Engagement Labs’ CEO Remarks on His Induction to Market Research Council Hall of Fame

Ed Keller inducted into the Market Research Council 2020 Hall of Fame The following is a transcript of Ed Keller’s thoughtful acceptance speech at his induction into the Marketing Research Council’s Hall of Fame. In 2014, Keller was also elected to the Word of Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Chartered in 1927, the Market Research Council is the oldest and one of the most prestigious market research organizations in the world. The MRC Hall of Fame annually recognizes outstanding marketing research professionals since 1977 celebrating leaders such as Arthur Nielsen, David Ogilvy and Burns Roper.  

Introduction by Josh Chasin, President of Marketing Research Council (MRC)

Ed Keller is a true pioneer in the field of word of mouth marketing measurement. Ed’s career spans four decades, starting with Yankelovich and then Roper Starch Worldwide (later Roper ASW), where he rose to CEO. A former President of the MRC and member of the ARF Board, Keller started the Keller Fay Group with Brad Fay, and developed the only syndicated tracking study of Word of Mouth, which is acknowledged as the standard by which offline consumer conversation is measured. That work evolved when Keller Fay merged with Engagement Labs and is now the only data and analytics platform to integrate offline and online word of mouth, with predictive analytics to prove their significant impact on marketing ROI and brand performance. In addition to being inducted this year into the MRC Hall of Fame, Keller was also inducted into the Word of Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame in 2014.  

Keller Acceptance Speech

Thank you, Josh. And thanks to the MRC membership. This is a wonderful honor. Let me start by congratulating my fellow inductee today, Alan Wurtzel, the long-time and highly regarded President of Research and Media Development for NBCUniversal. And congratulations to Kalinda Fisher as the inaugural MRC Change Maker Award Winner. I would also like to acknowledge an amazing group of other current practitioners who were nominated this year. I’m humbled that I am receiving this award today when each and every one of them is so deserving. There have been 97 inductees into the Market Research Council Hall of Fame before today. I am proud to say that my lineage is tied to 10 of them. These are luminaries from the firms I worked for, including three of the founding fathers of our industry: Daniel Starch, who founded his firm in 1923 and was a pioneer in advertising research; Elmo Roper, who started his firm in 1933 and — along with George Gallup — invented the field of public opinion polling and scientific sampling; and Elmo “Budd” Wilson, who founded International Research Associates in 1948, which pioneered international research. (In case you didn’t catch it, two out of those three “founding fathers” were named Elmo. When I started at Roper Starch Worldwide, I joked with my wife that our first born would need to be named Elmo – thankfully we had two girls.) Those three all predated me, but I was fortunate to work with the other seven. These include Dan Yankelovich, Florence Skelly, and Kevin Clancy from Yankelovich Skelly and White, where I began my career and enjoyed 5 amazing years. And there are four from Roper Starch Worldwide: Jay Wilson, Elmo Wilson’s son; Bud Roper, Elmo Roper’s son; Harry O’Neill; and Timothy Joyce. I had the honor to introduce both Jay and Harry when they were inducted. I stand on their shoulders. What made them all stand out was not just their success as professionals, but also that these were wonderful people, so smart and so giving of their time to me and others who worked with them.

Remembering my mentors

Denzel Washington once said, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.” “A mentor,” observed Oprah Winfrey, “is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” I was blessed in my career to have amazing mentors. I’d like to acknowledge a few of them today. The first is George Gerber, the long-time and renowned dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, with whom I studied from early in my undergraduate days through my graduate training. Gerbner was one of the foremost scholars studying the impact of violence on television. Among his contributions are what he called the Mean World Syndrome that posited that television violence influenced the public’s conceptions of violence in their lives and in society, making them more fearful and of the belief that the world is more violent and brutal than it really is. New York Times Columnist David Brooks recently invoked Gerbner and the Mean World Syndrome in an Op Ed following the Republican National Convention entitled Trump and the Politics of Mean World. In addition to all the typical things a graduate student learns from his advisor, including as a research and teaching assistant, I will never forget a career changing conversation Gerbner had when I asked him to provide a job reference for my first job offer. I finished graduate school in the fall of 1978, the year of a Yankee World Series Championship (Go Yanks!) but also the Energy Crisis, double digit inflation, and an impending recession. It was not an easy time to find a job to say the least. I finally received an offer. They called Gerbner to ask about my credentials. They asked him at the end if there was anything else about Ed Keller that he wanted to discuss. He said, “Yes. I know why Ed Keller is well qualified for this job; but why is this job good enough for Ed Keller?” My jaw dropped when he told me this, but it was also a powerful reminder to set high standards and not settle. I took his advice and turned down the offer. Shortly thereafter I had two additional job offers, including one with Yankelovich Skelly and White, which launched my career in the market research industry. I worked there for 5 years with Madelynn Hochstein as my boss and an early guiding light; then Arthur Shapiro, a senior Yankelovich executive at the time, invited me to start a business with him. That’s a story in its own right but time won’t permit me to tell it today except to thank both Arthur and Madelynn. In 1986 I joined Roper Starch Worldwide, and my career became heavily influenced by two MRC Hall of Famers and mentors. Bud Roper and Jay Wilson. Bud was a highly regarded public opinion pollster. He placed particular attention on the importance of question wording. In fact, his obituary in the LA Times was headlined, Burns ‘Bud’ Roper, 77: Pollster Who Changed Focus of Questions. He authored this now-classic political question, which I am sure you all know: “Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction today, or do you feel that things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?” I learned a huge amount from Bud about questionnaire writing, as well as how to think creatively about study design. I also learned important lessons about integrity and ethics in marketing and opinion research. He believed strongly in openness, honesty, admitting one mistakes if and when they happened, and generally adhering to the highest ethical standards. My other mentor at Roper Starch Worldwide was Jay Wilson, who was CEO until our sale in 2001 to NOP World. I served as his COO and then succeeded him as CEO.   I learned a huge amount from Jay about the business of market research and leadership, and I gained tremendously from his being a good and loyal friend. Unlike Dan Yankelovich, Florence Skelly or Bud Roper, Jay was not a researcher by training but a salesman; before he entered the research industry, he sold ad space for the Reader’s Digest. Jay proudly displayed a sign on his desk saying, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” I can certainly relate to that, especially after I started my own company. Jay’s philosophy for building a successful business was to find unfulfilled information needs and find ways to fill them. This helped guide me as Brad Fay and I set out on the pathway to start up the Keller Fay Group. There are a lot of reasons why Jay was so successful. But at the core was his truly heartfelt belief that ours is “a people business,” a phrase he would often repeat. He placed a priority on identifying talent, nurturing it, and getting the most out of the people who worked for him. I’ve tried to incorporate this philosophy in my career, too. Jay was generous to me not only while I worked for him at Roper Starch, but also when Brad Fay and I launched the Keller Fay Group in 2005. Jay was the first in line to help us with his advice, encouragement and to help us secure funding, from both himself and from the long-time investors in Roper Starch Worldwide, Loeb Partners.  

