J.C. Penney: we learned to listen to you

To secure loyalty, a brand’s experience should reflect its consumers’ values, lifestyles and interests, sincerely deliver its promise and credibly reflect its heritage. People want to see themselves as part of the brand; sometimes a slightly more polished version but never a dramatically different persona that feels out of step with their life. Given this shifting context, when J.C. Penney evolved the brand experience to woo a younger target audience, their core audience was right to feel misplaced. Under ex-CEO and former Apple Executive, Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney, first established in the frontier lands of Wyoming in 1902 for miners and farming families, looked to become “a happy place to hang out.” Coupons were ditched in favor of everyday low pricing and old faithful lines were displaced. Check out by smart phone and Wi-Fi hot spots were central to Millennialize the retail experience and appeal to more affluent consumers. J.C. Penney’s heartland clientele did not recognize their reliable go-to brand, which to this day prides itself on its commitment to make “everyday matter.” How could this national institution believably transform overnight into Apple’s much older sister? Many labeled it an awkward branding jumble; and one that resulted in disastrous sales. At Onesixtyfourth, we believe brands should mirror societal shifts. And CultureQ, our proprietary tracker of sentiment reveals that men and women across cohorts are growing more and more tired of divisiveness in all areas of their lives; the haves vs the have nots, the young vs the over the 40’s, Republican vs Democrat, it goes on. So, what’s the impact of such divisions, and often, artificial separations imposed by...

Amazon: Keep calm & consistently practice good brand citizenship

Poor Amazon. What a difficult few months it has experienced. Back in Summer/Autumn 2012, the brand that defines Internet retailing was riding the crest of a wave. Our CultureQ participants ranked it as both a leader and a good brand citizen. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike in the UK and US believed Amazon offered products and services that simplified and enriched their lives by making shopping easier and often times cheaper. What’s more, they touted the brand for its efforts to define new lifestyles and ways of doing things. The last few months, however, have been a roller coaster ride for Amazon’s brand reputation. Despite gathering larger than ever revenues last year and sitting on pile of cash close to $9bn, the company reportedly paid paltry levels of corporation tax in Europe, something which doesn’t sit well at a time when every day people are feeling the full force of tighter fiscal management. In February, the brand’s new Kindle Whitepaper ad, Perfect at the Beach, which makes a non-issue of gay marriage, was well received by some. Early March and another hiccup - its decision to stock the awful Keep Calm and Rape Them, Hit Them, and Knife Her tee shirt line. Brand leadership requires a connection to social context With the shooting in Connecticut still fresh in American’s minds, it’s no wonder people across generations are reporting they’re still very concerned about becoming the victim of random acts of violence (CultureQ, December 2013). Furthermore, some women tell us they’re especially concerned about women’s rights and civil liberties being compromised in the US during 2013 (CultureQ, December 2013)....

Gen Y: Then there’s the reality

Lazy, obese, and pampered. A few choice myths bandied around about my generation (Millennials). And, of course, then there’s reality. Our latest round of CultureQ (December 2012) reveals we’re actually a pretty earnest lot. Because we’re so uncertain about our futures we’re intent on staying healthy, completing our education, doing our best and working hard towards getting a job. So based on the insights I’ve gleaned so far from our Millennial panel I thought I’d let you know some of the things that are really going through our minds.  Keep your eyes open because there are more insights to come…. 1. Health and Sickness Generation Y’s overall health is marked by obesity, with figures such as Michelle Obama decrying the health issue as a “national security threat.” However, despite this epidemic — or perhaps because of it — many participants of our CultureQ survey named personal health as an important goal of their lives. Almost 20% of both females and males aged 16-30 cited weight loss, exercise, or simply general fitness as a goal. “My goal is to lead a healthy lifestyle, by not eating fast food or drinking soda at all.” Gen Y, also known as the Millennial generation, has grown up in the information era. With access to comprehensive product information thanks to the Internet, Millennials have the ability to find the best services and items to promote a healthy lifestyle. Millennials’ age and life stage are also likely factors in their willingness to participate in fitness pursuits. Many of them are are high school and college students and therefore have access to team sports, free campus...

