Tag Archives: Market research

Brand Actions And Words

I’ve mentioned in this space before that brands have a lot less – if any – control over how they are perceived by consumers due to the rise of connectivity among those very same consumers.  That contention is supported by some research from The Society For New Communications Research which conducted a study on the topic of Social Media and Societal Good.  Main conclusion?

The reputation of a company is no longer defined by what they “report” or what they “say” they stand for. Instead, they are increasingly defined by the shared opinions and experiences of socially-connected consumers.

You can read the study here.  It’s interesting although not particularly surprising.  While the vast majority of people still rank the quality of products and services are the most important reason behind how they form impressions about a brand, some other traditional factors are ranked way down the list in importance.  Only 43% say that a company’s ads are either mildly or very important in forming impressions while  76% cite family and friends that way.  While many brands are obsessive about their social media presence, only 28% of consumers use that to form impressions.  Interestingly, since 78% mention the customer care program as important, perhaps the social media emphasis needs to be more about caring and less about sharing.

So while word of mouth matters, so too does how a company behaves in the world as a whole.  We don’t yet seem to be at a place where consumers research a company’s social and societal impact before doing business.  However, when a company’s behavior comes to their attention – maybe through a news story, maybe through a friend – news of the negative societal impact of a company has impact and more so with women than with men:

When quality and price are largely equal in a purchase decision, nearly three in five people report a moderate to strong positive impact on likelihood to purchase when they discover information on the positive societal impact of a company. 61% report a moderate to strong negative impact on likelihood to purchase when hearing news on the negative societal impact of a company.

So let’s behave, people.  We are what we do, not what we say we are or will do.  Our customers are paying attention.  Are you?

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No, I’m Not Making It Up

After Monday’s post on the collective genius of the folks at KlearGear.com, a reader reached out with a question.


(Photo credit: suttonhoo)

“I buy in to your thoughts on how customers ought to be treated, but is there research to support your statements about how doing business the right way (with a customer focus) actually translates into better business?”  Funny you should ask!

This from the Connected Customer blog from the folks at Liveperson:

Today’s savvy consumers want access to information and support instantly, and if they don’t find what they need quickly, they will look for it somewhere else. Our study tells us that, on average, consumers won’t wait more than 76 seconds if they need help during their online journey.  The research indicates that 49% of consumers continue to find websites difficult to navigate, with 33% struggling to seek help or locate customer service.

The folks at MediaPost’s Research Brief summed it up nicely:

Every interaction with a brand can either drive customer loyalty, or lead to abandonment to a competitor, says the report. The repercussions of a negative digital experience have never been higher, and the result of a positive experience is becoming increasingly more valuable. 84% of online users say brand trust is a result of a positive online experience. In addition, the vast majority say that a positive online experience makes it more likely for them to complete the purchase with the company and to buy from a company again

  • 78% of consumers agree that they are more likely to be loyal to companies that give them a great experience and service online

  • The result of a poor online interaction with a brand is abandonment of the transaction (45%), a negative perception of the company (45%), loss of trust (43%), and loss of a customer to an alternative website (41%)

So to answer the question, yes, treating customers as if they were family members or dear friends does have measurable positive effects.  We don’t need research, however, to tell us that suing our customers is a bad idea.  Almost as bad as having customer service people who can’t be reached by customers or who treat those customer complaints as annoyances rather than a problem a friend is having.

Does that make sense?

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What’s In A Name Brand?

How difficult would it be for me to get you to change the brands you use in a number of household categories?


(Photo credit: coolmikeol)

Would it be hard for me to get you to drop a national or name brand in favor of a store brand?  You know what I mean – Market Pantry (Target), Great Value (Walmart), and Kirkland Signature (Costco) are all brands with which you might be familiar.  They’re generally less expensive although not always – Trader Joe’s and 365 Organic (Whole Foods) are pretty pricey.  The quality is generally very good – as good or better, according to this piece from Consumer Reports.

Why do I bring this up (and it isn’t even Foodie Friday!)?  Because a lot of effort and money goes into branding, mostly spent by the national brands, one would think that there is some sort of clear distinction in consumers’ minds between quality, cost, and the value of those brands.  Not so much:

While more than half of shoppers (54 percent) named quality as their top priority when shopping for everyday products, less than a third said that name brands are better quality or more reliable than private label. However, 56 percent of shoppers have the perception that name brand packaging is more attractive than private label.

