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!

Television’s Brand Building Power – How It Has Changed Over the Years

June 20th, 2017 Comments off

Radical changes continue to shape the media landscape. While much recent research has been conducted on the effectiveness of new platforms, less attention has been given to that media plan staple, television advertising. Is television as effective as it was in the 1980s? Or has its role diminished to the point of non-viability? And if still effective, how does it compare to other media platform options available today?

Last week, research that directly answers these questions was presented at the annual ARF Audience Measurement Conference in New Jersey. This research includes an update of MSW●ARS’s landmark advertising wearout study, An Empirical Investigation of Advertising Wearin and Wearout (which was chosen by the Journal of Advertising Research as one of “18 Articles That Have Withstood the Test of Time”).  The analysis was a joint effort by MSW●ARS Research, the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MSAB) and Nielsen Research.  ESPN’s Kelly Johnson joined MASB Executive Director Frank Findley on the podium to deliver not only the latest findings on advertising wearout but also other important new learning and case studies.

The major conclusions from the study include the following:

  • On a single, quality exposure basis the television ad format is as effective now as it was in the 1980s (based on copy-testing for 30-second television ads collected within the United States for typical categories with brands advertising throughout the years 1980 to 2014 using a consistent methodology, MSW●ARS Research’s CCPersuasionTM measure).

wearout chart 1

 

  • The rate of delivery of ad selling power per GRP has slowed, requiring approximately 25% more GRPs to deliver the same power to market as it did in the 1980s.

wearout chart 2

 

  • More than mitigating this decline, the number of U.S. households has increased by 45%.

wearout chart 3

 

  • Despite a potential increase in distracted viewing, television advertising still maintains an effective frequency profile that is comparable to other media channels including digital.

wearout chart 4

 

The study also explores how advertising wearout learning can be combined with advertising effectiveness testing to create a metric highly predictive of in-market outcomes and which allows for media planning guidance and optimization of media spend.

For a copy of the full MSW●ARS Research white paper, Television’s Brand Building Power – How It Has Changed Over the Years, please contact us at aklein@mswarsresearch.com.

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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