Disney, Oakley, Sephora, Zara and Anthropologie do the best job keeping customers connected and engaged. Fossil, Michael Kors, Coach and Bath & Body Works aren’t far behind.
That’s according to a survey measuring “brand actualization” conducted by FRCH Design Worldwide, the strategy, design and architecture firm for the retail, restaurant and hospitality sectors.
Brand actualization is FRCH’s system for measuring how well brands and retailers interact with consumers — or as Tom Custer, vice president of marketing and client development for FRCH, called it, “a strategic framework we created measuring the point when functional and emotional needs are met and when consumers and brands are united in shared ownership and a mutually beneficial relationship.”
The survey polled 2,500 consumers nationwide rating 50 retailers on 40 attributes. Of those 40, FRCH sees seven as most important in driving brand engagement. “We call them ‘the mighty seven,'” said Emily Hamilton, FRCH’s brand experience marketing manager. The seven are:
• Advocacy: when consumers become advocates of a brand to others.
• Relationship: when there are two-way communications between a retailer/brand and customers.
• The corporate soul: when a brand is true to its mission, social causes and environmental concerns.
• Experiences: the degree a brand engages the senses and imagination and creates a sense of place.
• Image and personality: a brand’s visual imagery, tone and degree that it’s identifiable beyond the logo.
• Craft: the quality and variety of a brand’s products and services.
• Technology: the effectiveness of Web, mobile, in-store and social media.
The polling and research were completed last year online and were presented at GlobalShop. FRCH designed the survey and chose the 50 brands from the luxury, fast-fashion, sporting goods, discounting and grocery sectors as well as heritage brands and up-and-coming retailers. FRCH tapped the database of Nielsen to recruit the 2,500 consumers who represented a national sample and shopped the brands. While Nielsen did the collection or “fielding” of the data, FRCH did the analysis. Brand actualization scores could range from zero to 100.
The survey sheds light on the strengths and weaknesses, or opportunities, of the brands. For example, Oakley with a high score of 74.69, excelled in the “craft” category, among others, with high quality and innovative products and services, though Oakley could improve its advocacy score, specifically, on whether it’s a store shoppers like to take people to, according to data from the survey. Oakley has a strong following but doesn’t necessarily generate a lot of word of mouth.
Zara, with a total score of 71.16, scored high on advocacy, for fast fashion, low prices and its “cool factor,” but has room for improvement with its corporate soul, meaning it’s not always strongly recognized as a company that gives back.
Anthropologie received a score of 70.85, buoyed by its memorable store experience evoking a sense of discovery, though the brand fell short on using technology to further the experience. The opportunity is to implement technology that does not distract from the store’s unique experience and complements the brand’s distinctive tone.
H&M, with a score of 64.25, rated high for its social media presence and engaging followers with inside access to events such as Coachella, The Met Gala and exclusive brand launches for collaborations like Balmain or Alexander Wang. But the data showed that H&M has an opportunity to make more personal connections to consumers.
“In general, when we deep dive into each category and brand, there are surprises in terms of huge opportunities. For example, on a scale of 100 points, Disney was only 76.65. Disney has a lot of opportunity,” Hamilton said.
Those achieving the lowest scores on the brand actualization survey were J.C. Penney, Walgreens, Safeway/Albertsons, Wal-Mart and Dollar General. They ranged from J.C. Penney’s at 53.55 to Dollar General at 45.64.
Custer also said brand actualization scores don’t necessarily correlate with financial performance. “Wal-Mart is a strong retailer, but when it comes to brand engagement the company falls way down on the list,” with a score of 47.
“Brand strategy and research is fairly new at FRCH and beyond the research we can use this as a strategic framework if we are redesigning a prototype experience. For example, we might look at the technology to understand what is really going to engage the customer,” Custer said.
“Brand actualization is not focused on revenue, which can just show a static moment-in-time. It’s about the equity a brand can build through its engagement with consumers,” Hamilton said. “Each one of the mighty seven is measuring not only what a brand is putting out there but how consumers are reacting to it. It’s different from a ranking of top 100 brands, or the most recognized brands.”
The idea is to get more into the heart and soul of a brand – its attributes, strengths and weaknesses — before FRCH embarks on a project. “We see a lot of brands just jump in and really not figure out what the issues are,” Hamilton said.
Custer said the results of the survey should still be relevant into 2017. “Brands can’t change that fast,” he said.