Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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Having analyzed the brand equity of hundreds of brands, CPG and non-CPG, US and global, I want to share my thoughts on creating a powerful brand success system for a digital, social, mobile age.

First, I want you to imagine 5 segments of consumers based on the strength of their relationship to your brand, using a “romantic relationship” metaphor.

  • Soulmate. Such consumers devote the highest share of their purchases to your brand, on average, usually more than 70%. Your brand has important and unique meaning to them. They shop very differently. They do little research into their upcoming purchases and just want to easily locate your brand while in the store. They are most likely to be the customers who feel a sense of community with others who love your brand as well. Half or more of brand sales will come from this group
  • Going Steady: Prefer your brand but regularly buy or consider one or more competitors as well. Still, you win half or more of their purchases. This group accounts for a significant portion of your sales as well
  • Just dating: you are one of a number of acceptable brands and probably not the most preferred. When shopping, such consumers are likely to be alert for deals and will buy you occasionally.
  • Hey, you look familiar: The consumer has general awareness of your brand and what type of offer it is functionally. You are probably in the consideration set but there is little purchasing and brand experience
  • Ships in the night. You pass each other, not stopping or speaking, with little awareness of presence. These are non-buyers of your brand.

Notice a few things in this segmentation:

  • There is positive business impact if you upgrade a consumer from one segment to another
  • Attitudes towards your brand relative to other brands influence what segment a consumer is in.
  • …The largest differentiator between soulmate and going steady is not what they think of your brand but what they think of others…whether your brand EXCLUSIVELY OWNS IMPORTANT FUNCTIONAL AND EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS. For this reason, you need to profile each consumer on their beliefs across all brands using an “attribute check-off” approach summarized into an “attribute advantage” score.
  • The middle three segments are open-minded across a portfolio of acceptable choices. These segments are most influenced by media and shopper marketing.

Some key questions for guiding your brand to success:

  • Is your share of soulmates equal or greater to your share of market? Is the gap trending in a positive way?
  • What is the ratio of soulmates to going steady? Are your loyal buyers really into your brand?
  • What are the digital behaviors of your soulmates and going steady consumers? Are they liking your brand on Facebook, visiting your website, signing up for e-mails, and downloading your apps? Are they talking about you in social media?
  • How does your equity vary across need states and moments? Perhaps your brand is a powerhouse for pantry loading but a weakling for away from home consumption. Mobile research is essential to understand this.

In terms of media strategies, digital, social and mobile give the marketer options for activating this brand equity approach that never existed when it was first created in the 90s, so this is exciting and newly contemporary.

A key is to use digital clickstream patterns to estimate which segment a given user is in so you can target the right marketing communication and offer programs that strengthen and upgrade relationships. For example, the marketer should target paid digital advertising to those in the middle three relationship groups as they can be most influenced regarding an upcoming purchase. Furthermore, you can target the moment when they are shopping or planning to shop for maximum effect using digital analysis and delivering offers via mobile. This will increase the ROI of your advertising efforts. Another example is to use Facebook to upgrade your fans from going steady to soulmates. Both segments are willing to like your brand on Facebook and that gives you permission to serve a steady stream of updates into their newsfeeds that can deepen your relationship.

Some parting words of advice. Just like no one wants ¼” drillbits, but plenty want ¼” holes, marketers don’t want brand tracking…they want a brand success system. This system needs to seamlessly integrate insights, metrics, and media actions because today, it all comes at you at once. Finally, you need a framework for integrating survey, digital, and social data into a powerful set of KPIs and predictive tools to be positioned to succeed in a digital, social, and mobile age.

My experience comes from creating a quantitative modeling system called BrandBuilder when I was Chief Research Officer at the NPD Group, from brand equity measurement engagements when I was at Vivaldi Partners, and from redesigning massive brand trackers for clients as Rubinson Partners, Inc consulting assignments.

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