After 8 years with Iconoculture, July 1 marks the day I begin a new chapter. I am leaving Iconoculture to start my own consulting practice.
In the Iconoculture methodology I found a structure for my intuition, a language to articulate my observations and a bridge from the fascinating study of people back into the business world. I was also given the runway to build a practice – my cause consumer /sustainability/shared values work blossomed from the” 5th P” session at our first client conference in 2007, to speaking with hundreds of agencies and corporate clients daily to a delivering a keynote main stage presentation about “the L word (new loyalty) at Iconosphere last month.
While I am grateful to have been given a megaphone to talk with clients about engaging differently with their consumers and their community, I am ready to work on my own to keep provoking and inspiring good, smart, values aligned brand expression.
I’ve pretty much done it all over the years: strategic consulting and advising clients from product inception to launch, interpreting data with a consumer lens, representing the consumer voice at the table for product and marketing planning, creative review, offsite creative kick offs, helping to identify consumer needs/wants/interests and adjacencies to products and services, offering context macro/micro for consumers’ holistic experiences and helping identify where brands can insert themselves, identifying consumer values and shared values with brands, always serving as an extension of the team and adviser to help clients understand industry trends and how they affect and influence consumer values and behavior.
As of July 1, 2014, I’m open for business. Spread the word. Be in touch. As my Grandma Thelma would say when she had lovingly spent the afternoon in the kitchen and a good meal was on the table ready to be devoured, “y’all come”.
(*Stopgap Note: catchy/smart/intriguing business name to be determined… Levenberg Strategic Consulting is merely a placeholder, thank goodness Minted.com makes cute/cheap business cards!)
The new, true value proposition is a VALUES proposition- you can get deeper and more frequent spending from consumers who believe they share values with the brands and companies they do business with. (just ask Motista).
These days,your product has to prove itself to consumers- consumers have tons of access to information and are getting smarter and better about how to use that information- reviews and otherwise. Many products are similar to competitors and this heightened competition is keeping prices down. Consumers are making better, more intentional choices. In some ways, the tides have turned and consumers have the upper hand.
The old definition of shareholder- meant you owned stock—these empowered consumers actually consider themselves stakeholders- they are investors and want to know what the company they give their money to- whether it is for a candy bar or an insurance policy-they want to know what they stand for- if their values are aligned with theirs.
Economists will tell us about financial decisions being based on monetary value… There is more to it than that. Everything else we do in life, we’re looking for shared values, we are like that as a species…we look for things that are just different enough but enough like us that they validate and make us feel better about ourselves.
- Some brands are starting to flex values, “values lite.”
- Some brands are going farther — reaching back into their many channels (including product development) to holistically express the value.
- Most companies/brands have a long way to go.
Here are some I’ve seen lately playing with putting values first… (ahead of product attributes/promise):
Guinness via this spot- focuses on Integrity, integrity of character that is crafted via our choices… through their tag “reach for greatness” they put the product and the brand in the background and let actions and values and aspiration be in the spotlight.. The theme running through their “Made of More campaign”- Guinness facilitates more meaningful moments in life, and can improve how we live.
Cone Communications/Duke University released research a few years back stating that people spending 2 to 3 times longer on an advertisement that had a cause associated with it—I am positing today that VALUES is the new cause.
More recently, Guinness decided to pull out of sponsorship of the New York St Patrick’s day parade because the parade wouldn’t let openly lesbian or gay groups march in the parade… Aligned with integrity, choices reflect our values
What I want to know, is what else is Guinness going to do? What do they have planned? These series of ad campaigns “Made of More” have been great- I am curious to see if Guinness will do more than just wrap their brand and being associated with their brand in an emotional package …
For a peek at what is to come in messaging from brands- values/emotional connection out in front — take a look at Dick’s Sports, Bank of America, Chevy (not even created by chevy but nails emotional connection) and most recently #FindYourYes from Kohls. The emotion is very real, tangible…. shared experiences evoke emotion.
It is an interesting time- brands have never been more fragile and on the flip side consumers have never been more open to a new kind of connection with brands than they are right now.
What to do when you have an iconoic American Brand with 90 years of heritage in need of a jump start?
Pause. Take a look at yourself. Has the look (and line extensions) changed a bit but the core remained the same? Yep.
