Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Customer Satisfaction Rankings of Fast-Food Chains

The latest rankings are out from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and McDonald's is at the very bottom of the US fast-food restaurant industry for 2014. According to the ACSI, McDonald's has improved its US satisfaction rating since 1995--but it still is at the bottom for 2014.

Worldwide, McDonald's has more than 35,000 restaurants, so keeping every customer happy in every outlet, every day, is a challenge--especially in a chain so heavily dependent on franchised operations. As the McDonald's director of media relations says: "We are always listening to our 27 million customers every day and appreciate hearing feedback from them and other sources as it helps us improve and evolve." The McDonald's annual report notes that the company is focused on improving service and satisfaction at each "moment of truth"--each interaction or touchpoint between the company and its customer.

Interestingly, the ACSI shows that smaller US restaurant chains such as Panera and Chipotle have higher satisfaction ratings.

In 2014, the top five US fast-food chains, ranked by customer satisfaction, are:
  • Pizza Hut
  • Papa John's
  • Little Caesar
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Wendy's
In the UK, the customer satisfaction index for 2013 (most recent year available) covers a slightly different group of restaurant competitors. McDonald's is next to last in the UK, just above Burger King.

The top five UK restaurant chains, ranked by customer satisfaction, were:
  • Gregg's
  • Subway
  • Costa Coffee
  • Starbucks
  • Yum! Brands (KFC and Pizza Hut)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Got Milk? Milk's Marketing Challenges: Consumer Behavior, Targeting, Positioning

The new tagline is "Milk Life"
Who can forget the iconic "Got Milk?" milk moustache ads of yesteryear? Celebs from all walks of life were featured, as you can see here. The goal was to encourage higher milk consumption through associations with health benefits and, of course, high-profile personalities. The campaign became a big hit and a pop culture touchstone.

After nearly 20 years, however, Got Milk? is no longer the national tagline for the Milk Processors. It's still in use in California, where it originated. But the new national tagline is "Milk Life," backed by a $50 million campaign. In fact, Milk Life already has its own FB page (with 451,000 likes) and its own hashtag (#milklife).

Whether the new campaign will reverse U.S. milk consumption trends is a big question mark. Americans drink a lot less milk today than they did in 1970, and the downward trend is especially pronounced for full-fat milk.
The chart above shows that today's Millennials are drinking much less milk, compared with U.S. teens and youngsters in the 1970s. Meanwhile, nichification has resulted in a dizzying array of milk variations and alternatives. One glance at the "milk section" of the supermarket will give you a hint at the many segments being targeted and the many products being offered. This is a consumer behavior issue as much as a targeting and positioning challenge.

On the other hand, milk consumption is going up in some nations. Not in the UK, where the downward trend is evident, but in many developing countries, including China.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

B Corps Seek Triple Bottom Line

As shown in this map from the Benefit Corp Info Center, as of May 2014, 24 U.S. states had passed laws governing B corporations--benefit corporations that are motivated by making a contribution to (1) the environment and (2) society as much as by (3) profit-seeking. In other words, the triple bottom line is, well, the bottom line.

Corporations can apply for certification by B Labs to show their stakeholders that they are triple-bottom-line responsible. Customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders generally welcome the transparency and the involvement in their communities and their planet - as represented by the B corp designation. This differentiates one brand from another in a very distinct and meaningful way.

B Corporation's Facebook page celebrates every legislative change and specific events that move the movement forward.

This morning's NPR Morning Edition included a story on B corps and a closer look at one in New Hampshire, W.S. Badger, maker of Badger Balm. Take a look!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Big Data Marketing

Marketing is synonymous with Big Data marketing, says Professor Thomas Davenport of Babson College. Very good point. More than ever before, CIOs and CMOs are collaborating to make the most of data collected from every customer touchpoint and enhance/individualize the customer experience.

Big Data has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of marketing, which is why so many organizations are pouring money, time, and talent into developing such systems. But Big Data will only be a marketing boost if companies carefully analyze the teeny, tiny details and put them into proper context.

For example, Ford and its dealers found some interesting trends after implementing the company's Smart Inventory Management System--its Big Data project. They learned that buyers in South Bend, Indiana were particularly interested in trucks with green and gold features. That single data point wouldn't help Ford dealers anywhere else, because South Bend is the home of the University of Notre Dame, a green and gold school. Overall, the Big Data project is doing a great job of recommending what Ford dealers should order to meet customer demand--and making the supply chain more efficient and effective for everyone in the Ford ecosystem.

Finally, customers are understandably concerned about what Big Data means for privacy. If they are educated about the benefits, know how data will be used, and trust a brand, the majority of consumers will agree to data collection. The key is transparency.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

High Popularity + High Momentum = Superstar Brand

The agency Leo Burnett recently conducted research into how popularity and momentum affected consumer perceptions of 50 UK packaged-goods brands. Marketing Week's article about the study explains that in ranking the brands by these two criteria, Leo Burnett slotted them into four categories:
  • Superstars are both the most popular and the brands with the most momentum in the positive direction, comparing perceptions 10 years ago with perceptions today. Ben & Jerry's heads this list, followed by Red Bull.
  • Rising Stars are less popular than Superstars but have positive momentum. Eat Natural and Innocent are the top UK brands in this category, says Leo Burnett.
  • Settled Greats are, as the title implies, great brands that have been great for some time but lack a lot of momentum, such as Cadbury and Coke.
  • Former Glories were once great but are now less popular and have less momentum. Here, the two top names are UK brands Bovril and Marmite, according to Leo Burnett.
Clearly, brand equity is at stake, and the marketing stakes are high. So how can a brand provoke a surge in popularity and rise to Superstar status?

Leo Burnett cites these five attributes as drivers of super-popularity: (1) affinity (do consumers trust the brand and feel connected to it?), (2) visibility (is the brand highly visible in everyday life and 'top of mind' recall?), (3) differentiation (does the brand personality stand for fun or innovation?), (4) integrity (is the brand transparent?) and (5) longevity (is the brand enduring?).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fortune 500 Issue Page Count: Economy Is Way UP!

Time for the annual check of Fortune magazine's page count for its "Fortune 500" issue.

Not since 2005 has this issue had so many pages (meaning so much advertising and so many advertorial sections). The economy is clearly much improved, judging by the heft of this annual issue. Will the 2015 issue break the 400-page barrier?

2014: 390
2013: 352
2012: 312
2011: 316
2010: 308
2009: 276
2008: 356
2007: 386
2006: 384
2005: 410
2004: 478
2003: 410
2002: 402
2001: 474
2000: 630 - Peak of dot-com boom!
1999: 510
1998: 506

And for the record, the top 5 in the Fortune 500 listing are: (1) Walmart, (2) Exxon Mobile, (3) Chevron, (4) Berkshire Hathaway, (5) Apple.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Taco Bell Rings the Breakfast Bell

Taco Bell is making a major new products push, including new menu items to bring hungry customers into its restaurants for breakfast. One estimate puts the value of the fast-food breakfast market at $50 billion. McDonald's has had a commanding share of this market for many years, but now Taco Bell wants to ring the breakfast bell.

The centerpiece of its breakfast buzz is a waffle wrap that was cooked up in a day by the company's director for product development, adapted from a photo of a waffle breakfast she noticed on Facebook. After a period of test marketing, which drew high customer interest and media coverage, the new waffle taco was launched earlier this year.

Customers flocked to try it, more media coverage ensued, and fast-food competitors are watching closely to see how this affects the burgeoning breakfast market. Remember, no matter what brings customers in the door, simply getting them to a Taco Bell before lunch gives the company an opportunity to sell them something, whether it's a breakfast taco or a Cinnabon menu item. This change in consumer behavior can only work to Taco Bell's advantage if it has breakfast foods that are in demand.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Light Bulb Market Lights Up

A search for "new light bulb technology" returns 23 million hits. That's a lot of hits for a product first patented by Thomas Edison in 1879, 135 years ago! The product life cycle for light bulbs (a mature product, to say the least) has been extended by a variety of factors, including legal and regulatory intervention.

In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed a law calling for the phaseout of conventional incandescent light bulbs, which are highly energy inefficient. As of 2014, old-style 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs can no longer be made in the USA--which is significant because these two types of bulbs account for more than half of the consumer light bulb market.

Entrepreneurs and corporate product development execs are thinking quite creatively as they target this lucrative market. Today's innovative new bulbs not only meet new energy-saver mandates but also offer other benefits, such as soft or specific lighting (at a price). Some newer bulbs include halogen, CFL, and LED as well as other unique technologies. More are on the way. Here are just three quick examples of new light bulb technologies soon to be on store shelves:
  • The Finally bulb, which looks and lights like an incandescent bulb but uses a lot less energy. 
  • The Lumen TL800, which goes on and off or dims when you cue it with a smartphone app.
  • The Vu1, which relies on electrons striking phosphors on the glass to make the bulb glow.