Word of Mouth Marketing

My on ramp to word of mouth marketing came as a result of the 2003 publication of my book, The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy. I was still CEO of Roper at the time and wrote the book to help boost the visibility of this trend setting segment of the population that we had tracked for many years in Roper Reports, our trend research service. Early in the book, I wrote these lines that would come to define the next chapter in my career: “The American public has long known the value of word of mouth recommendations. Americans today are far more likely to turn to friends, family, and other personal experts than to use traditional media for ideas and information on a range of topics. . . .This is the bottom line: when Americans make decisions today, it’s a conversation. Before Americans buy, they talk. And they listen.” Word of mouth marketing was gaining – or shall I say, regaining – favor. My book put me firmly into that world, and led me to meet a group of really smart entrepreneurs who were starting companies to serve this rising demand. We formed a community and a trade association, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, for which I served as the first Board Chair for a few years. In the measurement arena, all the action was around the emerging world of social media listening with companies like Buzz Metrics, which later became Nielsen Buzz Metrics.  Brad and I knew that offline word of mouth was of equal if not greater importance. So, we took a play straight out of Jay’s playbook – find unfulfilled information needs and fill them. We created a methodology to measure offline word of mouth and syndicated it through a system we called TalkTrack. I will always be grateful to Kate Sirkin and Starcom who became our first client. We demonstrated at that time – and it remains true today – there is far more offline word of mouth than there is posting on social media.  We then joined forces with Engagement Labs to expand our focus from offline word of mouth only, to a broader perspective including the integration of word of mouth and social media. We built and launched a platform called TotalSocial that integrates the two. We demonstrated that there is no correlation between what gets said on social media and what gets talked about offline – in other words, one is not a mirror on the other; and our analytics proved that word of mouth and social media are each predictors of business outcomes such as sales and brand health, with offline word of mouth playing a slightly bigger role. I am proud of our work as it shines a light on important elements of the marketing ecosystem and the forces that drive marketing success that are otherwise unmeasured and therefore unmanaged. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all my colleagues at Engagement Labs, and none larger than to Brad Fay. I started working with Brad when he was right out of graduate school back in 1988, based on the very good advice of Bud Roper who had been his graduate school professor. I saw in Brad someone with tremendous intellect, creativity, and integrity, and it’s for that reason 7 years later I asked him to join me as my business partner. My thanks to Brad for decades of partnership and it’s my hope that one of these days soon, you too will be receiving this award. And lastly, I would like to thank the partner who really contributed the most to whatever success I have achieved, my wife of 35 years, Karen. And I love watching the budding careers of my two daughters, Isabel and Meredith, both of whom are destined to achieve great things. Let me end with this quote by Albert Schweitzer: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I have always loved being a part of the market research industry, loved the work I do, loved the colleagues and clients I’ve been able to work with, and I truly appreciate this honor. Thank you all very, very much.

The New Conversation Commanders of COVID Era

Part 3: 28 Brands That Join a Select List, Commanding Both Online and Offline Conversation

shutterstock_1723428592 This is the final installment of a three-part series on “Conversation Commanders.” These are the select few brands that excel at both offline and online conversation. It’s not an easy feat, but highly beneficial to those that are able to do so. Here we feature those that have risen this year to Conversation Commander status. If you’ve missed Part 1 or Part 2, brands that have been Conversation Commanders last year and this year, give them a quick read!   Brands earning lots of positive consumer conversation in social media can’t count on doing the same in everyday offline conversation, as Engagement Labs analytics have proven again and again for more than a decade. We find no consistent relationship between online and offline conversation trends for brands. Nevertheless, 76 brands out of more than 650 measured manage to succeed both online and offline, earning the designation of a “Conversation Commander.” Among these brands, 28 achieved that designation just recently, during the COVID era, replacing 37 brands that have dropped out of the top classification. New Conversation Commanders Brands of Covid Era One key example of a rising brand is the Disney+ streaming service, a brand that is less than a year old, meaning it didn’t have a chance to be a Conversation Commander a year ago. Even so, Disney+ is now one of the strongest leaders both online and offline. On a 0-100 scale, Disney+ clocks in at a 73.1 for offline conversation performance, the highest among the new Conversation Commanders. It also earns a 58.4 for social media performance. The other brand making the biggest leap into the Conversation Commander category also is a media brand: HGTV. Thanks to a dramatic rise in both offline and online net sentiment, reflecting much more positive conversation, HGTV is now one of the strongest conversation brands in Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial® measurement system. The HGTV brand has benefited from the new focus of consumers on home and garden improvement, the focus of programming on HGTV. The New Conversation Commanders Outside of the media category, many other brands are gaining thanks to successful programs they have launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. GEICO is a case in point. The brand moved sharply upward into the Conversation Commander quadrant thanks to dramatic improvements—both online and offline—in sentiment and “influence,” meaning well-connected people were talking about the brand. It is the only financial services brand to earn Conversation Commander status. A likely reason is during the pandemic GEICO announced it would rebate 15% of customers premiums due to the rapid decline in auto accidents, for a total of $2.5 billion in rebates. The rebates were promoted in heartwarming, pandemic-themed commercials, including one that has been watched by more than 10 million people on YouTube. Budweiser is the only brand in the beverage category to hold the Conversation Commander status for 2019 and 2020. Samuel Adams is the only other beer brand to move into the Conversation Commander for 2020 while many beer brands—Bud Light, Coors Light, Blue Moon, and Miller—have dropped out of that top right quadrant due to the closure of bars and restaurants where lots of conversations about beer occur. Sam Adams has done it by adapting their “Your Cousin from Boston” series of commercials to the COVID era with commercials depicting Zoom calls among friends. The brand also has launched an economic relief program for restaurant workers unemployed by the pandemic. Although Samuel Adams remains one of the less frequently talked about brands in our TotalSocial system, the conversations about the brand are even more positive than before, especially offline conversations, and more of them are being stimulated by Sam Adams advertising and marketing. Despite steep declines in the purchases of automobiles during the pandemic, Hyundai has become a Conversation Commander by improving both online and offline net sentiment. The company has been especially proactive in offering COVID programs to customers, including its job loss protection program that was first offered during the 2009 financial crises and donations for COVID testing. The brand also gained positive sentiment in April when it launched an Earth Day social media campaign with the K-pop group BTS in support of its new electric vehicles. One impact of the pandemic has been increasing consumer engagement in basic product categories often taken for granted. Some of the fastest rising conversation volumes during the pandemic have been registered for household products such as Clorox and Lysol, and supermarkets like Kroger. Fitting that pattern, the Huggies brand from Kimberly Clark has moved into the Conversation Commander category. The brand has benefited from the new focus on necessities, and the brand has been responsive to the pandemic by donating 5 million diapers and $1 million in funds to economically strapped families. Consumer conversation trends provide brands with an indication of the underlying strength of their brands at a time when consumer purchases are depressed by the pandemic, particularly in non-essential categories. Brands that have responded most effectively to the pandemic through changes in products, messaging, and marketing should be in the best position to rebound once the economy returns to normal. Importantly, brands need to remember that social media alone cannot provide a holistic perspective on their performance, given the lack of correlation between online and offline conversation. A TotalSocial perspective is vital during these difficult times. And knowing that online and offline each drive positive business outcomes such as sales and brand health, it is a strategy that will reward those who succeed. Brands that Lost Conversation Commander Status During COVID Era

Lessons from the Leaders of Social Influence

Part 2: Five Brands that Excel at Both Online and Offline Social Engagement

LessonsFromLeadersCoverimage Last week we talked about the 45 brands that achieved strong performance both offline and online, placing them among the top 10% of all brands we measure. Their ability to activate consumer engagement via both channels is powerful and drives millions of dollars to their topline. These brands that command consumer conversations achieve “social success” through a variety of methods. To illustrate that point, we’ve selected five brands that were “Conversation Commanders” before the pandemic and remain so in 2020.  

