Thursday, October 11, 2018

Twenty Research-Based Findings Regarding Brands

I have drawn these findings from a variety of research studies. Most are outlined in my Brand Aid book.

  1. The five drivers of customer brand insistence are awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection.
  2. Brand familiarity and knowledge are the most important components of brand equity, leading to liking, acquisition, retention and profitability. 
  3. A brand's relevant differentiation is highly correlated with its ability to command a price premium and its increased profitability. 
  4. A brand’s perceived quality increases with increases in advertising impressions, regardless of message. 
  5. Media environment affects advertising claims. For instance, quality claims are more effective on elite or prestigious websites because people associate the claim with the media environment. 
  6. Consumers are more apt to relax and accept advertiser recommendations when the tone is that of a friend or an unbiased authority.
  7. Aspirational, upscale, and high status brands have the potential to alienate customers who lack confidence. While these customers might admire these brands, they don’t feel comfortable using them. Building warmth, humor, and less formality into the brands to make them more approachable helps overcome this problem.
  8. When a brand applies a positive label to its potential customers, they are more likely to purchase that brand.
  9. Lifestyle branding associates a brand with a particular lifestyle or type of individual, primarily delivering self-expressive benefits to the customer. A not often considered downside of this approach is the increased competition that it invites from brands in other product or service categories that have decided to associate with the same lifestyle. 
  10. In most product categories, price is the primary purchase incentive for no more than 15 percent to 35 percent of all customers.
  11. Customers share bad brand experiences with approximately twice as many people as they do good brand experiences.
  12. Declining brands tend to lose buyers while the brands’ loyalty and purchase rates stay stable among remaining buyers.
  13. Extending one or more products of an average quality brand into a higher quality segment increases the brand's overall quality perception.
  14. In some sectors, an increase in the consumer base by just one percent is otherwise equivalent to a 10 percent cost reduction.
  15. Suggestive brand names assist with recall of brand benefits that are suggested by the names, but inhibit recall of other subsequently advertised brand benefits.
  16. Country of origin, when known, affects brand perceptions, especially within luxury categories.
  17. Customer experience is the result of these factors: social environment, service interface, retail atmosphere, assortment, price, customer experiences in alternative channels and the retail brand.
  18. “Purchase intent” tends to be inflated for declining brands and understated for emerging brands.
  19. Advertising is often most effective in increasing share of market when brands are so similar that the advertising message is the primary source of differentiation.
  20. Immediate post-purchase brand reinforcement increases a customer's attitudinal loyalty. 

Drawing Brands From Memory

This is a fascinating article about how well people can recall and recreate brand identity systems of well known brands. It would seem to indicate what brand identity experts have known for some time - colors and shapes tend to be the most important components of identity systems. Further, it would indicate that more complex systems are more difficult to completely remember and recreate. And replicating people used in logos can be difficult. It also indicates that it may take awhile for an updated identity to begin to replace the previous one in people's minds.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Relationship Between CMO and CIO

Because the brand is ultimately about the consumer experience, I have spoken about the cooperation that needs to happen between CMO and HR VP, but equally importantly in today's digitized world, there needs to be a close working relationship between the CMO and the CIO.

Consider the impact of the online banking software and its functionality to a customer's experience of his or her bank. Or of the software that powers the bank's ATMs. Consider how Tesla vehicles are completely dependent on Tesla's software in creating the user driving experience. Or consider any retailer that has both an online and physical retail presence. Does the software make the user experience seamless across the channels? Or any company that uses a CRM system. How good is that system at creating personalized customer experiences?'s user experience is completely based on software. And Uber and LYFT could not have become the industry disruptive brands that they became without the intricate software that drives them. But even consider the software that drives airlines' pricing, capacity management and transportation logistics. Or consider the software that supports FedEx, UPS and other package delivery companies. Even drone deliveries are software dependent.

My point is that software makes all of the difference in the world regarding user experience and therefore brand experience. So, if a CMO is not constantly working with the CIO to improve the customer experience, then that CMO should step down to make room for someone who is more attuned to today's world.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What Brand Equity Studies Can Reveal

I have conducted brand equity studies for hundreds of brands over the past twenty years. In doing so, I have identified some patterns that tend to occur throughout the studies, patterns that it would be helpful for brand managers to understand. Here are some of the insights from those studies:

  • Brands often have lower unaided awareness than their managers expected.
  • There typically are far more competitors than those that the brand manager considers to be in the competitive set. 
  • Competitors often come from outside of the organization-stipulated product or service category.
  • Defining the competitive frame of reference properly makes a huge difference in positioning and managing the brand to its greatest advantage.
  • Often, the brand manager gets the competitive frame of reference wrong compared to customer perceptions.
  • For most brands, the brand associations vary widely between customers, indicating that the brand's intended unique value proposition is not consistently experienced.
  • Nowadays, most brands (including competitive brands) deliver well against the most important category benefits.
  • Often, competitive brands look more alike than they do different to customers. 
  • Most brands lack relevant differentiation.
  • Sometimes, a brand's personality attribute is its greatest differentiator.
  • Emotional benefits are always more powerful than functional benefits.
  • People downplay the importance of the brand itself. They are more focused on what the delivers to them.
  • I can easily tell the following from brand equity studies: (1) whether the brand is based on deep customer insight, (2) whether the brand is well managed, (3) whether the category is nascent or mature, and (4) whether there are problems with pricing, distribution, product features, package design, brand messaging, marketing spend, continuous innovation or something else.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Customer Purchase Patterns

Do you fully understand your customers' purchase patterns? Do you know how often they buy? Do you know what puts them in a ready state to buy? Do their purchases follow a regular pattern? Are they seasonal? Do you know what events or stimuli can trigger a purchase? Are their purchases  sensitive to pricing or promotions? Are their purchases planned or impulsive? Are your customers brand loyal or are their purchases driven by something else such as convenience, price sensitivity, variety or entertainment? Can you get your customers to "stock up" on your product? Can you sell your product in different quantities? Will this make a difference in purchase likelihood? What can you do to get your customers to purchase more frequently? Do you know if there are any substitute products for your product? How much does channel of distribution or location come into play regarding purchase of your product?

