Monday, September 04, 2017

2017’s Most Innovative Tech Brands

The 5th annual survey of consumer perceptions of innovative tech brands, conducted by Brand Keys Inc., ( New York-based brand loyalty and engagement research consultancy, found consumers’ identification with brands and innovation has continued to broaden.  Four new brands joined the top-10 list this year: Snap, Buzzfeed, Spotify, and airbnb.

While it may be hard to believe, there was a time when consumers actually feared of technological innovation. Consumers equated innovation and technology with a greater likelihood of something to go wrong, but clearly not anymore. The 21st century may not have delivered flying cars, but it is clearly meeting its’ potential in terms of providing products and services that better meet consumers’ expectations when it comes to technology.

This year 4,010 consumers were asked to name companies and brands that were highest on their lists of technological innovators, with the following top-20 results. Numbers in parentheses indicate movement up or down the innovation list.

  1. Amazon (+3)
  2. Samsung (+1)
  3. Google (-1)
  4. Apple (-3)
  5. Netflix (+1)
  6. HBO (-1)
  7. Facebook (--)
  8. Uber (+5)
  9. Snap (new)
  10. Slack (+6)
  11. YouTube (-2)
  12. Microsoft (-1)
  13. IBM (-1)
  14. Tesla (+3)
  15. Buzzfeed (new)
  16. Spotify (new)
  17. Airbnb (new)
  18. Twillio (+1)
  19. Line (+1)
  20. LinkedIn (-10)
The consumer’s expectation for constant innovation, and the expansion of technological innovation, is crossing over B2C and B2B lines more and more. Each new brand stands for something that advances the category in which they compete, with a lot of consumer-to-business crossover.

This year’s list makes it clear that consumer ideas about innovation have changed dramatically over the past 5 years. Consumers have come to see innovation and change as an opportunity – not a threat. And, it’s the wise brand that remembers it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen!

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Smarter Back-to-School Consumers Change Shopping Patterns

Oh, and there’s a new BTS Sheriff in town and the 23rd annual Brand Keys ( back-to-School survey for households indicates that according to the 8,082 parents polled, they plan to spend more this year, a combination of rising consumer confidence and consumer smarts. Six percent more, or an average of $716.

Smart, connected consumers have gotten smarter. They’re on to 21st century retail strategies Retailers taught – and consumers learned – four things that now govern purchase behavior generally, and specifically for back-to-school buying:
  1. Retailers have started marketing for occasions like back-to-school earlier and earlier.
  2. Prices start at very low levels, increase over time, and then drop down to lowest prices available.
  3. Deals are always available if you look hard enough.
  4. These days it makes sense to holiday shop very early and then as late as possible.
This year Brand Keys used a longitudinal sample with survey results gathered for the same respondents twice over the period of time from June 19th through August 11th to monitor back-to-school spending, revealing two, distinct waves of anticipated consumer purchases.

First, early consumer spending focused generally on supplies, e.g., copy paper, notebooks, writing implements, printer cartridges, ink and toner, computers, electronics, and calculators, accounting for an estimated 41% of this year’s anticipated average spend.

The second wave of later spending is anticipated to take place this month through the start of the school year, with 59% of 2017’s average anticipated spend predominantly budgeted for clothing, shoes (athletic and dress), books and study aids. And where are consumers shopping, early and later in the season? Glad you asked.

Wave 1: Early
  2. Walmart
  3. Staples
  4. Target
  5. Apple/Best Buy

Wave 2: Later
  3. Best
  4. Nike
  5. TJ Maxx/
While the past few years have proved this finding, this year’s BTS marketplace confirms that has become consumers’ default shopping platform – early or late in the season. Amazon will likely end up with 9% of the total $80 billion BTS spend this year, so a lot of money!

Average spending in all major back-to-school categories is up compared to last year, representing a 6% increase YOY, with online (99% of consumers will be using that) the consumer’s shopping platform default mode. Online is followed by closely Discount Stores (98%) and – at a distant third – Department Stores (69%). And if you think platform choice is just about pricing, think again, folks.

Pricing isn’t the only thing that consumers equate with “value.” It’s about brand differentiation and brand engagement, and retail brands that can emotionally engage consumers will be seen as surrogates for added-value, and the ones that can do that will be the brands that benefit most over the three-and-a-half months that now make up the back-to-school marketplace. These days, providing more than just low-lower-lowest prices is a fundamental lesson all back-to-school retailers need to cram for if they hope to pass courses like “Same-Store Sales” and “Accounting” with flying colors.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Chipotle’s Cure for the Norovirus

Chipotle is reeling from another norovirus outbreak. But according to Chief Marketing and Development Officer, Mark Crumpacker, the right advertising tone (and a new menu item) will be the cure-all. It’s a planned queso rollout.

It took Chipotle twenty-two years to transmute from burrito stand to $23 billion brand. They showed up on our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) radar screen 11 years ago and moved up the Fast Casual restaurant loyalty list to take the number one spot. Being #1 looked like their reserved table, that is, until the series of disease outbreaks and a loss of customer engagement moved them down the list.

