Importance of Beverage ‘Brand’ Skyrockets With Consumers

The “Decade of the Brand” opens with 2010. That’s the critical finding of the14th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) conducted by the New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement consultancy.

For all 41 brands in the beverage category tracked in Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, attributes relating to “brand” and the degree to which brands affect customer decision-making, category expectations, and engagement have increased significantly.

“While a powerful finding, it’s not entirely surprising. Our 2009 findings predicted that value, not price, was the watchword in consumer behavior. And you can’t have the value conversation without the brand conversation, as true brands provide meaningful differentiation in a world overrun by commodities,” noted Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president.

“That makes brands a surrogate for value, and more important than ever to consumers in every category. But that’s brands — real brands, not just well-known products and services, or the latest celebrity-endorsed offerings that stand for nothing in consumers’ minds. It’s real brands that have reached their highest level of consequence since the 1960s,” added Passikoff.

“Given the levels of commoditization we’ve witnessed in the past decade, it’s no surprise that consumers are looking for brands to make a difference. The consumer value equation has shifted dramatically from ‘price-value’ to ‘value for dollar,” said Passikoff. “The undeniable fact is that consumers looking for value have been forced to look beyond mere primacy of product, price and service. With increased standardization and decreased product differentiation, a real brand can serve up the value consumers expect.”

“It is important to note that the CLEI data is predictive of coming shifts in the consumer marketplace. This particular swing, with real brands becoming more valuable to consumers, is showing up in how they view, compare and, most importantly, buy in key categories. Consumers have significantly higher expectations regarding anything where brand aspects are associated and leveragable,” said Passikoff.

Category drivers are predictive of how consumers will behave in a given category. These drivers have shifted this year, and all brand-related characteristics are making larger contributions to the consumer engagement and loyalty process, specifically in the areas where consumers expect the most in the category.

Category drivers, and the attributes, benefits, and values that make them up, including brand-related values, are critical to a marketer’s understanding of product and service engagement, and getting it right when dealing with consumers.

“Properly configured, category drivers will tell you far more than who a consumer is, which is the marketing research typical (demographic and attitudinal) point of view. They tell you what you really need to know: how consumers will behave in the marketplace and, most importantly, what will get them to behave more positively toward your offering vs. your competitors,” noted Passikoff. “This only matters, of course, if you’re keeping score by counting your sales and profits, and not merely tracking awareness levels.”

For Brand Keys 2010 survey, 33,500 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age and drawn from the nine U.S. Census regions, self-selected the categories in which they’re consumers, and the brands for which they’re customers. They were interviewed by phone, face-to-face (to account for today’s 20 percent of the population who are cell phone-only consumers) and online.

“At a time when brands are struggling to differentiate from their competition and to find ways to profitably engage their customers, the changes this year serve as a bellwether for marketers. It will be the products and services that answer with a truly consumer-centric view of their category — being a real brand — based on predictive loyalty metrics, that stand to gain the most and establish themselves as this decade’s brand leaders,” said Passikoff.
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