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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Voodoo Branding

Dipanjan Chatterjee

"A Contemporary Version Of Witchcraft"

Wally Ollins, of Wolf Ollins fame and a legend of sorts in the branding world, didn’t look too kindly upon brand measurement. "There are too many people," he said "... who are fed the rubbish that if you can't analyze it - if you can't chew it up into numbers - it doesn't exist." Not one to mince words, he continued, "I deeply reject all that and find it to be a contemporary version of witchcraft." It's hard to argue with Wally; somewhere along the way doctrine and data have dulled the notion that brand is, to quote JetBlue's CEO, "the way we feel." 

The Inevitability Of Measurement

David Aaker is a legend of sorts as well in the branding world, and a lot of his work centers on brand equity. David writes of brand as an asset. And as an asset, it is must withstand financial scrutiny and ROI justification. CMOs may know it in their hearts, but CEOs and CFOs must see it on paper. That leaves us with the unenviable task of calculating the incalculable. Many have rushed forward to meet this challenge. I describe various measurement techniques in detail in my new report for Forrester clients: Branding Never Sleeps; a brief summary appears below.

Four Measurement Streams

  • The nitty gritty of brand performance is relatively easy to measure using survey, operational, and transactional data
  • Near-real time brand sentiment can be captured by social listening, although skewed samples and lack of established frameworks muddy the water
  • Perception can be surveyed, but traditional ask-and-tell tracking of emotions is fraught with problems; neuromarketing offers some emerging and exciting avenues 
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The Brand is Dead. Long Live The Brand.

Dipanjan Chatterjee

It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.

Twilight Of The Brands

In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.

In The Pink Of Health

Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:

  • More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
  • Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike. 
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Winning On The Battleground Of CX

Victor Milligan

The customer is changing market fundamentals...and customer experience (CX) is changing operating fundamentals.

In a recent webinar, key CX analysts Moira Dorsey, Harley Manning, and Blaise James tackled how CX is changing operating fundamentals with a deep dive on the state of CX and special attention to the real implications of CX.

There is broad market acceptance that winning on the basis of experience is a customer-led mandate. You can look at the reasons why from two different angles:

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CMOs, Your Role Is Evolving . . . Are You Keeping Up?

Sheryl Pattek

I recently returned from an amazing vacation in the Galápago Islands where the impact of evolution is evident all around you. It was in the amazing Galápagos where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution by means of natural selection. And it might surprise you to learn that a tiny bird called the Galápagos (or more commonly Darwin's) finch played a critical role in the formation of Darwin's theories. The diversity of the various finch species and how they evolved from a common ancestor to adapt to the different food types on each Galápagos island fascinated Darwin. Although these birds act and look pretty much alike (e.g., size, plumage, behavior), there are actually 14 species with a distinctive size and shape of their beak. Some are long and narrow to get at available food in deep cracks of volcanic rock, and some are wide and short to scoop up the moss on the flat rocks by the shoreline, along with everything in between. These birds were only able to survive the harsh and unique conditions on the Galápagos by evolving to their available food supply.

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Leadership In The Age Of The Customer

Victor Milligan

Leading through change requires that right mix of imagination, inspiration, and gritty execution. And we are in a world of change. Empowered customers and the constant and rapid wave of digital innovation are changing market fundamentals. Leaders are now challenged to respond.

I had the pleasure of hosting a discussion with James McQuivey, Carl Doty, and Sam Stern to talk leadership in the age of the customer. Our conversation covered a range of topics from having the wisdom to see the market for what it is versus how we would like the market to act to putting in motion strategic and operational change that is necessary, new, and risky. Here are the five takeaways:

  1. The customer is in motion. Customers rapidly adopt — and rapidly abandon — technologies, services, and brands. That is wonderful and scary thing. It creates new possibilities. But it also redefines the norms for churn where a decision to shift spend is made by a single experience — good or bad. This dynamic can represent a major threat to growth if companies need to absorb 10%+ churn. 
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Marketing With Virtual Reality

JP Gownder

Moonlighting as a contributor to our CMO role's research, I've just published a major new report about how virtual reality will affect marketers, collaborating with Forrester's lead on digital disruption, James McQuivey, PhD.

CMOs and other marketers have four choices when it comes to virtual reality (VR). Most of you should wait and see, because there's no business imperative to invest scarce time and resources in VR this year. But there are three other choices available to digital predators – that is, CMOs at companies that want to shape trends, not follow them:

  1. Crawl – The Coachella music festival went a step beyond providing an event app: they handed out thousands of cardboard VR headsets to attendees. Since festival-goers can't be everywhere at once, they can catch shows that happened on other stages, extending and rounding out the benefits of attendance. They recognized that consumers don't yet own their own VR devices, so they gave them out as part of the experience to deepen engagement.
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