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Evidence-Based, Customer Journey Management to Build Brands

January 23rd, 2018 Comments off

Evidence-Based, Customer Journey Management to Build Brands

The Opportunity for Marketers

As customers become exposed to a cascading list of product choices, store choices, and information sources, the opportunity exists to connect all the communications about any specific brand and product into a single consistent, coherent message relevant to the individual customer’s needs.  The customer journey has emerged as the concept that provides the opportunity to best deliver an integrated marketing communications approach at an enterprise level.

The various customer-facing functions in organizations now have the opportunity to integrate their individual, principal goals to deliver a single voice for building brands:

  • Customer Experience — Every daily contact point a moment-of-truth to opportunity to exceed expectations
  • Digital Communications — Automated intelligence and delivery to enhance daily relationships
  • Traditional Communications — Process creation and delivery fully integrated with digital in driving marketing ROI
  • Experiential — Events and sponsorships to cut-through clutter and energize the brand
  • Corporate Communications — One unfavorable rating or post can undo the entire marketing plan; authentic information content drives brand growth
  • Purchase site — Online and offline, 24/7 access and critical convergence of messaging

Common Ground toward Effective Brand-Building

All these functions have been departing from their parallel paths and converging based around the following premises:

  • All brands are vulnerable to losing customers through a single bad experience.
  • Brand strength is created through a history of positive experiences.
  • Every characteristic of the brand involves communications and relies upon communications for success.
  • The customer journey concept is an extension of past models for consumer decision-making.
  • Traditional and digital communications must be integrated which requires their development processes to become integrated.
  • All the functions involved still rely upon key, evidence-based, branding concepts – The MSW-ARS RDE model for brand-building links closely to the customer journey map for any defined product segment.

The opportunity exists to apply common metrics that measure short-term and long-term communications success across functions, within functions, and within elements of each function, across a customer journey.

Evidence-Based Metrics; the Common Language for Integration

Metrics that truly capture the reality of the interactive contact at each touch point along the customer journey must be evidence-based to ensure unified direction and consistent execution across organization functions for delivering an integrated communications approach.

MSW-ARS solutions for each step of the journey contain the Customer Commitment Preference metric that is more sensitive to immediate unit share and brand franchise shifts than any other metric in the market.

Source:  MASB

The validated connection between Customer Commitment Preference and customer lifetime value enables the team to know precise return-on-investment for each individual element and the collective program across functions.

To develop insights to addressing continuous improvement within each touch point, any customer journey analysis must address three basic questions:

To capture thinking (cognitive) and feeling (emotive) measurement requires empirically proven metrics that can uncover both the stated and derived importance of each touch point and communications for assessment of both expectations and delivery to expectations.

Convergence around Customer Journey as the Key to Brand Building

MSW-ARS has developed empirical evidence of how communications work that can accurately connect short-term sales and long-term brand development to the performance of the individual and collective touch points in the journey.

Taking Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning to another Level

Previous brand experience is a principal characteristic for segmentation and target opportunity determination at the need generation stage of the customer journey:

  • Neuroscience-based, unconscious measurement of derived importance uncovers un-voiced concerns before they become lapsed or lost customers.
  • Category measurement of attitudes and usage across all measurements and media formats to identify opportunities to get things right at the beginning and deliver a consistent, coherent message.

Linking the Big Idea and Content Development

Research on how communications works has been conducted across the MSW-ARS, fifty-year, database.  The evidence clearly indicates that the key message of any product is built into the product design.  This was reported most recently by the MASB, the Marketing Accountability Standards Board at the 2017 Annual Conference for the Advertising Research Foundation.

Therefore, the opportunity for integration of the various communications programs must start at the beginning.

The MSW-ARS Sifter product has been designed specifically to measure the strength of the Value Proposition.  Additionally, the approach provides an assessment of effectiveness in delivering this value proposition that can be attributed to various communications elements and that can be applied in long-form and short-form content for scaling across every customer touch point.