After seven outbreaks of E. coli bacterium and salmonella-related illnesses, it can’t have come as any surprise to anyone when Chipotle posted its first loss as a public company. They reported same-store sales fell almost 30%, with operating margins down nearly 75% during its first quarter in 2016. Customers relegated them to #6 on our list, in table terms someplace halfway between the banquette and the toilets in the Fast Casual restaurant space.

Unsurprisingly, the drop in CLEI ranking – always accompanied by lower same-store sales and margins – would seem to be self-evident and inevitable. You can’t reasonably offer consumers “quality,” “freshly prepared food,” and then have them get sick without expecting some repercussions! But sick as they might have been, when it comes to loyalty, engaged customers are six times more likely to give a brand the benefit of the doubt in adverse circumstances – like Chipotle customers did with the initial outbreak. And even the six that followed.

But too many stomach bugs and bad news was ultimately too much for customers (albeit engaged customers) to stomach. That well of forgiveness isn’t bottomless. So the brand that started the “fresh movement,” had to look for a fresh start for itself. But it’s tough to come back, especially in light of new competition from the Paneras, Shake Shacks, Chick-fil-As, and Five Guys Burgers of the world.

In 2017 Chipotle ranked #9 of 18 National brands. As these rankings always correlate very highly with consumer behavior and engagement with the brand, given the two newest outbreaks, we expect that Chipotle will be moving further down the list. But Chipotle apparently has a solution to the loss of customer brand engagement and loyalty.

The Chipotle answer? Mr. Crumpacker said, "I think that the advertising kind of needs queso.”

Personally we think it needs less noroviruses. 

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


In a national survey conducted among Millennial female shoppers July 10th through 15th, Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy (, found that 38% were negatively disposed to considering purchasing Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing or shoes.

In the initial 2016 wave, it was hypothesized that consumers could separate Brand Ivanka from Political Advisor Ivanka. Nine months later that does not seem to be the case.

The most recent wave of the brand study – conducted among 1,005 female Millennial shoppers (balanced for political affiliation) who had spent at least $250 on a dress or pair of shoes in the past 12 months – found only a third (33%) are still extremely or very willing to keep Ivanka Trump brand on their shopping lists. That’s down 18% from the initial benchmark wave last October.

Respondents were asked, “In light of Ivanka Trump’s involvement with the Trump administration, how likely would you be to consider buying her line of shoes or clothing?” Responses were as follows:

                                    10/16             2/17               7/17
Extremely Likely          18%               16%               15%
Very Likely                   33%               22%               18%
Somewhat Likely         32%               30%               29%
Not Very Likely            11%               18%                24%
Not At All Likely             6%               10%               14%

While the political ramifications of Ivanka Trump’s personal involvement with the current administration cannot be ignored, uproars surrounding her father, and now her husband, Jared Kushner, currently a senior advisor to her father, the President, and now her brother, Donald Jr., cannot be ignored either and seem to be affecting the Ivanka Trump brand as well.

From a legal perspective Ms. Trump entered into a trust for her business, turning the day-to-day control over to Abigail Klem, a top executive, and transferred its assets to a new trust overseen by relatives of her husband. Ivanka will no longer appear in advertisements and she has separated her business and personal social media accounts.

But as marketing history has proven, there’s a world of difference between what’s “legal” and what’s a “brand,” and consumers know it More importantly they act upon it.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017’s Most Patriotic Brands in America As Politics Re-Shape Brands

The 15th annual Brand Keys survey of American brands (in over 100 categories) has revealed a dramatic shift in consumers’ perceptions of brand “patriotism.” Jeep, Disney, and Levi Strauss continue to top an otherwise dramatically re-drawn list, with brands like Fox News, Tesla, MSNBC, and Twitter joining the 2017 list.

Our most recent Presidential election and its political aftermath has created higher levels of political debate and has raised more contentious issues. It has divided political parties, and it has divided consumers and their brands. And it has also dramatically shifted what drives the perception of patriotism.

In this year’s national sample of 4,860 consumers, 16 to 65 years of age, balanced for political party affiliation, were asked to evaluate, which of the 280 brands included in this year’s survey were most resonant when it came to “patriotism.” Some of the brands leading 2017’s patriotism parade are included below. Bolded names indicate the new brands that marched onto this year’s list.

1      Jeep
2      Levi Strauss
3      Disney
4      Coca-Cola
5      Ford
6      Hershey’s / Twitter
7      Ralph Lauren
8      Jack Daniels
9      Sam Adams
10    MSNBC

For the complete list, and a look at how 2017 has change from the first time the study was conducted 15 years ago, click here. A good deal of what used to be forthright marketing is now being galvanized and politicized, with some brands wrapping themselves more tightly in the flag than ever before.

Anti-Trump groups have urged consumers to boycott companies and brands seen to back the President, while Trump partisans have created their own lists of preferred and objectionable brands. And whether you’re politically left, right, or center, what’s clear is these consumer attitudinal shifts come with a set of newly re-written rules of branding, expressed every day via news shows like Fox and MSNBC and social networks like the president’s favorite, Twitter, and Millennials’ Instagram.