Brands: nurturing deeper connections is good business

Insights from our CultureQ study this Fall revealed technology brands are setting expectations for brand leaders across categories. From industries as diverse as confectionery, retail, home cleaning goods, to make-up we’re seeing evidence of this. And speaking as a fluent digital native, or in other words a Millennial, I see opportunities out there for brands to deepen their relationships with people, based upon how my generation thinks about and utilizes technology. So here my thoughts… We all have two identities. No, I’m not talking about some creepy AOL chatroom alias circa 1999; I’m referring to identity that members of my generation casually contrive on technological platforms. We no longer just maintain our “real-life” identities, comprised of personality, race, religion, and gender. We feel we must also maintain a current, faultless digitized image; the tweets we post daily, the Linkedin information we share weekly, and the Facebook defaults we update monthly.  While it’s not written in law, maintaining a presence on these platforms has become a kind of generational mandate, something necessary to remain socially acceptable. Statements like “I deactivated my Facebook months ago,” are usually followed by a gasp of disbelief and the immediate question of “why?” While older generations integrate technology in their lives, many are frustrated by it and some remain highly suspicious of it. They often view it as intrusive; as my Gen Xer cousin says of my unceasing email texts; “it’s enough!” Yet, how we use technology and the technological identities we carve out are much more meaningful than the superficial activities they appear to be.  As we discovered in our CultureQ study, people want...

Enhancing consumer’s daily lives & their communities fosters brand loyalty

In 2013, expect to see more leadership brands addressing local issues that are pertinent to their consumers’ lives before they campaign on behalf of global challenges. Technological advancement is a hygienic factor for all brands Why? In many ways, technological advancement – often reflected by the idea of “new and improved” – has become a hygienic factor for all brands, regardless of the category. If you don’t continuously evolve in today’s world, you are fast left behind.  So while innovation is expected from brand leaders, participants in our CultureQ research believe brands should positively use their prominence and influence first to enhance the lives of individual users and then benefit communities and society at large.  Overall, participants expect leadership brands to evolve our lifestyles, set new standards and progress society. Not surprisingly, a good product is the basis of a strong brand After years of seeking inspiration and aspiration from leading brands, people are clearly focused on the basics.  In a recent CultureQ study, 663 respondents from the US, aged 16 to 65, first and foremost characterize brand leadership by product and service excellence offered at a fair price for the quality.  Respondents, regardless of their generational cohort, decidedly rank attributes such as produces durable/reliable products or services (48%), excellent customer service (42%), and value for quality (41%) as the most important for fostering leadership from a set of 23 potential characteristics.  Unequivocally, a good product is the basis of a strong brand. Yet, respondents also tell us that to become a favorite and cultivate loyalty, a brand leader must also help me in my everyday life (62%), help...

What’s next for brands? Seven lessons from 2012.

As we’re awaiting the final results of our end of year study to gain a more in-depth understanding of the Zeitgeist, we’ve been discussing what’s next for brands in 2013 based upon our learning from CultureQ over the past Summer and Autumn.  As always, we’ve been reviewing the data from our research in the context of socio-cultural and political events. The highly anticipated IPO of Facebook, the largest in the technology sector and the second biggest offering ever, kicked off Summer. Surely, there was no clearer symbol of Facebook’s market dominance. Anticipation quickly led to speculation about the integrity of the offering, Facebook’s revenue strategy, and many of the company’s policies and strategy, and the public became more cynical about the extent to which Facebook values the people it connects. Consumers are growing notably more frustrated and less forgiving of brands they judge as taking more than they give Although participants in CultureQ respect brands such as Facebook as leaders, they are growing notably more frustrated and less forgiving of those they judge to be taking more than they give. Facebook is one of the few leadership brands that our participants did not also name as a top favorite brand. Increasingly, people’s favorites offer a mutually beneficial relationship that recognizes their contributions to brand development as well as their role in bringing a brand to life. Engaging with users as people rather than just consumers is especially important for brands that want to connect with Millennials. As summer wore on, Chick-fil-A aptly demonstrated the danger of a brand being associated with views that are misaligned with many of its...
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