Amazon: Commanding the Conversation, Online & Offline

Amazon gets a lot of attention for dominating the retail landscape, particularly during the pandemic. It also is a commander of the American consumer conversation. Amazon is the third most talked about brand offline—behind only Apple and Walmart—and the seventh most talked about online. Since the pandemic struck, Amazon’s volume has risen both offline and online. The chart below shows scores of between 0 and 100 on four dimensions—volume, net sentiment, “brand sharing,” and “influence.” Each of those dimensions is measured in offline conversations and in online social media. The scores are derived to compare a brand’s performance on a metric to nearly 650 other brands performed. A score of 100 is the maximum, 50 is about average, and 0 is the lowest possible score. Conversation Commander - Amazon TotalSocial Performance Despite Amazon being a brand of the digital economy, it performs more strongly in everyday, offline conversations than it does in social media, with an overall offline score of 75.2 and an online score of 56.4. This pattern is particularly evident when it comes to the net sentiment of conversations, for which Amazon scores much higher offline (70.2) than online (44). Indeed, for every dimension measured, Amazon’s offline score is higher than the corresponding online score, despite the brand’s enormous online footprint. This is consistent with a pattern we have seen throughout the growth of the digital economy. Increasingly, consumers talk offline about the things they see and experience online. It’s long past time to think in terms of two separate worlds, digital and analog. Powered by mobile technology, the two worlds are almost fully blended now for consumers; they should be for brands, as well.

Vans: A Beloved Youth Brand Earning Conversations with Content

Several athletic shoe brands are Conversation Commanders, including Nike and Adidas, thanks to highly successful efforts to make themselves the centers of conversation and the larger culture. We have written previously about Nike, in particular. The Vans shoe brand has also achieved Conversation Commander status while being deeply imbedded in a more niche culture: youth skateboarding. As proof of the brand’s targeted focus, a recent commercial includes the comment, “Everything is so much better when you are like, young.” They’ve remained a youth brand despite being around for more than five decades, having achieved notoriety in 1982 when a young Sean Penn donned a pair of Vans in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The focus on youth means the conversation is really limited to people under 30 years of age, producing relative low “volume” scores for Vans, in contrast to Amazon or Nike. It’s difficult to generate a lot of conversation when you are just speaking to a slice of the consumer market. But, those who talk about the brand love it. The brand has extremely high net sentiment scores for conversations occurring both offline (72.6) and online (72.9), with an 18-pt increase in online sentiment, compared to last year. Conversation Commander - Vans TotalSocial Performance One thing that has changed in recent months is the amount of “brand sharing” related to Vans. Consumers talking offline about Vans are increasingly likely to talk about advertising and other brand content they have seen, particularly digital content they talk about offline. The consequence is that the offline brand sharing score has jumped from the mid-range of 40-60 points up to a score of about 90 since early May, as shown in the chart below. Vans Brand Sharing Scores The rise corresponds with pandemic and social-justice initiatives of the brand, including a campaign called “Foot the Bill” that has empowered 80 small businesses to generate revenue while closed during the pandemic by designing and selling custom Vans products.

Budweiser: Commanding Conversation, Even Without a Bar Scene

Budweiser is the only beer brands that was a Conversation Commander one year ago and has remained so. Bud Light, Coors Light, Blue Moon, and Miller Beer have all dropped out of the Conversation Commander quadrant, while Samuel Adams has moved up. Budweiser performs most strongly on the online dimensions of brand sharing and sentiment, and the offline dimensions of sentiment and volume. The erosion of word-of-mouth for beer brands has occurred primarily in the offline conversation metrics, likely due to the loss of public bars and restaurants as places where people consume and naturally talk about beer brands, and also due to the sharp reduction in professional sports during the first few months of quarantine, which normally provide powerful advertising opportunities both on television and in arenas and which in turn drive conversation. Conversation Commander - Budweiser TotalSocial Performance Why has Budweiser retained its position? The main reason is that the brand’s offline sentiment has improved in recent months, rising to the top score among all beer brands during the first six months of the pandemic at 77.8. More recently, in July and August, the brand reached an offline net sentiment score of 89.3. The improvement is driven by its core demographics: affluent and middle-aged men. Budweiser Sentiment Scores To what do we owe this love of the Budweiser brand? One part may be its association with the pandemic efforts of parent brand Anheuser-Busch, which converted some production to making hand sanitizer. The brand itself also reprised its 9-11 themed commercial in support of a nation dealing with a global pandemic. But another possibility may be that the pandemic has brought on a sense of nostalgia for the lifestyles and brands of days-gone-by, including the “king of beers” that in America dates back to the 1850s.  

Food Network Rebounds with Renewed Focus on Home Cooking

Media brands have a built-in advantage over other brands when it comes to driving conversations, because they are platforms for distributing engaging content that is meant to generate water cooler conversation and attract families to watch programs together. This is evident in the fact that media brands usually have high “brand sharing” scores, both online and offline, because of conversations generated by their content. The Food Network is an example of a media brand that has retained its status as a Conversation Commander—thanks to the pandemic. Over the prior year, the brand’s offline conversation levels had been steadily eroding, hitting a low point in December 2019. The fact is, Americans have been forced to rediscover their kitchens, making programming related to food and cooking relevant in a way it hasn’t been for at least a generation. Conversation Commander - Food Network TotalSocial Performance The Food Network’s strongest measure is online “brand sharing,” ranking among the top 20 among all brands with a score of 80.6, thanks to its enormous popularity on Facebook.   The brand also enjoys a lot of love offline (sentiment score of 77.9) and online (73.7). It also scores very well among everyday influencers with lots of social contacts, both offline (78.4) and online (75.8). Food Network’s only below-average score is offline conversation, an area that has improved recently, but could easily return as a problem once lifestyles change again.

Sephora: A Consistent Top Performer in Beauty but with Cautionary Signals

Sephora has been a standout performer in the retail and beauty categories, as evidenced by the brand’s performance in TotalSocial over the years. The brand was and remains a Conversation Commander, but that status may be at risk. Conversation Commander - Sephora TotalSocial Performance In the last six months, the brand performed enormously well on offline metrics such as offline sentiment (69.5), offline influence (69.2), and offline brand sharing (67.3), meaning consumers like to talk about its marketing and advertising content. Yet the brand’s offline sentiment has started to erode quite sharply toward the end of August, falling from consistent scores of nearly 80 to below 50. The drop in offline sentiment follows months after several sharp drops in online sentiment in the wake of large scale layoffs that produced embittered employees and negative publicity. The biggest declines in sentiment have occurred among younger, lower income, and non-white consumers who may be the most likely to relate to Sephora employees. Yet another factor may be shifting needs, with work-from-home trends during the pandemic reducing the relevance of beauty products. The decline in sentiment was more than 50 points among those “completely” staying home due to the pandemic. Sephora Sentiment Scores While we often see online and offline trends operate independently of each other, Sephora may be a case where initial negative sentiment online foreshadowed what was to come in offline conversations. We hope you will return to read the final installment of this series with brands that have risen to Conversation Commander status in 2020 that were not there a year ago. We will profile what is driving these rising stars.

