This Black Friday, Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Dipanjan Chatterjee

Black Friday approaches. I should be breathless with anticipation. You see, I’m a brand strategist. To me, the prospect of millions of people reveling in thousands of brands and turning the bottom line from red to black is brand nirvana. It’s like Christmas came early. Which it does, in a way, on Black Friday.

Yet, the tendrils of self-doubt infiltrate my exuberance. Must a weekend so treasured for time spent with friends and family be ruined by being pepper-sprayed at Walmart, by being gored in the Pamplona bull run down the aisles at Best Buy to save 50 bucks on a TV I don’t need? Do we really need to spend any more time glued to our devices buying more clutter?

Maybe you feel this way, and maybe you don’t. But you would expect brands to be cheerleaders for Black Friday, right? Wrong.

Black Friday 2011: Patagonia buys a full-page ad in the New York Times and instructs readers not to buy its jackets. That’s right, they pay good money to tell folks not to buy their stuff. Citing the “astonishing” environmental cost of making jackets, they encourage people to reuse and recycle. Fast forward to Black Friday 2016. This year, Patagonia is donating 100% of Black Friday sales to grass roots organizations "working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards."  Yes, you did read that correctly. 100%. And sales, not profit.  

Black Friday, 2015: REI decides to remain closed that day and give all its employees a paid day off. No, their P&L does not self-combust. Instead, they choose to close shop again for Black Friday 2016. REI’s CEO says that this “reinforces both REI’s culture with employees and the message that resonates with the company’s core customer base.” About 2 million people plan to #OptOutside with REI.

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The Threat (And Opportunities) Facing Banks Today

Victor Milligan
Banks serve as the bedrock of the economy, and that bedrock is changing. These changes represent a direct attack against the current banking business model and associated P&Ls. Our Empowered Customer and North America Consumer Technographics data tells us:
 
  • Only 50% of bank customers are willing to keep their existing level of business with their bank.
  • Only 59% of bank customers are willing to purchase additional products or services, meaning 41% are not.
  • Almost 50% of Progressive Pioneers – the most progressive of our five customer segments representing 25% of consumers in 2016 – indicate they are likely to switch banks in the next year.
  • 21% of Progressive Pioneers have closed a bank account in the past 3 years.
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Does Trump’s Victory Signal The End Of Data-Driven Decision-Making As We Know It?

Sheryl Pattek

It’s not been an easy week or so for many of us in the US. Why did the election results surprise so many? How could we not have known how divided a country we were?

And what happened to a belief in the principles of fairness, respect, and equality for all, which formed the foundation of our democracy — despite an election’s outcome? One explanation is that many relied on predictions, polls, and data and misjudged the impact of voters’ emotions and sentiment on the race . . . and badly so.  

Four years ago, just after I joined Forrester, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about how the smart use of data helped elect Obama as our 44th president. In that post, I talked about how Obama and his team employed data science from the start to understand the electorate and target their engagement and messaging effectively to inspire voters to action.

In fact, to quote that blog post:

“What I found the most fascinating is how the use of data, the right data, served as the foundation for Obama’s successful reelection. Starting on election night, the analysts on the best-known news shows were already talking about how calm and confident the Obama team members were. And why were they confident? According to Obama’s team, it had the data to back up its march to a second term. The team members believed that data and how they used it was one of the biggest advantages they had over the Romney campaign. Think about that for a minute. Obama, traditionally seen as the image and message guy, ran his reelection campaign based on using the right data effectively. And it worked.

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Kale Is Good For JetBlue And Other Tales of Brand Resonance

Dipanjan Chatterjee

A powerful brand not only has to be extremely relevant to prospects, it has to make itself an invaluable and inextricable part of customers' lives as well. In the recent Forrester report called Navigate Your Brand To Resonance: Four Milestones To Brand Building, I outline a road map for CMOs with four clear stops, from salience to resonance, on the road to building a powerful brand. This journey is a must-take road trip for CMOs looking to assess the state of their brand and craft a strategy for taking it to the next step. The milestones are shown in the figure below:

The roadmap traces a deepening connection between brand and consumer built on a foundation of customer-obsessed experience delivery and powerful emotional connections. Good brands succeed in being salient, inducing trial, creating memorable experiences, and forming emotional bonds. Amazing brands do more – they energize the entire brand-consumer relationship in a way that creates a resonant and enduring bond. Brands that achieve this resonance are twice blessed -  they reap the rewards of loyalty with existing customers and also set in motion a powerful recommendation engine which feeds the awareness and salience funnel. As Forrester research has consistently shown, word of mouth and recommendations are far more credible than brand-generated paid and earned media.

In the report, I provide several best practices of brands on this journey from salience to resonance; here are a few:

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Amazon Spends Big To Deepen Its Customer Relationships

James McQuivey

Wall Street followers found much to be concerned about in Amazon's quarterly earnings. Shipping costs went up 43%, operating costs are up 29% overall and the company's operating margin fell to a ghastly 1.8% (down from 4.2% the quarter previous). In light of all this, the stock is down 6% in after-hours trading.

Which makes the stock a buy, in my book. (Disclosure: I'm not a financial analyst, I'm a consumer market analyst, so don't take my investment advice. Oh, and I don't own any Amazon stock outside of mutual funds.)

Amazon's margin went down precisely because the right costs went up. Amazon continues to add millions of Prime customers and investing in those customers costs money. Specifically, Amazon has opened 23 warehouses since July. Those warehouses will be in position in the crucial holiday rush to ensure not just two-day delivery, but one-day delivery more and more. And in some cities, one-hour delivery.

As the Wall Street Journal quoted Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky: “We acknowledge that’s expensive,[but] customers love it.”