That’s from a study conducted by The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research.  They also found that:

  • Only 29 percent of the survey’s respondents feel strongly that national brands are of better quality, down from 36 percent last year and 43 percent in 2010
  • When asked what types of private label household goods shoppers are okay buying, 66 percent of respondents listed over-the-counter medicine at the top of the list with milk as a close second with 61 percent
  • The least purchased private label category in the study is pet food, with only 18 percent of shoppers saying they would be okay purchasing this as private label
  • Millennials (18-24) are 13 percent more likely than the general population to be increasing their private label brand purchases. Shoppers aged 65 and older are 33 percent more likely to be upping their private label purchases.

It’s way too easy to write this off as a manifestation of the economic times.  Higher prices no longer mean better quality nor does having a national brand name.  It will be interesting to watch how the national brands handle this.  Coupons can reduce the pricing differential but that doesn’t immediately change the preferences of a consumer who now has seen that there isn’t a difference in quality.  National brands can probably do a better job of consumer engagement as well as in partnering with other national brands.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Are you using more store brands?  How can a national brand win you back?

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Questioning The Questioners

Today is one of those screeds in which I point out a problem but don’t offer a real solution. I apologize in advance. Maybe just ringing the alarm bell a bit is enough of a help but you’ll be the judge.

The questionnaire we used to select patients.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like you, I read a lot articles published in trades. Most of what I see comes to me in the form of emailed articles and/or newsletters. There’s a lot of research cited in these pieces and many of them offer opinions with respect to a good course of action one should take to avoid a problem or improve performance. What I find interesting is how often I’ll finish the piece, look at the author’s bio, and realize that I just spent a couple of minutes reading a self-serving puff piece. For example, a nice article citing research on how content marketing can drive sales was offered by a guy who runs a content marketing company, which also commissioned the research.  Funny how often the research conducted by “independent” firms says great things about the company that commissioned it, isn’t it?

That’s the problem I offer up today.  It’s hard to know how meaningful research is when those who pay to have it done have a vested interest in the outcome.  We saw this during the last political season.  There were “Republican” polls that showed the presidential race one way, “Democratic” polls that had it the other way, and “independent” polls that were a mixed bag.  Usually, the party-sponsored polls had their guy winning, and you’re probably familiar that the only entity that called the race almost perfectly was Nate Silver of The New York Times who uses a “poll of polls” methodology that wiped out the inherent biases.

We need to question those who ask the questions.  That doesn’t mean ignore or even discount the research.  What it does mean is to think about what vested interest the sponsor of any research has in the outcome and look for places where a question can be phrased in such a way as to twist the outcome.  All reputable research will show you how the question was asked.  It’s up to you to consider the inherent bias before taking anything as gospel.  Even the blather put out in this space!

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The Price-Value Experience Thing

Yet another edition of “Interesting Research That Proves What Common Sense Told You.”

Image representing Forrester Research as depic...

Image via CrunchBase

In this case, however, the results are actually surprising in that they do confirm one’s own thinking.  The study comes from Forrester, who tested the relationship between customers’ perceptions of their experience, their perceptions of price-value, and their loyalty. This report shows how customer experience trumps price-value perception as a loyalty driver.  In other words, we don’t mind paying a couple of dollars more for a better customer experience.

Media Post summed it up this way:

New research from Forrester finds that when it comes to building loyalty, people respond more to the experience they have with the retailer than with their perception of price.

They went on to quote Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, the analyst who wrote the report:

In order to move the needle, she says, stores need to focus on the core components of positive experiences, including:

* Meet customer needs. “If the product or service is wrong, price becomes irrelevant,” she writes.

* Make it easy. That can include anything from keeping store aisles clear to making it possible to start shopping online, and then still find the items in your cart when you switch to mobile. “Amazon’s two-day shipping and one-click ordering continue to make a strong impact on shoppers,” she says.

* Make it enjoyable. “That comes down to basics, like making sure dressing rooms aren’t messy and that it’s not a hassle to use your coupons.” And stores like Trader Joe’s, QuikTrip, and Costco may be low-cost, she says, but the amount they spend training their employees to be more knowledgeable makes the experience more pleasurable.