While the Brand Keys annual survey focuses on for-profit brands, assessments for the United States armed services – The Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy – are always included in the study. Not unexpectedly, consumers gave all branches of the armed services a patriotic engagement ranking of #1. We recognize that again this year and thank them all for their service.”

Believability and authenticity are the keys to emotional engagement. The more engaged a consumer is with a particular emotional value and the associated brand, the more likely they’ll trust that emotion and act positively on that belief. Where a brand can establish real emotional connections, consumers are six times more likely to believe and behave positively.

Politics has made itself more emotionally felt this year than ever before, particularly when it comes to how consumers look at brands through a patriotic lens. But one thing both parties can agree upon, however, is brands that can make meaningful emotional connections with the consumer always have a strategic advantage when it comes to the battle for the hearts, minds, and loyalty of consumers. 

If you can make that connection, consumers will not only stand up and salute, more importantly, they'll stand up and buy.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to Increase Auto (Or Any Other Category) Sales

It was recently reported that the U.S. automobile sales’ hot streak has cooled. Ford and GM reported declines of 6% and 7% YOY, respectively.

Overall vehicle sales are down nearly 5%, and inventory is taking much, much longer to move off the lot. And sure, the usual summer sales will be held, but today discounts are never enough to engage consumers, no matter what category you’re in.

If, however, an auto brand (or a brand in any other category) can accurately identify their category Ideal, the high-contribution values consumers desire, and can actually measure real consumer expectations, brands will be six times more likely to make a sale!

Six time more likely to buy more of your product and service more often. Six times more likely to invest in you if you’re publically traded! And for those of you just interested in the social universe, six time more likely to interact with you socially.

Want to see how predictive metrics can identify the changing Ideals consumers expect from their cars (or any other products or services that are looking for increased sales. And social involvement)? We invite you to read our most recent Admap contribution, "The values that drive car choice.” Our predictive metrics work in any B2C and B2B category.

It was Elon Musk who noted that selling an electric sports car created an opportunity to fundamentally change how customers saw a brand – but only if you were able to meet consumers’ real and unarticulated expectations.

Which is absolutely true.

But it helps tremendously if you can actually measure them.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother’s Day 2017 Spending Up 7%

Clothing appears to be the gift-of-choice for Mother’s Day this year. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of consumers plan to celebrate Mother’s Day 2017 and clothing is this year’s big winner, according to the annual Brand Keys Mother’s Day survey. Celebrants intend to spend on average $220.00 this year, a 7 percent increase over 2016. Men, following a long-standing tradition, intend to spend more than women, reporting an anticipated average spend of $242. Women, an anticipated $198 spend.

Once again, tradition has trumped tech. Cards, meals, and flowers have become ‘price-of-entry’ for the holiday. But when it came to more substantial gifts, clothing showed the greatest change from last year – up 10 percent. Jewelry was up too, by seven percent. Spending on tech-related gifts was generally unchanged, with only 13 percent indicating that category of purchase.

More-and-more, Mother’s Day has encompassed a broader spectrum of relationships and has becomes a more universal celebration. The holiday celebrant-range includes virtually everyone: moms, wives, step-moms, female relatives and friends, divorced and single-parent households. It crosses cultural, ethnic, and religious boundaries, making it a real opportunity for retailers – an occasion nearly everyone celebrates.


As part of Brand Keys’ annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, 6,205 men and women, ages 18-65 from the nine U.S. Census regions, were asked if – and how – they planned to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. Most consumers indicated multiple gift purchases. This is Mom we’re talking about, after all.

What Consumers Are Buying Mom

(Percentages in parentheses indicate changes from 2016 with a margin of error of + 2%).

2017                                        Percent Purchasing                       Change from 2016
Cards                                                     95%                                                ( --- )  
Brunch/Lunch/Dinner                             90%                                                (+2%)
Flowers                                                  86%                                                (+1%)
Clothing                                                  89%                                                (+9%)            
Jewelry                                                   61%                                                (+7%)
Spa Services                                          52%                                                ( --- )
Gift Cards                                               55%                                                ( +5%)
Books                                                     21%                                                (+2%) Housewares/Gardening Tools                20%                                                 (+4%)
Candy                                                    12%                                                  ( --- )
Electronics/ Smartphones                     13%                                                  (- 2%)

Preferences for shopping venues reflect this year’s preference for more traditional gifts and remained generally unchanged from last year, although Department Stores, were down again, this year by four percent. Catalogues were down again this year by another four percent. Discount and Specialty Stores were at the top of consumers’ list of places to shop for Mom because consumers regard them as ideal venues for apparel and jewelry.

Where They Are Shopping
Discount Stores                        55%      ( --- )
Specialty Stores                        55%      (+5%)
Department Stores                   40%      (- 4%)
Online Stores                            30%      ( ---)
Catalog                                      2%       (- 4%)

There’s a saying that goes, ‘a Mother always has to think twice; once for herself and once for her children.’ That said, this year most consumers don’t seem to be thinking twice about celebrating Mother’s Day.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.