Got a Premium Brand? Here’s How to Win Over Consumers in China.

National Geographic’s 2014 Greendex found that consumer attitudes about sustainability and the urgency of climate change are shifting, although rather slowly. The 2014 study finds half of consumers surveyed are anxious about climate change’s negative impact. Chinese consumers were among a group (along with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and India) that displayed greater willingness to modify habits that affect the environment – while those from more affluent countries didn’t appear to feel as threatened by the impact of a changing climate.

It might sound strange, but could this yearning to do better in terms of sustainability and the environment represent a marketing opportunity for brands in China? We think so.

Interestingly, in our recent, unrelated global study on Premium positioning, we discovered some unique associations that Chinese consumers had with the Premium theme. Using our creative verbalization and visualization techniques, Chinese consumers were the only ones who associated environmentally-friendly, natural and healthy with Premium.

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What comes to mind when Chinese consumers think about Premium? Unlike obvious associations such as ‘special reward’ or ‘VIP treatment’ in the other markets, in China we saw strong visual associations around  natural, simple, health, good for them, and environmentally friendly. Using our engaging eCollageTM technique to express their Premium associations pictorially, Chinese consumers more frequently chose images that represented nature. And while gold and silk were among the top materials that signal premium across all markets, the Chinese were more likely to associate other materials found in nature like wood, cotton and diamonds.

Top words that are similar to Premium according to Chinese consumers include environmentally-friendly, natural, safe and dependable. Safe and dependable were notable word choices, considering recent food and product safety stories in the news.

To learn more about how Premium played out in China, and across the other markets in our study, or to learn about specific brands associated with Premium by category, download our Wooing The Premium Consumer white paper now.

Taking the Long View: Millennials Won’t Be Broke Forever

Have you seen that great ad by Miller High Life that captures the reality of cash-strapped Millennial consumers? As one of those Millennials just starting out and trying to establish a life on my own while balancing student debt – I really could relate!  Miller Beer did a great job of capturing the angst of what it’s like going from being a broke college student to a broke Millennial.  Mainly, the reality of life after college doesn’t necessarily live up to the hype.  This clever campaign highlights the opportunity for brands to connect meaningfully with my cohort – both today and into the long term.

As newly launched “real” adults, Millennials are making purchase decisions to fill refrigerators, prepare meals, clean bathrooms, do laundry completely on their own for the first time, etc.  Our recent study on student debt shows that Millennials feel under tremendous pressure to manage their financial obligations and daily expenses, citing food, clothing, travel and entertainment as the top areas they cut back on to save money.  Brands in these categories need to focus on messaging that either positions them as a good value or a necessity that can’t be cut.

More importantly, brands need to connect on an emotional level so that as these consumers mature and become more affluent, the brand continues to be relevant.  Miller’s “we get you” approach is an effective one, as would be tug-on-the-heartstrings messaging that connect brands with former family life and home, hearkening to simpler times when Mom took care of (and paid for) everything.

For more information on our Impact of Student Debt survey, click here.

The Chemistry of Attraction – Does it Work For Brands as Well as People?

Everyone has their own ideas about the chemistry that causes two people to become romantically involved. Sometimes personalities match and commonality is the key instigator, other times we might find the cliché that ‘opposites attract’ to ring true. But how does this work with brands and the way they appeal to people? It is a long-held view that empathy with consumers is a strong driver of brand equity and we often see clients wishing to understand whether their brand or product is ‘For people like me’. However, we thought that there may be more to the relationship than a simple personality match and looked to go a bit deeper by running an experiment to test our thinking.

Using both BuzzBack’s projective Blobs technique and conventional questioning involving a list of attributes, we asked 100 women who buy and use make-up to describe both their own personality as well as that of a well-known cosmetics brand. We then analysed those who said they are ‘close’ to the brand to see if any themes could be extracted and the chemistry in the personality link understood better. The results are fascinating.

There is a clear story as to how people perceive the cosmetics brand. The Venn diagram below shows the attributes that were higher than average for the self, brand or both and we see a definite theme emerging in the way the brand is seen – the most notable traits include bold, knowledgeable and powerful. This sounds like an aspirational personality which is something to strive for, rather than one which is intuitively compatible.