The “Conversation Commander” Brands that Excel at Offline and Online Social Influence

Part 1:45 Brands (Out of 650) Earned Conversation Commanders During 2019 and 2020

Conversation Commanders Before consumers make buying decisions, they talk. Online AND Offline – through social media, product reviews, face-to-face or via Zoom, by text or IM, or via whatever channel – we all seek recommendations, feedback and validation in our choices of entertainment and products. These conversations, reviews and the counsel of our peers have enormous impact on consumer choices and thus on brands in terms of sales, brand health, and other KPIs. At Engagement Labs we have demonstrated that for most brands, there is little to no correlation between what gets talked about online in social media and what gets talked about offline. At the same time, our analytics have also demonstrated that offline and online each contribute about equally to business outcomes. Across a market basket of brands, offline WOM drives 10% of sales and online social media drives 9%. The clout of consumer conversation is real – and it is an imperative aspect of any marketing strategy today. Brands that achieve strong performance both offline and online are in an enviable position. Their ability to activate both offline and online engagement drives millions of dollars to their topline. We call these brands Conversation Commanders because of their commanding position both offline and online. Sadly, only a small percentage of brands really excel. But there is much to be learned from those who do. We have analyzed brands that achieved Conversation Commander status during the six months since COVID-19 hit and consumer behavior took a dramatic turn. We also looked at brands that were Conversation Commanders during the same six month a year prior. There are 45 brands (out of 650 studied) that were Conversation Commanders during both years. They have achieved enduring success and include some of the country’s most notable names that should make all brands aspire to the same position. These are the brands that we want to highlight – and celebrate – in this blog post. In addition, there are 30 brands that have risen to Conversation Commander status in 2020 that were not there a year ago. And 37 brands that were Conversation Commanders a year ago but lost their position in 2020. We will focus on those subsequently.

Brands that are Enduring Conversation Commanders

Who are the brands that are Conversation Commanders now and were a year ago as well? They are some of the best-known brands in the country. Amazon is in the top 10, satisfying our shopping needs. So are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, along with the Food Network and Nintendo, all helping to entertain us. Nike and Adidas too. Toyota. And Avon. Taking a look at the full list of 45, there is a diverse list that is led by media/entertainment brands, followed closely by retail/apparel and technology, but also includes a good representation from food/dining/grocery and beauty. The categories break down as follows: 020-09 EL03 CONVO COMMADERS BLOG v4-01

How Do Offline and Online Performance Compare?

Conversation Commanders are brands that are above average both offline and online. Across the full set of 45 that are featured here, performance is about equal both offline and online. But there are some notable differences, in particular brands that are relatively stronger offline versus online. For example, Amazon’s offline performance is +18.8 points stronger than its online performance, representing the largest gap and demonstrating that eCommerce can drive superior offline performance – there are no silos that constrain consumers. This is followed by Adidas (16.5), Toyota (15.2), Sephora (14.7), Nike (14.7), Oreo (11.2), and Apple Mac (10.3). What about the flip side, where online performance outperforms offline? Only Spotify has a double-digit differential, with a 14.3 point stronger online performance vs. offline. The rest of the top 5 that are stronger online are Kindle (9.9), MLB (9.5), NBA (7.5) and ESPN (7.2). The power of media and sports to drive online performance is evident here, remembering that these brands are also strong offline performers. Looked at another way, only two of the Conversation Commander brands earn top 10 honors in both the offline and online lists: Netflix and Food Network. TOP 10 Conversation Commanders by Mode of Conversation

Change versus 2019: The Enduring Power of Disney World is on Display

The power of these Conversation Commanders can be seen in the consistency between 2019 and the very different and much more difficult 2020. Disney World received one of the top honors in our 2019 Most Loved Brands. Feeling the impact of Covid-19 that devasted so many travel brands, Disney World saw the biggest decline in its TotalSocial score, dropping 11.7 points — but it is a testament to its power as the “most magical place on earth” that despite the decline it nevertheless retained Conversation Commander status. MLB declined by 5.6 points, due a sharp decline in net sentiment as players and the league entered into acrimonious negotiations about how to open the MLB season; and Betty Crocker which declined by 5.3 points as a result of a sharp decline in our brand sharing metric, which is likely due to reduced ad spending during Covid-19 when demand for baking goods was high but in short supply. Amazon Prime Video was the biggest gainer among this group rising 6.2 points, followed by Vans (+5.9). None of the other brands that were Conversation Commanders in 2019 and 2020 rose or fell by more than 5 points.

Case Studies

Brands that command consumer conversations achieve “social success” through a variety of methods. To illustrate that point and provide insights into pathways to achieve Conversation Commander status, in next week’s blog we will profile five brands that were “Conversation Commanders” before the pandemic and remain so in 2020. This will include Amazon, Budweiser, Food Network, Sephora and Vans. We hope you will return to read this analysis.

Amazon’s Offline Consumer Conversation is Soaring During Pandemic, and It’s Not Alone in Retail

A Tale of Two Retail Landscapes, as Pandemic Era Drives Big Offline Conversation Gains for Large Retailers of Necessities and Youth-Oriented eCommerce Sites, as Department and Specialty Stores Suffer

