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    RESEARCH: Brands More Important Than Ever: Survey

    In a finding that CPG companies — and the grocers that sell their products — will no doubt cheer, the 14th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement consultancy Brand Keys, has determined that the “Decade of the Brand” is now upon us.

    In a finding that CPG companies — and the grocers that sell their products — will no doubt cheer, the 14th annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement consultancy Brand Keys, has determined that the “Decade of the Brand” is now upon us.

    For all 86 consumer packaged goods brands CLEI tracks, attributes relating to brand and the degree to which brands impact customer decision-making, category expectations and engagement have risen considerably.

    “While a powerful finding, it’s not entirely surprising,” said Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff. “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.”

    Continued 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. 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.”

    Category drivers indicate how consumers will behave in a given category. According to Brand Keys, these drivers have shifted this year, and all brand-related characteristics are making bigger contributions to the consumer engagement and loyalty process, particularly in areas where consumers expect the most in the category.

    “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,” explained Passikoff. “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. This only matters, of course, if you’re keeping score by counting your sales and profits, and not merely tracking awareness levels.”

    Brands that received the highest loyalty and engagement assessments for 2010 included the following:

    Breakfast Cereal: Adults

    1.    Cheerios
    2.    Kix
    3.    Honey Nut Cheerios
    4.    Frosted Mini Wheats
    5.    Raisin Bran
    6.    Special K
    7.    Honey Bunches of Oats
    8.    Corn Flakes
    9.    Post Grape-Nuts
    10.    Post Raisin Bran
    11.    Fiber One
    12.    Chex
    13.    Rice Krispies

    Laundry Detergent

    1.    Tide
    2.    Cheer
    3.    Wisk
    4.    Gain
    5.    All
    6.    Purex
    7.    Era
    8.    Arm & Hammer
    9.    Bold

    Paper Towels

    1.    7th Generation
    2.    Bounty
    3.    Viva
    4.    Basic
    5.    Brawny
    6.    Scott
    7.    Mardi Gras

    Pasta Sauce

    1.    Barilla
    2.    Classico
    3.    Colavita
    4.    Newman's Own
    5.    Rao’s
    6.    Healthy Choice
    7.    Emeril
    8.    Ragu
    9.    Buitoni
    10.    Progresso
    11.    Prego
    12.    Hunt’s

    “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,” observed Passikoff. “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.”

    He warned, however, that companies should promptly take advantage of the knowledge gleaned by the survey. “If consumer packaged goods marketers think that differentiating their products and services, and engaging consumers is hard now, just wait until they try doing it when their brands devolve into category place-holders, a product or service that everyone knows, but doesn’t know for anything in particular,” noted Passikoff. “That’s when no discount will be deep enough, which is a hard lesson that many retailers have already learned.”

    For its 2010 survey, Brand Keys polled 33,500 consumers, 18 to 65 years old, who were drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions and self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers. The respondents 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.

    The complete listing of the 71 category rankings is available at www.brandkeys.com/awards.

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