Well, yeah!  Businesses often spend way too much time trying to shave costs while persevering margins.  Intuitively, getting customers to pay a bit more can more than amortize the costs of excellent service, particularly when that service doesn’t involve any more staff, but better training and higher responsiveness.

Maybe this isn’t learning something new today but I think it’s always good when we get reminded of things we probably already felt.  What do you think?

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The Business And The Binge

The folks at Harris Interactive released some new information about TV consumption and it doesn’t bode well for the traditional business models – not even for the dual revenue model that empowered cable and which traditional broadcast is mimicking these days.  While I think any of us who pay attention to viewing research both via the boob tube and via other platforms are aware that things have changed, these numbers show that they’ve done so to a far greater extent than one might think.  Let’s see if you agree.

Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can read the data from Harris here but in brief what it shows is that younger people stream more stuff and set their own viewing times.  They also tend to “binge” view – they’ll watch all the episodes from a season of a show straight through over several hours.  If you’re over 55, there’s a 2 out of 3 chance you’re being your own program scheduler.  If you’re under 40, that becomes a 9 out of 10 chance.  Most of the way that on-demand viewing is done is NOT via a system controlled by the cable operators among younger demos.  While the older audience tends to use the services the operators make available via their set-top box or DVR, younger people have wandered well off the ranch.

As Harris points out:

Self-scheduled and binge television viewing trends suggest implications for the television industry at large, potentially impacting both advertisers and content producers.  For advertisers, the clearest impact is that some of these viewers will be taking in contact on platforms beyond their reach, such as Netflix and Amazon’s VOD services.

Content producers, meanwhile, have both positive and negative implications to explore. On the upside, the ability to quickly catch up on past seasons of existing shows, particularly ones with complex storylines, could give more viewers the opportunity to jump into new episodes without confusion. On the downside, viewers watching when they choose, not when it airs, can play havoc with ratings.

Taking that to next the step, when the traditional currency of TV – ratings – suffers through a huge deflation, the basic underpinning of the business will follow.  Yikes!

I don’t know that the above research is huge news – look at how your own media habits have changed.  What is surprising is the extent to which these changes are now a way of life.  Let’s see how the business follows the audience – nothing like “interesting” times!

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What Do You Wrap Something Fishy In? Newspaper!

You might have heard something about the study that was released yesterday by the folks at the Newspaper National Network.  It proclaimed in large type that “Sports Fans Rank Local Newspaper Sports Pages #1” and that “The Study Validates the Unique Benefits of Newspaper Sports Content to Advertisers.” You can read the study here.

Logo of the Newspaper National Network.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now being the open-minded sort of guy that I am, I read through the study with great interest but also with a very large wad of skepticism. You see, it strikes me that everything we read about newspapers has to do with the decline of daily readership. Given the “right now” nature of sports information in particular, I was surprised that the study found that newspapers are still the top source for sports news for sports fans. Let’s see what you think.

Sports news and information is one of the most hotly-contested content areas.  Having lived in it for decades, I know that the competition is fierce.  Other than the big guys – USAToday and Sports Illustrated, I can’t think of a single daily or even weekly print source that can compete for the sports audience.  Still, according to the study:

Wow!  Now I read a couple of newspapers every day but I must admit that I don’t do so for the sports scores.  I’m also out of the demo that was surveyed – Men 18-54.  I was also quite surprised by the second point.  The study shows that 76% of the respondents identified newspaper websites when asked to identify all the places you typically go to for sports news, information, and/or analysis, not including live games or competitions.  Only 65% mentioned ESPN.com and 46% identified either Yahoo Sports or a league website. Given everything I know about traffic numbers in sports, that 76% seems weird, even aggregating all of the newspaper sites (except USAToday) into a number.

That’s when I took the advice I’ve given you here on the screed a number of times:  when the results seem weird, check who was asked the question and how the question was asked.  In this case, half the men surveyed identified themselves as regular sports pages readers (2x or more/week).  Given that the ongoing Pew Study found late last year that only 29% now say they read a newspaper yesterday – with just 23% reading a print newspaper that seems like a skewed sample to me.  In fact, it’s hard to accept that 69% of male sports fans identify the print sports section as the “go to” source when over half of those who read the newspaper do so electronically according to Pew.

The best research is enlightening and can’t be picked apart very easily.  Unfortunately, this does neither.  Do you agree?

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