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Why CrossFit Athletes Become Brand Promoters

Posted by Molly Sands, PhD

Wed, May 30, 2018

kettle ball

Earlier this year, 500,000 of my closest CrossFit friends and I came together for the Reebok CrossFit Open—the world’s largest organized sporting event. For five weeks, athletes would eagerly await that week's assignment, then head to the gym (for what I can only describe as some serious pain and suffering) to complete the workout under the supervision of a certified CrossFit judge. 

That type of commitment shows true customer dedication.

CrossFitters like myself have earned the reputation for being diligent promotors – a term used in market research to describe people that are very likely to recommend a brand to others. I often hear jokes like, "The first rule of CrossFit is to never shut up about CrossFit" (and it is). While I know not everyone wants to hear about my max back squat or the latest paleo craze, as a market researcher, I am in awe of how CrossFit has built and maintained its strong brand loyalty.

Here at CMB, we look at three key benefits that drive this type of brand loyalty. I may be biased, but The Open is a clear indicator that CrossFit has successfully capitalized on each of these benefits:

Functional benefits. Does this product deliver the desired result?

I’m not waking up at 5 a.m. to trudge to the gym in the snow to do handstand push-ups unless I see some dramatic improvements in my fitness. Not only can CrossFit be extremely effective for building strength and improving physical fitness, the program also concretely measures your progress to underscore these functional benefits. Athletes are encouraged to keep diligent records of their workouts so you can clearly see improvements over time.

Emotional benefits. How does this product make me feel? Does it fulfill my emotional goals?

There's a known link between physical health and emotional well-being, so it's not surprising a fitness-focused lifestyle would also deliver emotional benefits. However, CrossFit provides a range of emotional benefits beyond just an increase in general well-being, including increased self-efficacy, pride, and emotional strength. Additionally, positive emotions are associated with the sense of community the boxes (translation: box = gym) strive to create. All these result in an “upward spiral” of health and happiness that drives brand love.

Social Benefits. Are the other users of this brand like me? Are they people I want to be like?

When we choose a brand, we consider what the typical brand customer is like. Do we have anything in common with this person? Are we part of the same “tribe”? Are they someone we’d like to be friends with? CrossFit creates a tight-knit community of people who identify with and relate to each other. We regularly do team-based competitions and partner WODs (workout of the day) that help develop strong relationships with other members of the box (remember, that means gym). Everyone completes the workout together, and as we know from social psychology, mirroring physical movements can actually cause people to identify more strongly with each other.

And as you can see even from a few short paragraphs about CrossFit, we even speak our own language (e.g., box, WOD, AMRAP, EMOM, MetCon, etc…) All this helps to create a “tribe” that members identify with. Not only do lots of people love the brand, they also become ambassadors (promoters) that encourage others to use the brand, too!

Overall, CrossFit builds brand loyalty by inspiring measurable progress towards attainable goals, creating an “upward spiral” of health and happiness, and developing a strong sense of belonging to a community.

This is a valuable lesson for any brand looking to build a faithful following. While the desired functional, emotional and social benefits may vary by brand and industry, the importance of highlighting each benefit does not. Brands can utilize these underlying principles—and maybe even some of these exact strategies—(tall, venti, grande sound familiar?) to build brand loyalty in a base of dedicated consumers.

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Watch our short 20-minute webinar to learn more about the three benefits that drive customer loyalty:

Watch Now

Molly Sands is on the Advanced Analytics team at CMB. When she’s not building predictive models, you can usually find her at a local CrossFit box or at least recommending it to somebody.

Topics: emotional measurement, customer experience and loyalty, Identity, BrandFx

What Amazon Can Teach Us About Delivering on Customer Loyalty

Posted by Ashley Harrington

Wed, Apr 25, 2018

 

amazon packages (resized)

I live in a historic Boston neighborhood rich in restaurants and charm, but poor in parking. If you have a car, you have two choices: spend a fortune on a dedicated monthly parking spot or drive in circles until you find free street parking.  I don’t like to waste money or time, so I don’t own a car.