amazon-walmart-target It looks like the pandemic is producing a retail industry apocalypse with the bankruptcy and/or retrenchment of venerable retail brands from Brooks Brothers to Lord & Taylor and from Pier 1 Imports to JCPenney. Yet the offline conversation trends suggest we’re seeing a tale of two very different retail landscapes, as discount merchandisers, home centers, supermarkets, drug stores – and especially Amazon – are earning a lot more conversation from consumers. Consumer conversation trends—particularly offline conversations—provide a unique window into what’s happening in the marketplace, as the continuing pandemic has done nothing to reduce consumers’ enthusiasm for sharing opinions with each other about brands. Offline word-of-mouth is always an important part of the consumer decision journey, and especially during these times of rapid transition and change it helps consumers navigate their way through the new retail landscape. Across all brands and in a diverse set of fifteen categories tracked by Engagement Labs, retailers represent one-third of the brands gaining the most offline conversation this year, with Amazon the biggest winner among them. For the weeks between March and August 30th, Americans have participated in conversations about Amazon 137 million times per week on average, up 46 million from the prior year. Only Netflix has gained more conversation volume during the pandemic. Other big retail winners among the top 12 have been Target (up 19 million), Walmart (17 million), and Home Depot (16 million). Rising conversation patterns suggest that the purveyors of necessities such as food, cleaning products, and medicine are benefiting the most, along with “nest feathering” retailers such as Home Depot. Retailers Among The Brands Gaining Offline Word-of-Mouth Indeed, when you look at what has happened for different types of retailer companies, discount retailers are up the most, followed by hardware and home centers, supermarket chains, and athletic stores and brands, as many Americans have equipped themselves for individualized outdoor exercise and recreation such as bicycling, hiking, running, and walking. Supermarkets and drugstores have joined the upper echelon of word-of-mouth retail brands thanks to consumers’ increasing appreciation for brands that give us our daily bread, our milk, and our sanitizers. Kroger offline conversations are up 10.8 million impressions per week, or 38%, followed closely by CVS (up 8.4 million, 31%) and Walgreens (up 7.2 million, 23%). Starting from lower levels of conversation, the trendy supermarket brands Whole Foods (up 4.7 million, 49%) and Trader Joe’s (up 4.7 million, 36%) are up sharply. Retailers Gaining The Most Offline Word-of-Mouth At the other extreme, we are seeing enormous declines in conversations about department stores, specialty stores, and apparel brands, consistent with the recently announced bankruptcies and closures of venerable brands such as Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, JCPenney, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Pier 1 Imports. A few retailers are gaining word-of-mouth against type. The China-based fast-fashion brand Shein has enjoyed a 3.8 million increase—fully 221%—in offline word-of-mouth conversation, thanks to an enormously popular eCommerce app favored by the talkative Generation Z. Similarly, the California-based Fashion Nova brand has seen conversations rise of 2.4 million during the pandemic, 160%, by focusing on a youth-oriented eCommerce strategy. And Brandy Melville, in the same niche, rose by 1.9 million conversation impressions, an increase of 275% from a year ago! Kohl’s has fared the worst in terms of offline conversation data volume, declining by almost 6 million weekly conversation impressions versus a year ago. Others losing conversation relevance include Forever 21, Old Navy, Sears, Barnes & Noble, and Hot Topic Music. Retail Brands Losing the Most Offline Conversation Volume Providing evidence of the importance of offline conversations, many of the brands enjoying big gains in their social media presence this year are brands that are doing poorly in offline conversations—and in terms of business performance. Several of the brands losing the most offline conversation have improved strongly in social media during the pandemic, including Michael Kors, Hot Topic, Dollar Tree, Forever 21, even the shuttered Toys R Us company. In some cases, the social media performance may be due to nostalgia and regret related to their closing and/or retrenching.  

Amazon vs. Walmart vs. Target

The rivalry among Amazon, Walmart, and Target are revealing to evaluate in the context of the pandemic. A year ago, Walmart enjoyed far more conversation volume compared to Amazon, with about 300 million weekly conversation impressions, versus less than 200 million per week for Amazon. But that gap has been steadily eroding, roughly cut in half. This shift provides a compelling argument for Walmart’s new Walmart Plus membership to compete with Amazon Prime, and Walmart’s courtship of TikTok in partnership with Microsoft. Although Target conversations are rising, the brand’s volume still lags both Amazon and Walmart by large margins. Offline Conversation Volume - Amazon vs Target vs Walmart Walmart may still have an edge in offline conversation volume, but Amazon is way ahead in social media, with more than half a million weekly online mentions, roughly double Walmart’s. Yet these social media conversations haven’t risen to the extent that we see offline discussions growing. Online Conversation Volume - Amazon vs Target vs Walmart Besides the erosion of its lead in conversation volume, Walmart has another vulnerability. The net sentiment for Walmart consumer conversations has long been less positive for Walmart compared to either Amazon or Target, both of which are top tier among all retailers. Since the pandemic, that pattern has worsened for Walmart as conversation have shifted in a more negative direction, both offline and online. Offline Conversation Net Sentiment - Amazon vs Target vs Walmart Online Conversation Net Sentiment - Amazon vs Target vs Walmart On an overall basis, retail category conversations are up slightly since the onset of the pandemic, but that shift belies enormous divergences in fortune, depending on the retail category and brand. Generally, discount general merchandisers, supermarket and drugstores, and ecommerce-focused brands are doing the best, while the department and specialty stores that have dominated indoor malls are way down. Yet there are exceptions for fast-fashion companies that have focused on young, app-based shoppers, suggesting that innovation propels brands forward even in the specialty apparel category that is struggling generally. The success these youth-oriented and online-focused brands are having in driving offline conversations also makes the important point that offline conversations will remain relevant and powerful as business drivers for generations to come.  

Gen Z: Still Actively Talking About Brands, Offline and Online, as They Weather These Challenging Times

Gen Z: Still Actively Talking About Brands, Offline and Online, as They Weather These Challenging Times It is August, which means back to school – whether that’s in person, virtually, or in hybrid mode. It is also a good time to see what brands resonate most with today’s young consumers – the so-called Gen Z. Two years ago we issued a white paper about Gen Z and noted that “Generation Z is widely recognized as the next consumer powerhouse,” according to AdWeek, because of their large numbers and because they are assumed to be different from the Millennial generation that proceeds them. We decided it’s time to check back in to see how brand buzz among them has changed.  

Still a TotalSocial Generation

In 2018 we dubbed them the TotalSocial generation, due to their wide-ranging interests, and their desire to share those passions with others, both online and offline. Social media remains a cornerstone of this young generation’s lives. On a weekly basis 65% use YouTube, 50% use Instagram, 41% use Snapchat, 20% use Twitter, and 15% use Facebook. But they are highly likely to talk offline too. In fact, today’s teen talk about brands 14 times each day – that’s 39% more offline conversations compared to adults 21+. And, despite quarantine, they talk offline more now than they did two years ago (+5%). Average Number of Daily Consumer Conversations - Gen Zs vs Adults Whether talking face to face (two thirds of offline conversation), or phone, text/IM, or video call, offline word of mouth remains an important – and growing part of their lives. For Gen Z there is no silo between social media and real-world chatter – but what gets talked about online is quite different from what gets talked about offline. Marketers should pay attention to both because analytics by Engagement Labs show the offline and online conversation each contribute about equally to business KPIs.  

Most Talked About Brands

Time have changed dramatically, but the most talked about brands remain relatively constant for these 13-20-year olds. Nine of the top 10 in 2020 were also in the top 10 in 2018, led by Apple, iPhone, Nike and McDonalds. Entering the top 5 is Netflix (up from #13, with an increase of 111% in daily offline conversation), consistent with the huge increases we see generally in buzz about streaming services as consumers of all ages were looking for new entertainment choices during the COVID-19 lock downs and quarantine.   Amazon and Amazon Prime each joined the youth top 20 list for similar reasons. With Netflix’s ascendancy, Adidas fell out of the top 10, creating further distance between it and rival Nike. Also falling out of the top tier in 2020 are Pepsi, which was #15 two years ago and is now #23, thereby creating a larger gap with its rival Coca-Cola. Android has fallen to #36 from #16, creating more space among these young consumers with its rival iPhone. And Facebook has fallen to #43 from #18 as Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat take conversational precedence. For all of its media attention, TikTok ranks a distant 49th in offline chatter among teens. Top 20 Most Talked About Brands by Gen Z's There are meaningful differences in the most talked about brands for 13-20’s versus adults 21+. The biggest disconnect is with Instagram – #105 among 21+ versus #9 for 13-20’s. iPhone, Nike and Cherry Coke fall from the top 10 among Gen Z to the teens among older adults. And in the top 20 for Gen Z but far outside it for the adults 21+ are Chick-fil-A (#62), Adidas (#70), Snapchat (#354), Sprite (#56), the NBA (#50) and Starbucks (#33). Some of the more highly talked about brands among adults 21+ that don’t make it into the teen conversation set include Pepsi (#10 among adults vs. #23 among teens, as mentioned above), Verizon (#11 vs. #25), Home Depot (#12 vs. #99), and AT&T (#14 vs. #46). In this COVID-era, Clorox hit the top 20 most talked about brands among adults but is a distant #96 among teens.