Is your product a necessary staple or is it a discretionary spend? Is your product purchased as an indulgence? Do you know what customers' expected price for your product is? Do you know the highest price customers are willing to pay for your product? Will customers buy your product while in any state of mind or will they need to be in a specific state of mind to buy your product? Some products are more likely to be purchased when customers are in a euphoric state, while depression stimulates the purchase of other products. Are people more apt to buy your product at a specific time of day or on a specific day the week? Are they more likely to buy your product when they are alone or with friends? Some products are more likely to be purchased when people are on vacation. Is yours one of those products? Some products are purchased in conjunction with other products. Do you know what other types of products, if any, are purchased with your product? Are there certain barriers that cause customers to think twice about buying your product?

Regarding all of the questions listed above, would you answer them differently for different customer segments? 

You should be able to answer the majority of these questions. If not, you need to gain greater insight into your customers and their purchase patterns. 

Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is often necessary to effectively meet the needs of different customer groups. Different segments will value different aspects of your products, services, and brands differently. You should have a good understanding of the following dimensions of each market segment:
  • Its overall size and its growth rate
  • Its price sensitivity
  • The benefits that are most and least important to it
  • How well it is served by existing products and brands
  • How brand loyal it is
  • How it selects and purchases the product
  • How accessible it is
  • The distribution methods it prefers
  • How it uses the product
  • Its product usage/replacement rate
  • Its longevity and projected evolution over time

Markets can be segmented in the following ways:
  • Product Usage Segmentation. For instance, some people use baking soda to deodorize their refrigerators, while others use it as a surface soft scrub, to treat insect bites or itchy skin or as a toothpaste.
  • Purchase Behavior Segmentation. In many industries, four groups than often emerge to one degree or another are:
    • Brand loyal consumers
    • Convenience-driven consumers
    • Price-driven consumers
    • Consumers that enjoy seeking out new brands and products within the category
  • Benefit Segmentation. People might buy a sailboat to race, for a daysail, to cruise on a vacation, to live aboard, to entertain friends, or as a second home.
  • Price Segmentation. Price segmentation will yield higher overall revenues and profits if designed properly. Airlines have made a science out of price segmentation. First-class travelers pay more. Business travelers with tight schedules will be less price sensitive. Tourists with fixed budgets, flexible schedules, and a long planning horizon will look for lower fares. Some people will only travel taking advantage of last-minute seat-filling bargain prices. Other last minute travelers have no choice and behaviorally (but probably not attitudinally) are virtually price insensitive. Seats are less expensive on slower days (Saturdays, December 25, etc.).
  • Lifestage Segmentation. There is a system of segmenting adults into eight distinct mindsets using a specific set of psychological traits and demographics that are proven to drive consumer behavior. Consult: Strategic Business Insights VALS (values and lifestyles) at, and U.S. MONITOR at
  • Cohort Group Segmentation. Refers to people who were born at approximately the same time and who have experienced the same events at the same lifestages.
  • Psychographic Segmentation. Refers to segmenting people based on their values, attitudes, and lifestyles.
  • Geographic Segmentation. Segmenting people according to their geographic location can help target people in the same socioeconomic bracket who may share interests or concerns.
  • Geodemographic Segmentation. Refers to segmenting people based on their location—typically zip or postal code—and demographics, such as age and income. Consult: Claritas’ PRIZM® Premier, P$YCLE® and ConneXions® segmentation tools ( and CACI’s ACORN (

As the previous list illustrates, consumers can be segmented on many dimensions. The trick is to arrive at a segmentation scheme that relates to differences in purchase motivations and behaviors. Different brands are designed to appeal to different needs with unique points of difference. It is important to understand the consumers for whom your brand will mean the most and who will have the highest likelihood of responding to your brand messages.

Reprinted with permission from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Most Desirable Brand Personality Traits

When considering brands, customers value some personality traits more than others. Below is a rank ordered list of desired personality traits. I have derived this list from numerous sources over the past thirty years.

Tier 1

  1. Trustworthy
  2. Warm/Friendly
  3. Responsive
  4. Intelligent/Smart
  5. Reliable/Dependable
Tier 2
  1. Honest/Possesses integrity
  2. Authentic/Real
  3. Knowledgeable
  4. Customer-service oriented
  5. Easy to work with
  6. Creative/Innovative
  7. Resourceful
  8. Agile/Flexible
  9. Compassionate/Kind
  10. Takes responsibility
  11. Hard working
  12. Has a sense of humor/Funny
Tier 3
  1. Professional
  2. Well-organized
  3. Attention to detail
  4. Strategic/Big picture thinking
  5. Good listener
  6. Learns from mistakes
You should consider which of these personality attributes would work best for your brand. And it is not a bad list to consider for yourself. 

This is an earlier blog post on the brand personality attributes most often chosen by my clients for their brands. And this is a blog post on using brand personality as a point of difference. And just for fun, here is a brand that has a very strong personality.