I don’t own a car, but I do have two kids. So, I need stuff and I need it all the time. Enter, Amazon.

I use Amazon on all my devices and have multiple apps. I use it for both planned purchases and impulse buys. I Subscribe and Save for everything from baby wipes to granola bars. I order groceries from Amazon Fresh. I try on clothes with Amazon Wardrobe. I buy e-books. I watch movies and TV shows on Prime. I use Now to get emergency toddler bribes delivered in an hour.

On top of all that, I pay Amazon for the privilege of buying things with them with an annual Prime membership. If that’s not the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, I don’t know what is.

If I was responding to an Amazon loyalty study, I would certainly make it into the “Super User” group, checking all the boxes for how we might define loyalty: frequency of purchases, cross shopping, willingness to try new categories, likelihood to recommend, etc. 

My “Super User” status didn’t happen all at once—it was gradual thanks to the “Amazon Effect.” Over time, Amazon plucked one more category of our household expenses from another retailer.

I work with clients every day to help measure, understand, and improve their customer loyalty. While few companies have the infrastructure and the sheer breadth of product and services in such a frictionless way, there are lessons any brand can learn from Amazon’s excellence in curating a faithful customer base.

 Here’s how Amazon keeps me loyal:

  • Anticipates my needs: I wasn’t actively thinking about how great life would be with a paper towel subscription. But, I gave Subscribe and Save a shot and now we never run out and I can't imagine my household without it.
  • Gives me back my time: With Fresh, I can enjoy time with my family instead of spending it in the grocery store (if you enjoy taking your children to the grocery store, I nominate you for a Parent-of-the-Year Award!)
  • Provides me with flawless execution and problem resolution: Amazon’s apps and website are easy, fast, and intuitive. Once I order something, I know exactly when it’ll arrive on my doorstep. If there is an error, Amazon’s customer experience team is polite and fair in resolving an issue.

While I am a loyal customer, there are certain things I don’t buy on Amazon. Some because they aren’t sold (yet) (e.g., wine) and others because I enjoy shopping elsewhere. And there are Amazon services that aren’t for me. For example, I don’t need to tell Alexa to turn on my lights.

 So, even for this Super User, loyalty has its limits.

 Ashley Harrington is a Research Director at CMB who recently starting using “Amazon” as a verb and probably has goldfish crackers in her bag.

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail, ecommerce

NASCAR Races to Stay Relevant for the Next Generation

Posted by Brian Jones

Wed, Apr 18, 2018

As a stock car racing fan who makes an annual pilgrimage to the Daytona 500, I’ve experienced the evolution of the NASCAR brand from the seats of the iconic 2.5-mile track.

No place is the emotional connection between brand and customer more palpable than at an event where drivers enter the stadium in a gladiator-style procession before climbing into their cars for a 200+ mph chariot-like battle on a 31-degree banked asphalt track.

NASCAR 1

It is exhilarating.

But while NASCAR excels at creating an emotional experience for its current loyal fan base, the organization is challenged to deliver a branding experience that will attract the next generation of fans—while how people consume sports continues to evolve.

On top of that, NASCAR must motivate existing and new fans to view/attend/buy not only its own brand, but the myriad co-sponsors.

NASCAR is built on cobranded endorsements on all levels—including individual athletes (e.g., Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon), teams (e.g., logo-plastered M&M’s Toyota racecar), tracks (e.g., Lowe’s Motor Speedway), and even the race series themselves (e.g., NASCAR’s Xfinity Series). More recently, at the 2017 Daytona 500, NASCAR rolled out Monster Energy NASCAR Cup SeriesTM—the latest sponsor of the premiere racing series.

So how is NASCAR adapting to meet changing consumer demands?