Gen Z: Engaged in Issues Related to Schools, the Environment, Immigration and Women

With an election year upon us there is talk about the heightened engagement of young people, and our data lend support to that. They are approximately 30% more talkative about a wide variety of issues compared to adults. Which issues in particular? Among a diverse set of about 20 issues we track regularly, the most popular daily topic of teens is “schools or education,” and they talk at a far higher daily rate than adults as a whole which makes sense, especially during this Coronavirus period. Other issues where they stand out ahead of adults are: looking for a job or concern about losing one, underscoring that the economic challenges the nation faces have a profound impact on young people; what’s happening in other countries, protecting the environment, racism or racial justice, issues important to women and immigration. Teens also talk somewhat more than adults about gun policy, but it is a decidedly lower tier issue for teens, somewhat surprisingly given how much gun violence has been focused on schools. Gen Z: Engaged in Issues Related to Schools, the Environment, Immigration and Women Methodology: Engagement Labs measures both online and offline conversation as part of our TotalSocial Platform. The offline data is derived using an online survey to measure brands and issues talked about “yesterday”.  For this report, analysts focused on the offline conversations of representative national sample of people 13-69 years old, with a focus on 13-20s vs. 21+. The study involves approximately 36,000 people surveyed per year (700 per week). SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing

Trump Narrows Word of Mouth Sentiment Gap With Biden

trumpbiden Public opinion polls show former Vice President Biden with a commanding and consistent lead over President Trump. Word of mouth sentiment, however, tells a different story. On the eve of the Democratic Convention (and just prior to the announcement of Kamala Harris as the Democratic VP nominee), a fascinating word of mouth story has emerged, one that suggests a tightening race. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted recently, “It’s Way Too Soon To Count Trump Out” despite his commanding lead in the polls. Our sentiment trend lends credence to that statement. Word of mouth sentiment has proven to be a leading indicator of voter behavior, including in 2016. Both candidates are in negative net-sentiment territory, as is typical for word of mouth about presidential candidates. Biden’s net sentiment is at –19, 5 points ahead of Trump who is at – 24. What is notable is that Trump’s net sentiment has risen by 31 points versus two weeks ago, erasing what had been a very wide gap (50 points at its peak two weeks ago). THE WOM SENTIMENT GAP IS RAPIDLY CLOSING The gender gap is in clear display, with a net sentiment gap of 24 points in Biden’s favor among women, and 4 points in Trump’s favor among men. For much of May, June and July men were more favorable about Biden and just this week there was a large surge among men in Trump’s favor. WOM Sentiment Gap - Women vs Men

The toss up states* are very much a toss up

Looking by state that lean Democratic vs. lean Republican vs. toss up states, Democratic leaning states show a large net sentiment advantage for Biden, while Republican leaning states show an equally large net sentiment advantage for Trump. The toss up states show the two neck-and-neck, both with very low net sentiment. The trend for these states will be the numbers to watch over the coming weeks as the campaigns move into high gear. [Note: States are categorized into groups based on the 7/23/2020 Cook Political Report Electoral College Ratings (https://cookpolitical.com/sites/default/files/2020-07/EC%20Ratings.072320.2.pdf?). For the purpose of this analysis toss up states are those who either only lean towards 1 party or are fully toss up. This represents 12 states and 193 electoral votes.] THE TOSS UP STATES ARE BECOMING TOSS UPS  

WOM Sentiment About Congress Also Swings Toward the Republicans

As the presidential campaign moves into a higher gear, so too is the showdown between the House and Senate over an additional COVID-19 stimulus bill. About 1 in 4 Americans talk daily about both the Democrats in Congress and the Republicans For much of June and the first half of July there was a WOM volume advantage for the Democrats, but conversation about each has grown over the past two weeks Net sentiment has swung in favor of the Republicans in Congress. Through much of July, net sentiment about the Republicans had dropped but that has now reversed itself and the net-sentiment for Republicans is now 23 points greater than the net-sentiment for Democrats. REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS HAVE GAINED THE UPPER HAND IN WOM SENTIEMENT

Why WOM Sentiment Matters

Silver’s analysis notes that the odds for a Biden victory in his analysis are identical to Hillary Clinton’s odds at this same time four years ago. What is notable to us about that is that our word of mouth sentiment trends accurately foreshadowed Clinton’s shifting fortunes in the closing weeks of the campaign, something the polls failed to pick up. Even Clinton herself took note of that when she said in her book, What Happened: According to Engagement Labs, which applies well-established consumer research techniques to study elections, ‘The change in word-of-mouth favorability metric was stunning.’ With 78 days to go before election day, it is time to buckle our seatbelts. And pay careful attention to the national conversation.

4 Revealing Insights from PepsiCo on Impact of Conversations on Building Brands

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How do consumer conversations affect your brand?

