What’s problematic about loyalty and engagement is that expectations are moving targets.
There’s a line in the movie Wag The Dog, delivered by actor Bill Macy, that goes, “Two things I know to be true. There’s no difference between good flan and bad flan, and real loyalty and engagement metrics are predictive.”
OK, I added the part about loyalty and engagement. But it doesn’t make the statement any less true.
Twenty-first century loyalty is (or should be) identified by measuring how well your brand is able to meet expectations – expectations consumers hold for their ideal in the category where your brand competes. Do that and you engage the consumer more resolutely. Do that, and you have more loyal customers. Do that and your brand will be more profitable. Do that and you will receive riches and adoration far beyond those of mortal marketers.
How am I so sure? Myriad independent validation studies have, substantiated my original statement. About loyalty and engagement, not flan. What’s problematic about loyalty and engagement, although not flan, is expectations are moving targets. They’re not static. They don’t remain in one place no matter how successful a particular product might be.
Anyway, a little more than 11 years ago, while examining leading-indicator values and expectations in our annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index in the then-nascent “tablet” category, we noticed that consumer values dealing with tablets and mobile phones were blending. We observed tablet attributes, benefits, and values were combining with mobile phone attributes, benefits, and values. Back then Brand Keys christened the fusion of phone and tablet a “phablet.”
OK, not the most creative of titles in the world, although I would point out it did get co-opted pretty quickly by media and tech writers for a bit back then. Not so much today, but still. Good researchers should give attribution. Keep in mind, this was more than a decade ago. At that point-in-time it really didn’t matter what we called them because there weren’t enough of them to matter or measure. We did, however, mention they might require larger pockets in clothing.
As regards brands’ desires to identify and measure meaningful consumer values ahead of the competition (i.e., predictive planning and marketing) it’s worth calling out that this particular amalgam showed up on the loyalty and engagement radar screen waaay before the mass marketing of a galaxy of large-screen devices. A little ahead of its time? For sure. But that’s the beauty of real loyalty and emotional engagement metrics. They’re leading-indicators. Signs of what’s going to happen down the road, and what consumers really want. Usually 12 to 18 months before these values get articulated. So predictive. We did mention this was back in 2009, right?
You can innovate all you like, but if consumers don’t think what you’re innovating meets their expectations, you’re pretty much out of luck!
Five years later (that would be mid-2014) we were gratified to read in Molly Wood’s New York Times “Machine Learning” column, “. . . despite a somewhat mocking moniker, the ‘phablet’ (phone plus tablet) is here to stay.” BTW, we weren’t mocking the concept when Brand Keys gave it that sobriquet. How customer values in categories shift can have serious repercussions for brands, and it seemed to be pretty self-explanatory designation. Anyway, Ms. Wood went on to predict seven and eight-inch phones would replace tablets of the same size. And, just like we suggested five years earlier, she too noted they might require bigger pockets. There are, after all, always practical issues to be dealt with.
Corroborating Brand Keys’ predictions was the big call by handset makers at the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, for. . . wait for it. . . bigger phones! It’s always nice to have your insights and metrics validated in the real marketplace, which real loyalty and engagement metrics usually are. The new 2014 “Big Idea” was a big screen. And Samsung introduced their Galaxy S5 (at 5.1 inches), which became their Note series. It has been pretty successful, the exploding battery model notwithstanding.
What’s the big deal? Well, technology is, indeed, driven by corporate innovation, but it’s mostly driven by consumer expectations. Brands that better meet those expectations always do better in the marketplace than those that can’t. You can innovate all you like, but if consumers don’t think what you’re innovating meets their expectations, you’re pretty much out of luck!
Why bring it up now? Well Samsung may be getting out of the phablet – I mean, Note –business. Note users don’t panic! At least not yet. Last week, at an event where Samsung usually unveils their newest Galaxy Note models, they introduced two new folding phones instead. Tech watchers prophesied this was the beginning of the end for the Galaxy Note line. Samsung just said this was not a Note year. You’ll have to be the judge on that one. But keep in mind Samsung’s Note series ultimately had the effect of supersizing all smartphone screens.
Remember the comment we made about the need for bigger pockets? And then Ms. Wood’s comments 5 years later about bigger pockets? Well, here’s the practical aspect of all this. The foundational elements for the phablet were a phone + a tablet, the phone part of that being pretty critical at the time. But talking has morphed to texting, so there are fewer reasons to take a tablet-sized phone out of a bigger pocket and hold it to your ear. Also, Bluetooth and Airpods, those white things that look like you have Q-tips in your ears, mean pretty much being hands- free.
So, if the size and convenience and apps and cameras are all built into to most smartphones (including Samsung’s new foldable phones), why continue to market the Note? Sure, there are a lot of people who are loyal and engaged with it (there’s an actual petition on Change.org to Save the Note) but that’s been true about lot of products that were innovative and are now just footnotes in The History of Popular Products that Now Reside in the Back of Your Junk Drawer. Remember the Walkman and Palm Pilots and iPods? But that’s the way it goes with innovation – unless you’ve got early-warning loyalty and engagement research to rely on to keep you ahead of consumer expectations.
So, what do you think? Which values will supersede others? Smartphones? Tablets? Notes? Something else? Something that folds? Will consumers expect a new configuration? Something bigger? Or smaller? Does size really matter? All reasonable questions.
But if you get your predictive metrics right, the only question from consumers that will matter will be, “Where can I get one?”
Robert Passikoff is founder and CEO of Brand Keys. He has received several awards for market research innovation including the prestigious Gold Ogilvy Award and is the author of 3 marketing and branding books including the best-seller, Predicting Market Success. Robert is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.