  • Less prominent onsite branding: At the 2017 and 2018 Daytona 500’s, gone were the prominent product swag and logo placements of its former series sponsors, Sprint (2008-2016), Nextel (2004-2007), and NASCAR’s 31-year relationship with RJ Reynolds (1971-2003). In its place, I witnessed Monster Energy bringing its next generation youthful appeal—less signage and more experiential, like offering fans ride-alongs on off-road vehicles.
  • New marketing channels: NASCAR is supplementing real-time coverage with exciting social media experiences geared towards the digital-savvy generation of younger driver-athletes.
  • Improved customer experience: The International Speedway Corporation (ISC) has invested $400+ million in a venue retool of Daytona’s Speedway and the surrounding property to improve fan experience.
  • Investment in content strategy: NASCAR recently created a Content Strategy Group to centralize its creative, digital, social marketing, and advertising operations.
  • Revamp of scoring system: Perhaps the most surprising change is NASCAR’s recent revamp of its point system. In 2017 NASCAR rewrote the rules for how drivers compete and earn championship points during the season. No other major sport has changed its product so completely in response to changing consumer opinion about how they want to experience their sports entertainment.

At the time of the Monster Energy deal announcement in 2017, Mitch Covington, Monster’s VP of Sports Marketing said, "I think you'll see a little more Monster at the Daytona 500. But at the same time, the sponsorship's not about painting it all green. It's really about doing some really cool things with sponsorship."

NASCAR 2

But last week, NASCAR and Monster Energy announced it’s “highly unlikely” the partnership will continue beyond the 2019 race season—a sign NASCAR is reevaluating its current sponsorship model.

To simplify sponsorship opportunities for brands, NASCAR may bundle its top sponsorship with the sanctioning body to include the tracks and tv partners, omitting series naming rights which has been used in the past.

NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve Phelps told ESPN, “Our competitive advantage is that our fans understand the importance of sponsorship and they go out and support our sponsors… we just think there’s a better model to make sure that sponsors want to stay involved more broadly.”

The future of NASCAR’s sponsorship model is still unknown, but Covington’s quote sums up their efforts. For sponsorship to be effective, NASCAR must strike a balance between honoring what fans have always loved about the NASCAR brand (+ sponsors) while embracing innovation and change.

Brian is a loyal NASCAR fan who also enjoys helping clients solve their biggest business needs using advanced market research methodologies like CMB’s Brand FX— a solution that measures the social, emotional, and functional benefits a brand provides to customers.

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

How L.L. Bean Weathers Customer Loyalty

Posted by Nicole Battaglia

Wed, Apr 11, 2018

 LL Bean Boots_cropped

Sorry outdoor apparel fans, L.L. Bean isn’t accepting your beat-up duck boots anymore. The Maine-based outdoor retailer recently ended its flagship Lifetime Return Policy.

 L.L. Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean introduced this policy over 100 years ago to prove their commitment to quality products and ensure customer satisfaction. And since then, generations of Bean-loving customers have enjoyed the forgiving policy.

But not everyone’s been so kind. A growing number of customers have taken advantage of L.L. Bean’s generosity by treating it more like a free exchange policy. According to the Associated Press, the company has lost $250 million on returned items that cannot be salvaged or resoled in the last five years alone!

From a financial perspective, this move makes sense. But the loyal Bean boot enthusiast and market researcher in me is curious about potential branding implications—will this alienate lifelong customers who might view this as L.L. Bean as “breaking its promise”?

For more than 100 years, L.L. Bean has built its brand image around “designing products that make it easier for families of all kinds to spend time outside together”. Enduring Northeast winters as a kid, I can vouch for the quality of their products—they are truly second to none. L.L. Bean isn’t ‘cheap’, but I don’t balk at their prices because I know I’m getting something proven to withstand harsh winters.

But, my loyalty for L.L. Bean runs deeper than the quality of my boots. Growing up in a Bean-loving home, I have a strong emotional connection to the brand.  I have memories of flipping through the catalog (back when that was the popular way to shop) and getting excited about when it was time to order a new backpack and matching lunchbox—monogrammed, of course.

When I’m home for the holidays, I head out to the local L.L. Bean store to make my holiday gift purchases. In 2015, L.L. Bean featured a golden retriever puppy on the cover of its holiday catalogue. As someone who grew up with goldens, this ad resonated with me on an emotional level.