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Transparency Is The New Black At Delta Airlines And Everlane

Dipanjan Chatterjee

Transparency In A New Light

Brand practitioners generally talk about transparency only when crisis hits the fan. There are text book examples of how to do it right, like Johnson & Johnson's deft management of the 1982 Tylenol poisoning episodes in Chicago. And then there are recent debacles: VW’s drawn-out admission of guilt, Samsung's self-combustion, and the Wells Fargo CEO's cringe-worthy testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. Reputation experts will tell you that transparency is the perfect antidote to crisis. But I'm here to tell you that transparency is not just for crisis control. It's fast becoming the new normal. In what Forrester has called the Age Of The Customer, a significant shift has occurred - away from institutions, and toward customers.  This shift not only armed the consumer with much more information, but also created an expectation that brands share information more readily – information that may otherwise sit behind opaque corporate screens. Most of the brands are not there yet; many are still adjusting, often uncomfortably, to the vanishing asymmetry of information between brand and consumer. 

For progressive CMOs, this lag between consumer expectation and brand delivery presents an opportunity to differentiate the brand. Proactively trumpeting transparent brands and giving customers the tools to benefit from this transparency can be a game changer and a source of advantage. Everlane, an online retailer of clothes and accessories, and Delta Airlines provide excellent examples of how to do this right.  

Two Case Studies in Transparency

Everlane 

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September of Sapphire: How The New Chase Credit Card Became An Overnight Sensation

Dipanjan Chatterjee

Ben Schlappig doesn’t have a home. He lives on planes and in hotel rooms. And he’s a big reason why Chase’s new credit card has generated unprecedented hysteria.

The credit card business is not where you go to get a brand fix. Most of the brands in this category tread water in the sea of sameness, inspiring little passion and much aggravation by inundating mailboxes with junk mail. And then there's the new Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • The card was so wildly popular that, upon launch, Chase ran through 12 months of metal stock in three weeks.
  • Unboxing videos popped up all over YouTube, clocking tens of thousands of views (yes you read that right, the nail-biting action of a credit card reveal).  
  • Chase reported an unexpectedly large number of applications from millennials, a group that so far has been generally indifferent about card brands.
  • Bloomberg Business Week put the new Chase Sapphire Reserve on its cover.

Here’s why this should have never happened:

  • As an extension of the existing Sapphire franchise, there was a fairly docile product extension
  • At a $450 annual fee, it severely limited relevance in a category awash with no-fee cards
  • The card sweetened, but did not fundamentally alter the basic formula of perks and points. Nothing earth-shatteringly innovative here.
  • Advertising and promotion leading up to the launch? Zero.
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Amazon's Customer Relationship is King: Will Yours Be a Prince or a Jester?

James McQuivey

In 2010, I wrote:

"There's a critical lesson to learn from the most recent changes in the media industry. ... while most have been distracted by the form, price, and user experience of their new digital products, a few companies have quietly overhauled the media business by focusing on something else entirely; instead of digitizing the product, these companies have digitized the customer relationship, creating a relationship that can survive the transition from traditional analog media to digital."

I was talking about Netflix, which in 2010 doubled its stock price from under $10 a share to over $20. It now hovers around $100. Back in 2010, I made it clear that this transition to relationships wasn't just about media companies, which were simply canaries in a digital coal mine:

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How Branding Can Make America Great Again

Dipanjan Chatterjee

Make America Great Again

This general election season, as the two major candidates for the United States presidency vie for supremacy in the Rust Belt, the rhetoric on job growth is hot and heavy. Much of the polemic is directed against corporations fleeing offshore in search of cheaper labor, and remedies lean toward cracking down on these companies, penalizing them for leaving. What if, instead, companies wanted to manufacture in the US? What if companies built strong American brands that commanded premium pricing to offset the cost disadvantage? What if branding could make America great again?

Baseball and Apple Pie Never Looked This Good Before

The best brands create and sustain themes of resonance. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea; some of the best emerging brands have dramtically changed the conversation between brands and their audiences. One of the shifts in the conversation has been from bigger is better to small is beautiful. The hipster holy trinity of local, artisanal, and small batch has gone mainstream. Take beer for example – local microbrews now proliferate grocery and convenience store shelves, forcing an embittered Budweiser to launch a baffling campaign lauding itself as a “macro beer.”

Here are three brands that trumpet their made-in-America story as vital ingredients of their brand personality:

  1. Allen Edmonds couples a rich heritage with an updated offering that is as relevant to millennials as it is to “suits.” 100 sets of American hands caress the leather on its 212-step journey to footwear bliss.
  2. American Giant makes what Slate calls “the greatest sweatshirt known to man” in the United States, choosing to limit spend on distribution and marketing and focusing on the product. The result: "Great product, made here, sold at prices that make sense."
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A Closer Look at the Monetary Value of Emotion

Victor Milligan

Human beings are emotional. The chemical reactions that trigger emotions determine our feelings toward a brand and our likelihood to spend. This fundamental, primal relationship is baked into how humans operate; however, it is not yet baked into how most companies operate.

Initial CX efforts gave us better insights into customer journeys across digital, physical, and human touchpoints. That opened a window into what causes emotional responses and provided an early warning system for emotions that provoke actions. But we’ve only begun to uncover the profound relationship between emotion and revenue. For example:

  • In the hotel industry, among customers who felt valued, 90% will advocate for the brand, 67% plan to increase their spending with the brand, and 87% plan to stay with the brand, per Forrester’s Customer Experience (CX) Index.
  • According to CX Index data, the TV service provider industry had the largest percentage of customers who felt annoyed compared with any other industry in our study. The result is that just 8% will advocate for the brand, only 13% plan to increase their spending with the brand, and barely 15% plan to stay with the brand.
  • Users can abandon digital sites and purchase paths within 50 milliseconds if the experience does not meet their (ever-increasing) expectations.
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