Sifter is not intended to replace AI in the CRM/Marketing Automation system.  Sifter complements AI by:

  • Ensuring that the communications program has an effective launch.
  • Supports first mover growth opportunities for the brand.
  • Provides the foundation for insights at the need generation stage and future learning from AI contacts.
  • Can be integrated into decision-support, desktop applications to help serve as a cross-functional theme for coordinated, daily message responses.
  • Ensures delivery of the fundamental, brand value proposition across all touch points.

Touch Point Effectiveness

The MSW-ARS TouchPoint product is also founded on more than fifty years of empirical evidence for how communications work.  The successful application of this solution and the certainty of its ability to predict results and lower business risk have been proven in a study by the MASB involving multiple communications research firms across twelve categories.   The MASB study results have been presented to the ARF and the AMA, written about in The Economist, The International Finance Review, The Journal of Brand Management and CFO Magazine, and has been discussed with the IASB (The International Accounting Standards Board).  Customer Commitment Preference is linked to Market Share & Cash Flow and hence to the NPV of the brand.

The Touch Point solution is flexible to allow brand teams to intervene and test any point along the journey at any time to develop empirical knowledge for continuous improvement.

Success at the Moments of Truth

Effective communications during the consideration, engagement and evaluation stages lead to inclusion in the consideration set at the first moment of truth when the purchase is made.  Communications then strengthen the purchase and remove dissonance at the second moment of truth when the customer receives service for the product.

Application of the MSW-ARS ACCU*TRAK solution allows company and brand teams to invest resources at a precise point in the journey that will most effectively improve both the contribution of that single touch point, but, more importantly, the overall unit share results sought by each of the various marketing functions.

Conclusion

Organizational changes indicate that brands fully understand the need to integrate the various functions, but, don’t yet fully understand how to link them in an effective manner.  MSW-ARS has an answer to this need that will allow brands to move ahead of their competitors in making this critical adjustment to finding common ground… cross-functional, evidence-based metrics that will enable marketing organizations to successfully implement integrated marketing plans across each customer journey.

Millennials and Private Label – a Blossoming Problem for National Brands?

January 12th, 2018 Comments off

It has been well reported and documented that private label brands are surging in the US. Whether it is due to their optimal mix of great value and experience or other reasons, they have forced name brands to re-think strategies. It is also well-known that Millennials are contributing to this trend as they are prioritizing experience over attainment.

In this short blog entry, we aim to show just how important this generational dynamic is to the future of private label brand purchasing. In addition, we will also highlight solutions MSW-ARS has for helping name brands both measure and address concerns in this area.

First, it is important to note just how much of a generational difference there is with regard to purchasing name brands “wanted most” in the table below comprised of thousands of responses across 60+ categories. The difference between Millennials and Baby Boomers is far greater than any other standard demographic. This suggests that age is one of, if not the most important socioeconomic indicator in determining one’s propensity to buying brands they most desire. It is not that Millennials do not desire name brands, they are just choosing not to purchase them at the same rate as previous generations.

 

Not surprisingly given “wanted most” trends, Millennials are also the most likely to purchase cheaper/generic brands. In the table below, Millennials are well over twice as likely to buy generics/less expensive brands versus Baby Boomers.

 

What does this mean for some of the individual categories we track? Here are a couple of tables showing the differences between Millennial and Baby Boomer purchasing in 2017.

First, those purchasing the brand they wanted most:

 

In addition, here is a table showing those purchasing a less expensive/generic brand:

 

The previous data can lead to many different hypotheses, including the following:

  • Is this just a life stage phenomenon?  Will Millennials’ purchase patterns more resemble Gen X and eventually Baby Boomers once they become older?
    • While it is possible Millennials will more resemble previous generations as they age, we are not confident that they will. When compared to previous generations, Millennials have lower income, which in turn would suggest why they are turning more toward generics/lower priced brands as opposed to brands they truly want. However, in the tables above, the three income tiers do not differ much with “most want” and “less expensive/generic” purchasing, especially when compared to the generational tiers. So, unless another Millennial age-dependent characteristic is currently driving their added tendency toward purchasing generics/less expensive brands, and will eventually go away (perhaps something like high student loan debt, which was not tracked), then we believe the generational data is more of a change in attitudes toward generics/name brands than any special constraint unique to any younger generation.
    • In addition, the previous tables show very different trends in purchasing behavior simply based on different categories. Millennials have similar buying trends to Baby Boomers with categories such as Athletic Shoes, Energy Drinks, and some Electronics, while they are MUCH more likely not to buy what they most want when purchasing a Sedan, Analgesics, or Bathroom Tissue. To us, this further suggests Millennials are not just defaulting to generics/less expensive brands everywhere, they are simply realigning what is worth paying more for.
  • If current trends hold, then what does this mean for the generations after Millennials once they become a large portion of the consumer base? Those born in the year 2000 and later are entering the market for many different goods and services now that they are turning 18 and becoming adults.
    • To answer this, certain assumptions have to be made in order to make any type of prediction. These three scenarios immediately come to mind:
      • Scenario 1 – Continuing Trend: If current trends hold, then we could very reasonably expect the next generation after Millennials (Generation Z) to be even more likely to purchase generics/less expensive brands and less likely to purchase the brands they truly want.
      • Scenario 2 – Millennials Become Like Gen X: If Millennials actually do go on to more resemble earlier generations as they age, then we can reasonably see a situation where the generations simply “replace” one another. Generation Z would have purchasing behavior close to that of today’s Millennials, while Millennials become more like today’s Gen X, and Gen X becomes more like today’s Baby Boomers.
      • Scenario 3 – Current Trends Are Just The Tip Of The Iceberg: A lot of trends begin with younger people, then eventually spread to the older population (see social media). If this happens with generic/less expensive brand purchasing, then it’s possible that ALL of the current generations could eventually see an increase – even Baby Boomers. This would likely be one of the worst developments for name brands that may be at a price premium.

We also should not fail to mention another scenario, which is…no one really knows as of right now. Unlike the previous three scenarios, this is the only one we can currently believe with high confidence. That may sound discomforting, but there are action steps you can take in order to be fully prepared for what comes next on this front as well as future decisions for your brand.

We at MSW-ARS offer custom, cost-efficient solutions to both diagnose and address potential brand and category decisions that may arise via the rise of generics/less expensive brands or others elsewhere.

To diagnose category and brand opportunities, we offer custom tracking that can be as streamlined or in-depth as you prefer. In fact, the data used in this blog post is from our syndicated Brand Strength Monitor platform (TBSM), which includes our choice metric that is the ONLY validated measure of brand value – and at a low cost. For example, with that particular data, you will be able to diagnose where your category stands in this generational battle, and be able to see the impact for your specific brand relative to other brands (not shown in this blog, but is very easy to do).

To help address these opportunities, we offer our strongly validated copy testing products that can help determine which route is the best for your brand to take in order to make the best decision for overcoming the rise of generics/less expensive brands, as well as others. With the rise in popularity of generics/less expensive brands, we have made improvements to our copy testing methodology to help directly address this area.  Our approach aims to identify the consumer journey, and how brands can make themselves relevant to consumers’ growing desire for experience.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you would like additional information regarding this blog post or what our custom products can do for you.

Thank you for reading!

The Challenges of a New Brand Name – 5 Empirically Supported Tactics to Improve Your Results

March 31st, 2017 Comments off

It’s common for new products to leverage existing brand names.  This could be line-extension – a new variety of an existing brand in the same category; or a brand-extension – a new product in a new category using an existing brand name.  In either case, the new product can take advantage of the brand’s existing equity which will typically lessen barriers to trial among consumers and improve the chance of gaining distribution among retailers, among other potential benefits.

It is much less common for new products to be released under a completely new brand name.  It happens when manufacturers enter completely new categories unrelated to existing brands; or when leveraging existing brand equities is inappropriate for the product’s proposition.  We examined the MSW●ARS advertising database to provide an estimate of how common this is.  The fact is, it is comparatively rare, with only between six and seven-percent of new product advertising tests being conducted for products with completely new brand names.