Take a look around you. What is the big value that is surfacing among your consumers? Diversity, family, community, acceptance.
See what you have in common– Being wholesome.
– The products of Honey Maid have changed but the nucleus remains the same.
-The American Family may have changed but the values have remained the same.
And thus the birth of the Honey Maid brand purpose became:
“Reassuringly wholesome in the modern world”.
And this spot was shown and opened up a well of emotions- creating a magnetizing and polarizing response- exactly what expressing shared values is SUPPOSED to do.
And then came the second spot.
Those smart people at Droga5 got back together with Mondolez and thought about what it was that connected people about the first spot. What about family– no matter what shape it takes- do we all have in common? LOVE.
Knocked it out of the park. And have managed to keep real people, real consumers front and center to the arc of the narrative via: #thisiswholesome. And don’t miss the documentaries about the people featured in their spots-here.
This is the future of loyalty, going beyond your product attributes and prices, emotionally connecting and engaging consumers via shared values.
As I’m working on all of this shared values stuff- I’m thinking about a brand that really lost me this past year. Lululemon . I’m not going to go on and on- too many people already have (including this great New Yorker piece ). I do want to point out- if you have NO values to stand on, nothing beyond aspiration, your “loyal” customers will leave you when provoked. Here’s what they did:
- Indexed high (exclusively) on quality
- No real emotional connection for consumers other than lifestyle aspiration
- Competitors enter marketplace
- Quality of the product fails
- CEO makes damaging comments
- Bullies customers who resell product
- Customers leave
- Stock price drops
So, in the end…just like when a company like Chobani has a product recall in quality it leans on its trust, community , its “How Matters” and people come back. When Lululemon remains arrogant, people don’t.
*image above from grist.org
The Value(s) Proposition for Brands Today– new ways endear a loyal customer, that is what is on my mind.
I’m getting ready for my keynote in May. I have pivoted quite a bit from my cause-centric marketing focus towards an interest and expertise in examining the influence of shared values across different products, categories and consumer groups. I have spent the past several months examining the many facets of Loyalty- beyond the coupons, the punch cards, the frequent buyer rewards. Those programs, while still effective, are rather “tired” and crowded to boot. The average American household is a member of nearly 22 loyalty programs and yet they are only active in 9.5 of those programs.Why?
•Benefits are confusing
•Programs are commodities
•Value is hard to decipher
•Consumers are time crunched
•Too much paper and plastic
•No one feels special – new or deeply loyal customers.
And, a few other factors are at play. At CEB Iconoculture, we’ve seen the “recovering” consumer is thinking differently about how they spend their money. They are more mindful, more intentional, and increasingly see themselves as investors. Quality matters. Innovation matters. And a real factor in their decision process- one that really does affect repeat purchases and the formation of a loyal customer base: Who they give their money to matters, feeling aligned with the values of the companies they “invest” in matters, and we’re seeing evidence to prove it.
In the process of preparing my talk, in addition to the good consumer values quant work we’ve done at Iconoculture and the great Accelerating Loyalty Study published by CEB, I’ve found and leaned on a whole body of research in this field. I am excited to see so much momentum around this notion- emotional connections matter and should be considered a KPI moving into the future.
Take a look at the good work of Motista, they are doing some really interesting measurements including the spending difference between a satisfied and engaged consumer (hint: engaged, connected customers spend more). Maritz has some great studies that now have a focus on shared values as they look at new drivers for loyalty. Millard Brown and the Stengel 50 continues to cement the case that indeed – indexing high on emotional connection can bolster your brand and your bottom line.
There are some companies experimenting with putting their values out in front of their products/brand’s functional attributes. A whole bunch of companies are exploring reconfiguring their values to map to their consumer base- some more smoothly than others. I plan to offer a few case studies of brands that are getting it right or who are at least on the right path.
Loyalty is no longer a purely transactional play and the sooner that brands do the hard work of sitting down to examine what their consumers top 3 values are, what their company values are and what the intersection of those values are, the sooner they can think about what and how to find velcro points beyond the program, and gain loyal, connected and engaged customers.
I hope to see some of you in Chicago in a few weeks!
This is quite awesome.
First a writer named Kendra Eash wrote a short piece called “This Is A Generic Brand Video” – :