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. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Greenest Brands In America

Tomorrow, April 22nd is the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, so the appropriate time to release our list of the top-25 greenest brands in America. Of 740 brands included in this year’s 22nd annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, 49,168 customers deemed these brands as authentically, resolutely, and significantly “green.” And when it comes to this particular value, high engagement is an indicator of positive consumer behavior in the marketplace. And the political arena, too.

The top-25 brands, presented alphabetically since consumer environmental expectations are category-specific and vary sector to sector, are:
  2. Apple
  3. AT&T
  4. Avis
  5. Ben & Jerry’s
  6. Best Buy
  7. Chick-fil-A
  8. Coke
  9. Discover Card
  10. Dunkin’
  11. Ford
  12. Fuji
  13. Home Depot
  14. Hyundai
  15. Jack Daniels
  16. Kiehl’s
  17. Konica-Minolta
  18. Microsoft
  19. New Balance
  20. Nike
  21. Pepsi
  22. Tom’s of Maine
  23. Toyota
  24. Wyndham Hotels
  25. Xerox

This year campaign is, “Environmental & Climate Literacy.” Given the recent politicization of climate change, the campaign is designed to help make people more fluent in the concepts of climate change. A more climate-literate citizenry, it is hoped, will end up being the engine that fuels green voters and laws and policies that advance environmental protection.

Brands can’t simply play the environmental awareness card as part of a CSR or PR campaign anymore. In just the same way politicians are going to be held to the fire according to voter standards, so too are brands. Brands will have to do it in ways that meaningfully support a sustainable future that’s both palpable and believable to the consumer because when it comes to brands, consumers will end up “voting” with their wallets. And while it is the hope of many that corporations are looking to find ways to do business more sustainably, it’s worthy of note that brands are getting better at being “green.”

It’s been independently validated is that brands best able to meet expectations, particularly those that are more emotionally-based – saving the planet, for example – ultimately do better than those brands that don’t or can’t meet those expectations.

And when it comes to the bottom bottom-line, unlike many things in consumers’ lives, it’s precisely as Albert Einstein observed, “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”

Including brands.

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, April 02, 2017

Baseball Makes A Comeback: National Pastime Is #1 In Fan Loyalty

Yesterday was Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. It's always a big moment, but this year it’s considerably bigger

Based on the 25th annual Sports Fan Loyalty Index from Brand Keys, the New York-based brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, and according to 17,852 fans, Major League Baseball was rated #1 in fan loyalty for the first time in a decade, beating out the National Football League, perennially Major League Sports’ loyalty leader.

Fan loyalty ratings never lie. They’re a leading-indicator of behavior and profitability, and they always tell us what fans are going to do when it comes to increased TV game viewership and purchases of licensed merchandise.  

MLB’s 2016 World Series was the highest rated and most-watched series since 2004. For the Fall season, the World Series ranked as TV’s top show for adults 18-49 years of age, topping Sunday Night Football. MLB’s leadership, which recently eliminated the four pitch intentional walk in order to “speed up the game” may be tinkering too much, there are other powerful and emotionally-based loyalty drivers that need to be taken into account when it comes to fans, and those can’t be rushed. The percentages next to each loyalty driver indicates the contribution each makes to fan loyalty and league engagement:

History and Tradition (30%):
Are the game and the league part of fans’ and community rituals, institutions, and ‘tribal’ beliefs?

Fan Bonding (29%):
Are players particularly respected and admired?

Pure Entertainment (21%):
Win-loss ratios for sure, but more importantly, how entertaining is their play? Is it a consistent experience year-to-year?

Authenticity (20%):
How well they play as a team. Do they seem unified? Does it involve both skill and strategy?

For 2017 league loyalty rankings were found to be as follows:
  1. Major League Baseball
  2. National Basketball Association
  3. National Football League
  4. National Hockey League
NFL ratings took a nosedive throughout its last season, which is troublesome because live events are supposed to be the last bastion of defense against the Internet. This is the second consecutive year the Super Bowl has failed to set a new ratings record. Pre-election NFL ratings were down by 12 percent Year-Over-Year and ratings for the 2016-17 season were down 9 percent YOY and were off 6 percent through the playoffs.

The National Basketball Association, consistently ranked #3 in terms of fan loyalty, moved up to the #2 spot this year. Not-so-coincidently NBA’s viewership increased from last season on all four networks: ABC was up 9 percent, ESPN up 10 percent, TNT up 1% and NBA TV games were up 19%.

The 2016 Stanley Cup Final was one of the lowest-rated NHL title games since the sport returned to NBC 11 years ago, and is again ranked #4.

Via interviews with 250 self-declared fans in each team’s local market, current 2017 MLB top-5 and bottom-5 brand standings are listed below:


1. Chicago Cubs (+6)
2. Washington Nationals (+3)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (-1)
4. Boston Red Sox (+4)
5. San Francisco Giants (-2)


30. Arizona Diamondbacks (-1)
29. San Diego Padres (-2)
28. Colorado Rockies (--)
27. Milwaukee Brewers (-5)
26. Minnesota Twins (-10)

Loyalty is incredibly powerful and emotional. And when it comes to loyal baseball fans, their attitudes echo what pitcher Gaylord Perry once noted, ‘The only trouble with baseball is that it’s not played year round.” In the meanwhile, for the rest of you fans for the rest of the season, “Go (INSERT YOUR TEAM’S NAME HERE)!”

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.