The following is an excerpt of a conversation with PepsiCo’s Kevin Moeller and Engagement Labs’ CEO Ed Keller, who spoke with Kantar’s Walker Smith as part of Kanter’s Future Proof podcast. Future Proof is the marketing podcast from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and Kantar, the Marketing Insights and consulting company. (Note: This was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The transcript excerpt was edited for readability.) Kevin Moeller is the head of Media Insights and Analytics for PepsiCo North America. Before that, he was the chief research and analytics officer for UM Worldwide, serving on the executive leadership team. His background includes leadership roles at the Media Behavior Institute, MediaComm and Nielsen. In 2018, the Interactive Advertising Bureau named Kevin a data rock star. — Question: Tell us a little bit about the state of the industry when it comes to accounting for the impact of conversations on building brands. Kevin Moeller: There’s a lot going on between understanding how consumers are leveraging different channels and channels that are available. Frankly, how marketers can break through the noise and connect with their key consumers at relevant times for that type of messaging and in some privacy legislation and new media channels popping up every day. And it makes a dynamic industry right now. We have more data than we’ve ever had before, which allows a lot more possibility in how we can not only unearth insights about target consumers, but how we can connect with them in really meaningful and specific ways.   Q: When you think about this and the kind of measurement of online and offline conversations? How do you think about this broad area of social marketing or what Engagement Labs calls TotalSocial? KM: When I was on the agency side, CPG is definitely one of the harder ones. It may not be intuitive, but it is because there is lack of data availability in real time. From a sales perspective, we have to use other metrics that will help guide us or be leading indicators that will be indicative of a sale. Word of mouth generally is a really good one. The work that we’ve done with Ed and his Engagement Labs team has really helped us quantify and understand how our communications, and our creative in the marketplace is being received by consumers. Not just from a sentiment perspective, but whether it is actually getting people to talk about our brands and therefore purchase our brands. The work that we are doing with Engagement Labs has actually expanded our idea of what our ROI is, because it’s not just a linear path. I put media in the marketplace and someone eyes it. I put media in the marketplace. It generates equity, it generates brand consideration, it generates advocacy. It generates people talking about our brand. There is a quantifiable dollar value for each of those brand health metrics, including the active people talking about our brand. We have been able to work with Ed and Engagement Labs to put a solid number against what that value of a conversation is, which therefore uncovers more information about how our marketing dollars are doing in the marketplace. It has truly been invaluable for us to be able to parse out even more information from our sales using this methodology.   Q: What kind of marketing strategies and tactics are enabled by a deeper look at conversations. How do you activate and track the impact of conversations in the ways in which you support your brands? KM: A great example is the launch of bubly last year. bubly is a super fun, super irreverent brand of sparkling water that went pretty big in the 2019 Super Bowl. We did a fantastic creative and integration with Michael Bublé, had a really fun spot that played off of the name of bubly and Bublé, and we debuted a 30 second spot at the 2019 Super Bowl. But that wasn’t the totality of the campaign. There were seedings of that campaign several weeks leading into the Super Bowl with things like integration on Ellen that lasted for several episodes. We brought the creative and strategy all the way through into stores where we had actual merchandise that was altered in the spot itself. Understanding how that results in sales is one thing. Having an understanding of how consumers react to a spot like that or a campaign program like that is something else. Without understanding how people are talking about our brand, we would have to wait several weeks for the results of sales data coming in from our sales partners using online social listening and word of mouth, and face to face word of mouth. The TotalSocial that Engagement Labs offers really allowed us to better understand which aspect of the program are resonating and in which ways. On the back end, we can actually parse out the value of those individual attributes of the program, which will help further our understanding of what worked, what didn’t work. How do we optimize it for the future and how do we leverage those types of ideas to gain or and more traction with consumers?   Q: What one key takeaway or one thing to put on their radar when it comes to conversations, what would that be? KM: Brands need to understand the value that connecting with consumers have. It’s not just a one-off conversation. When building a relationship with people and consumers, you want to hear what they have to say, because what they have to say will impact how they feel about your brand, which will impact whether they’re engaging and sing your brand.     Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Armchair Nation: Consumer Conversation Trends Give New Meaning to “Must See TV,” as Home Entertainment Becomes a Necessity of Life

Biggest Winners are Netflix, Amazon, CNN; MLB Stumbles Amid Rising Demand for Live Sports

IMG_3641 Conversations are not just buzz. They are predictive of consumer purchases; they also reveal changes in consumer lifestyles and interests. As consumers have settled into their new pandemic era routines, between mid-April and mid-July, no category has grown more than media and entertainment. The biggest rising brands are Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, CNN, and Hulu. We have become an armchair nation. The increases are dramatic. The number of times people have been in a real-world conversation about the Netflix streaming platform has grown by 59 million per week, a 75% rise compared to a year earlier. Amazon eCommerce conversations are up 38 million and discussions about the Amazon Prime streaming and shopping membership have grown by 22 million, for a grand total of 60 million additional conversation impressions per week for Amazon. Disney+, only launched last November, is the third-fastest rising media brand in conversation (+31 million), followed by CNN (+28 million) and Hulu (+27 million). Entertainment Brands Rising in Conversations During Pandemic Despite the rise for entertainment brands generally—and streaming in particular—category is not destiny and not all brands have benefited. Talk levels for Sling and Roku remain very low, and newcomers Peacock and HBO Max have barely registered at all.

Netflix & Hulu Become Major Fixtures of America’s Conversation 

Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January Netflix & Hulu Become Major Fixtures of America's Conversation

CNN & Fox News Dominate TV Network Talk

The armchair nation era is also driving up conversations about television networks. In terms of volume, CNN and Fox News are up the most, as millions of Americans tune into and talk about coverage of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and economic hardship. Indeed, both CNN and Fox News hit 50 million weekly conversation impressions in April, the highest levels we’ve measured for them in five years. Since then, something interesting has happened: CNN has continued to grow in conversation volume, to 55 million impressions per week, while Fox News has declined, to 37 million, which corresponds fairly well with the ratings picture. CNN just reported its highest ratings for any three months in 40 years, with faster audience growth than either Fox News or MSNBC, which remains a distant third-place among the news channels, with little increase in talk.  

CNN TAKES BIG LEAD IN CONVERSATION VOLUME, FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY FOX NEWS

Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since 2015 CNN TAKES BIG LEAD IN CONVERSATION VOLUME, FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY FOX NEWS Put into a broader context, the rise of CNN and Fox News stands out relative to every other cable and broadcast networks measured. HGTV enjoyed a rise in conversations in April, as the early days of sheltering at home generated an explosion of interest in home and garden projects. As HGTV has returned to normal levels, its sister networks Discovery and Food Network were seeing slow-but-steady gains into the month of July.  

CNN & FOX NEWS DOMINATE TELEVISION NETWORK CONVERSATIONS

Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January CNN & FOX NEWS DOMINATE TELEVISION NETWORK CONVERSATIONS The traditional broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox—enjoyed rises in April and May, but have since lost ground to the news channels as new network programming transitioned to summer re-runs, and the news channels responded to breaking news related to the health crisis and protests against racial injustice. Despite the lack of live sports, ESPN remains the third most talked about network, after CNN and Fox Network, with only a moderate loss of conversation during the pandemic period, reflecting persistent demand for sports content by frustrated fans willing to watch sports news and playoff reruns.  

NFL Dominates Sports Talk in the Offseason

Speaking of sports, the classic armchair topic, sports talk is down 7% overall due to a collapse of conversation about inactive MLB and NBA teams, which normally would have earned lots of conversation in spring and early summer. With those sports suspended, there has been little reason for fans to spend hours speculating about the Yankees versus Red Sox or whether the Golden State Warriors will return to the championship series in 2020. But talk about the major league brands rose dramatically, by 33 million weekly conversation impressions, amid months of “will-they-or-won’t-they” discussion related to management and player negotiations on pandemic-abbreviated seasons.  

SPORTS LEAGUE CONVERSATIONS HAVE HELD UP DURING PANDEMIC

Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January SPORTS LEAGUE CONVERSATIONS HAVE HELD UP DURING PANDEMIC Although not due to start until September, offseason talk about the NFL is way above normal, fueled both by questions about whether and how games will be played this fall, and by the NFL’s dramatic reversal in June regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. As we have seen with other politically charged topics, the online and offline conversation reaction to the NFL’s new position have been very different. The NFL has maintained a moderately positive offline conversation even as the social media conversation has turned sharply toward the negative at the time commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league’s error in previously opposing player protests over police violence against African Americans.

NFL CONVERSATION TURNS NEGATIVE ONLY IN SOCIAL MEDIA

Offline Net Sentiment barely Responds to League’s Support of Black Lives Matter NFL CONVERSATION TURNS NEGATIVE ONLY IN SOCIAL MEDIA The sentiment picture is particularly good for PGA Golf and WWE wrestling, two sports that got back to play ahead of the others. The net sentiment of PGA talk in June, the month it returned, hit a peak of more than 60 points more positive than negative, perhaps reflecting the joy of fans at the return of live sport. Anticipation of an NHL Stanley Cup playoff tournament also appears to be driving up sentiment for the NHL recently.