I also strongly identify with other L.L. Bean enthusiasts. Most kids I grew up with had the monogrammed backpacks, and when I went to college, everyone wore Bean boots. My image of the typical customer is clear, relatable and socially desirable—the three aspects of social and self-identity that drive purchase and loyalty.

 When it comes to analyzing a brand’s performance, it’s critical to look at the complete picture and account for the identity, emotional, and functional benefits it provides. For me, the functional benefits (e.g. keeps my feet dry during a Nor’easter) L.L. Bean provides me are undeniably important; however, the emotional and identity benefits ultimately rank higher.

 I can’t speak for every customer, but the move to end their Lifetime Return Policy won’t keep me from shopping at L.L. Bean. Yes, it’s a shame the retailer had to rescind its signature guarantee—one that underscores their commitment to the quality of their products. 

But, it’s a powerful lesson for brands in an increasingly disrupted age: the strength of the benefits you provide your customer—social, emotional, and functional—can mean the difference between weathering the storm and keeping and growing your customers.

Nicole Battaglia is a Sr. Associate Researcher who isn’t pleased she’s had to wear her Bean boots into April this year.

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, Identity, AffinID, emotion, BrandFx

Secret Segmentation Schemes: From the Backstreet Boys to JetBlue

Posted by Will Buxton

Wed, Nov 22, 2017

segmentation abstract.jpg

I learn something from every project I work on, and the sizable segmentation initiative I’m managing right now is no exception. The client is an incredible partner, and the work is challenging and rewarding—the trifecta! As a result, I’ve found myself more and more consumed with segmentation analysis and it’s begun to creep into my non-CMB life (doesn’t it always work like that??). Segmentation schemes are being implemented all around us, here are a few examples:

  • Airport food: Whether you’re the solo business traveler minutes away from missing your flight or the parent who gets their kids to the airport 3 hours early, there is an eating experience designed for you. The sit-down restaurant didn’t magically land next to the grab and go; restaurant options and placement are carefully cultivated to cater to all unique traveler types. Airport dining options are developed to provide an option to high-yield customers—paranoid parents and late travelers alike.
  • The Backstreet Boys: I was blessed to attend a Backstreet Boys concert (get off your high horse) at Fenway Park last summer. Throw Nelly and Florida Georgia Line into the mix and you’ve got yourself an unexpected synergy of musical talent. While my wife and friends argued over who their favorite BSB member is, to my right two cowboy-boot-wearing Gen Z-ers rolled their eyes in anticipation for Florida Georgia Line. Meanwhile, the guy in front of me lamented for the bygone days of “Hot in Herre”. I’ll admit on paper it seemed like an odd pairing, but this concert was in fact a carefully curated experience meant to cater to a variety of consumers.
  • Vacations: My wife and I tend to take the same beach/relaxation vacation every year, because as with most couples, “it’s what we did last year". But when JetBlue announced a partnership with UTrip, an AI-powered personalized itinerary travel platform, I thought I’d take a peek and see how it all worked… maybe it’d recommend we shake things up for 2018’s Buxton Bonanza. The gist is you answer a handful of questions about preferred types of travel activities (relaxation versus hiking, street food versus three course dinners, etc.) with the end result being a “traveler profile”. It’s a personalized experience designed just for you. Since we are, in fact, considering switching up our annual trip and going to Europe—trading little umbrella drinks for red wine—I chose Croatia as my destination of choice on the app and was immediately presented with a week-long personalized itinerary of activities, restaurants, and accommodations based on feedback from travelers with a similar profile as myself.

One of the joys of working in insights and for our incredible clients (not the Backstreet Boys) is in noticing how data is being turned into decisions all around us. As we head into the holiday season, take a look around and consider the vast amount of data, the advanced analytics, intensive qualitative research, and the thoughtful analysis that went into making every decision.

Will is a Project Manager II on the Financial Services team. He one day dreams of hosting a TV show with Chip and Joanna Gaines.

 

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, market strategy and segmentation

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

Sporting Brand Loyalty

Posted by Caitlin Dailey

Wed, May 24, 2017

american football-5.jpg

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

McDonalds.jpg

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, digital media and entertainment research, growth and innovation