That being said, there are a huge number of new products introduced each year and so that six to seven percent actually represents a very large number of new brand introductions annually.  This is illustrated in the following chart, which shows the trend in U.S. new product introductions among consumer packaged goods between 1998 and 2016.  The chart also shows a strong uptick in new product introductions in 2016, as brands try to take advantage of a strengthening economy and the associated phenomenon of consumers being more willing to try new things.  In this environment, completely new brands are not only more likely to be tried by manufacturers, but they’re also more likely to be tried by consumers.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 001

Source: Mintel’s Global New Product Database

While there are many challenges for a new product before launch, once it is in the market it is imperative that the product gain awareness and sufficient trial to earn continued support among retailers in order to maintain distribution and shelf space.  For a new product with a completely new brand name this can be challenging.  We examined the MSW●ARS database and looked at new product advertising and compared Related Recall levels for ads for completely new brands versus those for line- and brand-extensions.  Note that the Related Recall measure is designed to capture the efficiency of creative to breakthrough and create a memorable impression of the advertising and this metric has been strongly linked to movements in awareness.

We found that, on average, Related Recall levels for ads for completely new brands are only 64% of those for other new brand ads.

 

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 002

Source: MSW●ARS Analytical Database

Clearly ads for brands with completely new names struggle to create a strong branded impression in the minds of viewers.  Established brand names already have associations in the minds of consumers which ads for a line- or brand-extension can tie into and more easily leave a lasting impression.  Ads for a product with a new brand name are starting from scratch – a much more daunting task.

To further illustrate the challenge, we used the MSW●ARS new brand awareness model to compare average ads for completely new brands versus those for other new products.  We found that in order to gain the same level of brand awareness as an average ad for a line- or brand-extension at 1000 GRPs, an average ad for a completely new brand would require about 1450 – a substantially larger media investment.

Taking steps to improve an ad’s ability to break through will not only help build awareness with a lower media spend, it will also help nudge viewers toward trial.  There is a significant relationship between an ad’s Related Recall level and its level of persuasiveness (as measured by the MSW●ARS CCPersuasion measure, which has been shown to be strongly correlated to new product trial level and is predictive of the magnitude of market share gain for established products).  And in fact this is especially true for completely new brands.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 003

Source: MSW●ARS Analytical Database

So how can a completely new brand improve its communications and make it more likely that the brand name registers and persuades consumers to try the brand?  Here are 5 empirically supported methods which can help new brands do just that.

1.  Ensure sufficient branding:

Analysis of the MSW●ARS copy-testing database indicates that sufficient branding is beneficial for all product types, but for completely new brands it is vital.  Two proven measures of branding are the number of times the brand name is spoken and how long the brand name or logo is shown on-screen.  As can be seen in the following chart, completely new brand 30-second ads incorporating these branding elements realize a boost in Related Recall about five times greater than that realized by other new product ads.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 004

Source:  MSW●ARS Analytical Database

2.  Avoid Short Ad Lengths:

The use of shorter ad lengths can be especially challenging for completely new brands.  While the number of 15-second ads for completely new brand names in the MSW●ARS database is relatively small (reflecting the fact the few even attempt this), it appears that Related Recall levels for these ads versus other new product 15-second ads are at a ratio even lower than the 64% level seen across all ad lengths.

3.  Consider a Meaningful Brand Name:

One driver of stronger CCPersuasion levels is a brand name which reinforces a product benefit.  While this may not be easily actionable for established brand names, it is obviously something a completely new brand can benefit from – and as the following chart shows, the benefit they receive from utilizing a meaningful brand name is substantial.  So invest in your name.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 005

Source:  MSW●ARS Analytical Database

4.  Avoid Gimmicks to Gain Attention:

There are certain attention-grabbing executional elements which tend to increase Related Recall levels while being neutral towards an ad’s persuasiveness.  However, data for two such elements that we looked at suggest employing such gimmicks for completely new brand advertising may often backfire.  So stay away from gimmicks and stick to your message.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 006

Source:  MSW●ARS Analytical Database

5.  Don’t be afraid to compare:

A completely new brand needs to find a way to convince consumers to choose it over what they currently use.  In pointing out how they are unique and different from the competition, such brands should not shy away from comparing and claiming superiority, as these approaches have a strong track record among completely new brands in terms of both CCPersuasion and Related Recall.  Just make sure you can back it up.

Blog 2017 03 31 FIG 007

Source:  MSW●ARS Analytical Database

Please contact your MSW●ARS representative for information on how our communications research tools can help your brand win in the marketplace.

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