RETURN TO PLAY DROVE UP SENTIMENT FOR NASCAR, GOLF, WWE

Net Sentiment Online and Offline Trend for Major Sports League Brands, Since January RETURN TO PLAY DROVE UP SENTIMENT FOR NASCAR, GOLF, WWE NASCAR also enjoyed a bump in sentiment in May and June, thanks to an early return to competition, although that dropped sharply following the league’s decision to ban the confederate flag and the reaction to a suspected hate crime against the league’s one black driver, Bubba Wallace. Among the leagues, only Major League Baseball managed to suffer a sustained, negative sentiment trend during the pandemic, as the league and players’ union publicly quarreled about the circumstances of a return. The downward trend in MLB conversation sentiment was particularly steep in offline conversations, moreso than in social media.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S OFFLINE SENTIMENT HURT BY DELAYED SEASON

Net Sentiment Online and Offline Trend for MLB, since January MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S OFFLINE SENTIMENT HURT BY DELAYED SEASON Conversation trends indicate clear pandemic era rules for media companies and brands. Consumers continue to be anxious about the current health, economic, and social situation, driving demand for news higher than ever. They need to be informed and supported. At the same time, they are desperate for home entertainment. As Americans feel stuck in their living rooms, they are demanding quality entertainment. They expect networks, streaming services, and sports leagues to behave as the necessities of life they have become.

Pandemic Era Makes “Spring Cleaning” and Household Brands Worthy of Conversation

Beauty and Personal Care Brands Nivea & Colgate Thrive, As Do Household Cleaning Brands Tide and Gain, and Beverage Brands Keurig and Jack Daniel’s

shutterstock_1225539034 It’s been a very long time since everyday household products were deemed worthy of conversation over the dinner table, and probably never before (or rarely at best) were they fodder for posts and shares on Twitter and YouTube. Yet that is one of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic that has maximized time spent at home and generated consumer enthusiasm for “spring cleaning.” Consumer conversations changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, as categories such as health care, at-home entertainment, household products and beauty and personal care are becoming much more frequently talked about. At the same time, categories such as sports, travel, and automobiles are losing conversation engagement quite dramatically. Offline conversations about health and health care during March through May this year are up almost 30% versus a year earlier, while household and beauty products are up over 15%, and media/entertainment brands are up more than 10%, with the surge we reported for Disney+ conversations emblematic of that shift. That post highlighted the top 10 offline and online brands across all categories listed below. Here we dig deeper into individual categories. Changes in Offline Conversation Volumes - Engagement Labs Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial platform combines four types of metrics to calculate brand success in both online and offline conversations. Those metrics are the volume of conversation, the net sentiment (positive versus negative direction), the extent to which the brand is being talked about by the most socially connected people, and whether the brand’s advertising, marketing and social content is being shared and discussed. Perhaps the most unexpected shifts come in the decidedly unglamorous everyday categories such as beauty and personal care, beverages, and household cleaning products, categories that took on new importance as time spent at home surged and in certain cases favorite brands were not always available. As a result, consumers began searching for new solutions to everyday needs and word of mouth helped fuel the process.

Household Products Benefit as Spring Cleaning Becomes Sexy?

Everyday necessity brands like Tide and Gain are gaining in the TotalSocial rankings, likely due to increased consumer appreciation, as well as a determine decision by their owner, Procter & Gamble, to “push forward not back” when it comes to advertising and marketing. Indeed, P&G brands own the first four spots in the household product offline ranking, including Febreze and Downy, each improving on last year’s score for the same March-through-May period. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Household Products P&G’s success is not universal however, as its Dawn detergent has dropped while arch-rival Palmolive has risen. In terms of online conversation, P&G’s Downy brand enjoyed the largest rise in the rankings, to number two, likely due to a humorous ad campaign about “frisky grandparents” that launched before the pandemic but may have taken on added significance as families found themselves cooped up together. Lots of cleaning brands, including Colgate-Palmolive’s Fabuloso at number one, have jumped up high on the social media list, perhaps benefiting from the most enthusiastic “spring cleaning” season in decades, as homebound consumers have been keeping themselves busy and feathering their nests. Another factor may be that at this late stage of the “soap wars,” it possible that the pandemic’s impact on reviving television audiences, particularly among the young and during the daytime, has helped to drive up conversation about brands traditionally advertised on daytime television.

Coffee and Alcohol Brands Attract Attention Online & Offline

The beverage category also shows signs of the pandemic’s impact on conversations. The biggest gainer both offline and online is Keurig, rising to the second position behind Coca Cola for offline conversation and to ninth place in social media. With the end of commuting for most of the country, consumers are making their own coffee at home rather than stopping by a deli or convenience store on the way to work, which has led to higher volumes of conversation for the brand. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Beverages Even while working hard to keep up with demand for machines and coffee pods, Keurig generated significant brand love by donating thousands of brewers and K-cup pods to hospital workers. In a stroke of good timing, Keurig also had just launched a cocktail mixing machine at a time when Americans are rediscovering cocktails during “Pandemic happy hours.” Keurig’s sister brand Dr. Pepper is also doing well, ranked fourth in both online and offline conversation. Other top-ranked brands in social media are Red Bull, which held on to its top spot, followed by Bud Lite and Jack Daniel’s, which has risen more online than any brand other than Keurig.  Indeed, half the top-ten online conversation brands are in the beer and liquor categories—including Miller Lite, Coors Lite, and Budweiser-hinting at another way changing lifestyle during the pandemic are impacting consumer talk.

Beauty & Personal Care Brands Gain, Despite Stay-at-Home Orders

Nivea and Colgate have risen over the last year to become the top two ranked brands for offline conversation in personal care and beauty, while Revlon and Dove have held on to top rankings for online conversation. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Beauty and personal care Beauty and personal brands continue to attract conversation, even though the shift from offices to working from home has reduced demand. Nivea has lowered its revenue expectations due to the pandemic, but the brand is enjoying more positive conversations, possibly due to its empathetic pandemic-related marketing. The Colgate personal care brand also has seen its position improve year-over-year with steadily rising offline conversation sentiment in 2020, as well as a peak in volume in March when many consumers were focused on buying everyday staples amid the lockdowns. In social media, Revlon held its strong position as 2019 leaders Bath & Body Works and Burt’s Bees dropped down the list, thus earning first place in the TotalSocial rankings.  In May, Revlon had a hugely successful Twitter post from Gal Gadot, showing the actress and Revlon model trying new makeup with one of her daughters at home, perhaps a subtle nod to how even the rich and famous were surviving the COVID-19 lockdown. Bath & Body Works, meanwhile, dropped from first to tenth on the list, mainly due to steadily eroding sentiment about the brand, particularly in late March when it’s parent company, L Brands, announced widespread layoffs due to COVID-19. Burt’s Bees dropped from second to sixth on the list due to steadily eroding volume and sentiment. Click on the categories below for their respective list of the top ten online and offline brands: