On the back of a presentation that Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, will give about consumer engagement at next year’s Cosmetics Vision event, we spoke to him to find out the best approach to cracking this vital nut.
It is not good enough to simply make first-class cosmetic products, claims Passikoff. Evidently in a market that is constantly reinventing itself with a never-ending stream of new and improved products, giving the impression that the brand is fulfilling expectations seals the deal.
"When we speak of consumer brand engagement, we are talking about the degree to which the consumer "sees" the brand as being able to meet or even exceed expectations consumers hold for the Ideal in the category in which the brand competes,” said Passikoff.
“So first rule is be able to define your category, second is to identify what drives engagement and loyalty in your category, and third, be able to accurately identify what are the expectations held for each of those drivers that define engagement and loyalty in your category. Without that all you're doing is guessing.”
Although the same general rules exist for sealing this level engagement, what also has to factored into this equation is which retail category the product is being targeted at, as mass and luxury consumers have a very different set of ideals.
As Passikoff puts it: “Consumers do not buy colas the same way they buy computers. Each is different. And because the drivers WILL be different , the attributes, benefits, and values that make up the component parts of the drivers will be different - between drivers and categories. “
So what are the main pitfalls to avoid while trying to tackle this issue? Passikoff points out that just because a company has a market-leading expertise in producing cosmetics, it does not necessarily mean that an ability to engage the consumer will follow suit.
“It is particularly difficult to get consumers to articulate emotional connections within the cosmetics category via standard direct inquiry. Even harder to suss out real expectations. And impossible to get consumers to articulate insights as regards innovation and innovative care, which is why we utilize a generalizable, psychological approach to identifying real emotional engagement and the strategies and tactic necessary to connect with consumers.”
Passikoff believes that some companies at the top of their game can maintain a position as an ‘OK placeholder’ if they do not concentrate on consumer engagement, but that it will ultimately lose them market share and profitability.
“The worst you can do is end up in a death spiral of sales, share and profits, just like BlackBerry,” Passikoff points out.
Brand Keys publishes a an annual Index that determines customer loyalty engagement, which Passikoff will refer to and discuss extensively during his presentation.
“Specific trends include two critical aspects of branding and engagement. First, brand engagement and differentiation have become more emotionally-based than rational. Ratio is closer to 80% emotional/20% rational for cosmetics of any category, with the rational part being the 4P's of yesteryear.
“Second is the continuing increase of expectations. Over the past five years consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5%, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations, will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.”
Robert Passikoff will be one of a number of high-level speakers who will be presenting at the Cosmetics Vision event, to be held in Cannes, France, March 5 – 7. For further details about the programme and information on how to attend, please click here. http://www.cosmeticsvisionevent.com