybe even talk to people and I’ll play every time.  It’s been 10 days since the conference and I see the game everywhere, my bet is on the brands who can “catch” the opportunities that come from these uber-engaging tech-enabled phenomena.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Did you miss our recent webinar on the power of Social Currency measurement to help brands activate the 7 levers that encourage consumers to advocate, engage, and gain real value? You're not out of luck:

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Topics: technology research, consumer insights, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, retail research