Ben's blog post
These findings were extended by the Blobs exercise, through which consumers ‘painted a picture’ of the brand as standing out from the crowd, being exciting and glamorous. Comparatively, much of the identity our respondents associate with themselves is one of being caring, loving and family-oriented. There is obvious difference to be seen here – although they are highly desirable qualities, a loving or kind cosmetics brand is probably not an image that would be successful.

The way the brand is seen gives a clear indication that people don’t just use cosmetics to make themselves look good, but are drawn to a brand that has a confident and forceful personality. They wish to strengthen and enhance the image of themselves that they project to the world and choose a brand that they feel gives them a boost in this way, rather than one that simply matches their own personality.

Disrupt + Differentiate… With Branding

I recently attended a great seminar organized by the Burke Institute about reporting. The seminar leader, Jim Berling, used the new Virgin America’s safety video to illustrate the point that as researchers we have to deliver actionable recommendations. We have to go beyond the So What?

We all know that not many people watch the in-flight safety instructions after boarding a flight. Ok, nothing new. But, now what? Creating an entertaining and engaging safety video is a great first step. But, it can also be used as a brand tool. And Virgin America understood it well…

This safety video did much more than deliver safety messages in an entertaining way, it reinforced the brand image of the company. The video is provocative, friendly and clever, all personality traits of the brand. Virgin America infuses their branding into every bit of the customer experience to help disrupt the industry and differentiate themselves from the other airlines. See for yourself.


Leaving Your Brand in the Hands of Teen Influencers

I saw an article in Ad Age recently that discussed how Wet Seal, the retail brand was foraying into SnapChat via a 16 year old. They hired beauty vlogger Meghan Hughes, aka MissMeghanMakeup, because the brand wanted to consciously increase their following on the hot, new social media channel. She took over Wet Seal’s SnapChat during the weekend before Christmas and chronicled her days by way of SnapChat stories. And it worked! She got them 4,000 new followers in just over 2 days.

Hiring a teenager to communicate to your brand followers may sound shocking but it’s nothing new. Other brands that have enlisted the help of a teen influencer are Taco Bell, MTV, L’Oreal and Kmart to name a few.

Seeing this article in the news reminded me of a presentation I attended back in October at an ARF Young Pros event. Jillian Curran, Senior Manager of MTV Insights provided a great overview of MTV’s study on Millennials. Their study decided to focus specifically on the younger Millennial’s (14-17 year olds) so they could get a better understanding before the group aged into their core target demographic, ages 18- to 24.

A fascinating point in the presentation was when Jillian shared this key finding: 78% of 14-17 year olds claim “someone I know would consider me an ‘expert’ in at least one thing.” If older Millennials are noted as feeling special, younger Millennials should be noted as being specialized. An image that drove this point home was of Harry Potter representing older Millennials with the word ‘specialness’ underneath, while a picture of Katniss Everdeen was chosen to represent younger Millennials with the word ‘specialism’.

Younger Millennials are taking pride in using the internet to find their own niche interests with 2/3 saying they are into something ‘random’ that other people aren’t. And when they take this knowledge to the internet, they gain a following and fast.

What do you think? Would you leave your brand in the hands of a teen influencer? Sound off below.


What’s Going On? The Strongest Weakling in the Marketing Mix…

I recently had a client tell me they only had around 2,000 GBP for a naming study. In my mind I wondered, “Why such a pittance towards such an enormously important strategic decision?” So I said, “You’ve changed your advertising 3 times in the past 5 years, the brand team has changed twice, the packaging once, yet how many times will you change your product name? The answer was probably never?” A name change or introduction is not something that should be taken lightly; it is, after all, going to stick around for (hopefully) a very long time.

We’ve worked with brands who have underestimated the equity of their name. It’s more than a label. It says so much about your product – how it sounds, what it tastes like, the experience it promises. And yet so many companies do not spend adequately on naming research. This is despite the fact that in a study of brand managers 60% say the brand name (on its own, without advertising support) can influence product sales. Further, choice of appropriate brand name is considered significantly more important than attractiveness of packaging and more important than incentive for trial. So what’s going on?

Companies considering a name change or the introduction of a new name would do well to explore the unique imagery and emotions that consumers associate with the name. We do not believe in just using direct questions – whether they will buy a product with that name, but ALSO the imagery and positioning the name conveys – how it makes them feel about the product. Often clients, who were convinced that a name change was in order, instead “pivot” and walk away with a clearer roadmap of how to better leverage the existing name.