The Final Score: Where the Most Ingenious Brands Won Out
Brandify, the leading solutions provider in local presence management, pitted competing national brands from nine consumer-facing industries against each other in a series of Brand Battles. Companies in the competitions ranged from fast-fashion retailers to tax preparation companies.
The Brand Battles compared branding strategies by analyzing the “Six Pillars” of data accuracy, local search and advertising, reviews, social engagement and competitive intelligence. Trends emerged as Brandify, the sponsor of this series. gathered data from the 18 companies and evaluated their strategies to maintain top search rankings and earn complimentary customer reviews. Brands employed efficient and effective local ads, but others didn’t succeed there – and one company was revealed to not spend any money on local ads. Consistent data quality across locations with few errors was a difficult goal to achieve for some, but one battle proved unique when brands CVS and Walgreens bucked all the trends.
The closest rounds for CVS and Walgreens were in local ads and local SEO – two places where most of the other companies were separated in success by at least 10 points. In the data quality round – one of the most contentious in most of the battles, Walgreens beat CVS easily by 22 points. In the end, Walgreens proved the winner of all nine Brand Battles with the best Brand Score.
Here’s how the companies fared in their individual Brand Battles, followed by analysis of key strategies in each of the Six Pillars.
The nine Brand Battles demonstrated true commitment to local branding by nearly all of the companies that competed – but fights over best data quality, superior customer engagement and reviews were intense, and the scores were close.
Battle round: Data Quality
In the world of big data, accuracy and consistency represents possibly the most pivotal in ensuring a brand’s success in attracting customers. Unclaimed local Facebook pages or Yelp locations mean the brand is standing silent and invisible on the sidelines as consumers rush to the competition’s online properties and storefronts. Incorrect phone numbers and addresses can negatively affect a consumer’s experience with the brand and drive them away forever.
Brandify uses location data obtained from a major core data providers to conduct and perform minor data cleansing and ensure that results reflected how data distribution. Brandify found that brands rely too much on Google and Bing, evading other social listings sites like Facebook. Foursquare and Yelp.
In the tax preparation Brand Battle between Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax, neither company came well-prepared, making the data quality comparison painful to watch. On Yelp, more than 80% of locations for both brands are not found. Across all channels, Liberty Tax left 22% of its locations unclaimed, and though Jackson Hewitt did better leaving only 13% unclaimed, an online search revealed that twice as many of the company’s locations were “not found”: 44% missing locations vs. 23% missing for Liberty Tax. By the time all “deductions” were accounted for, Liberty Tax barely won the round by one point with slightly better NAP (name, address, phone number) data.
While the majority of the data quality competitions featured fierce struggles for data supremacy, a few of the Brand Battles highlighted a few companies’ need to focus their data efforts. In the wholesale club battle between Sam’s Club and Costco, Sam’s Club had claimed more of its locations, likely contributing to the company’s cleaner NAP (name, address, phone number) data, compared to Costco’s. And, even though Sam’s Club has more locations to maintain data for, their data is approximately 15% more accurate than Costco’s and had an average of 6.6% more claimed locations across Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.
In comparing the data in the Chase Bank versus Bank of America, more than 90% of Bank of America locations had at least one issue with their data quality on Facebook and Foursquare (meaning that one location had either an address or phone number discrepancy, or their profiles were not claimed on these platforms.) Across Bing, Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare, Chase also had significantly cleaner NAP data than Bank of America.
Battle round: Engagement
Following data quality, a brand’s commitment to connecting with its customers has power unlike any other strategy that Brandify analyzed. This was the only battle round that nearly all companies in all the Brand Battles could be recommended the same advice: focus and improve local-social strategy to entice local audiences.
Brandify analyzes local social pages and calculates the engagement on a local level for the past 6 months. This round ranked closer for any of the two brands as Brandify found little to no activities on the local social profiles resulting in poor engagement scores. Upon analysis of number of customer checkins versus brands engagement, Brandify found that brands are not engaging customers on a local level.
In the fast-fashion battle between apparel retailers H&M and Forever21, both brands needed a hyperlocal approach to social media. On Facebook, more than 40 percent of both brands’ locations were unclaimed, and H&M barely won the round with more social fans who were 18 percent more engaged than Forever 21’s.
Between 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness possessed almost four million more check-ins than its competition. But LA Fitness had 17.6 times as much engagement on social posts as 24 Hour Fitness. Both brands have just below 20% of unclaimed locations on Facebook, making this battle a close one.
In the battle between Home Depot and Lowe’s, the two companies’ engagement scores were separated by only two points. Home Depot had fewer “fans” across social channels, but held a competitive edge against Lowe’s by maintaining an audience that interacts with its brand.
Between Jackson Hewitt and Liberty tax return preparation companies, Brandify saw that neither brand is using Instagram successfully. Jackson Hewitt’s final score in the engagement battle round was 101, just seven points higher than Liberty, which was supported by the company’s effort in connecting its Foursquare with a verified Twitter profile.
Battle round: Reviews
In the reviews rounds, a few companies were able to knock out their competition with a strategy maneuver that is simple in concept but not always in practice: keeping customers happy. Some companies do this naturally, often driven by broader company culture that zeros in on the customer for all processes, procedures and objectives.
But in the nine Brand Battles that were scored by Brandify, it was clear that reviews are a priority for many branding schemes. Brandify collects reviews from the past 6 months and assigns sentiment and review rating score. Both brands are examined on the same set of keyword/phrases and results are almost identical.
Five battles had final reviews scores that were separated by 10 points or less, and in four of those the reviews scores were separated by five points or less.
The closest round was between Home Depot and Lowe’s, where Home Depot managed to obtain an edge, winning out over Lowe’s by just three points. The staff service at Lowe’s had a more positive sentiment, but Home Depot customer sentiment was higher for the remaining experiences. Home Depot had more fans on social media, but Lowe’s had more check-ins by customers. “Check-ins” are pertinent because they may be the closest metric to social ROI attribution, aside from beacon-mapping technology.
In the reviews round between LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, both brands showed unfortunate deficiency in garnering positive reviews. LA Fitness aggregated more on a monthly basis but saw nearly 60% of negative sentiment in reviews using terms such as “staff,” “equipment,” “classes,” “pool,” and more.
Overall, the reviews round showed how important that positive sentiment is for attracting new customers and keeping current ones.
Out of the five areas where Brandify collected data, the point of attack in local SEO and advertising proved that a clear strategy equals clear winners.
Battle round: Local SEO
Back-end website and local landing page optimization is critical for companies to be found in local search and especially for brands that have multiple local competitors. Brandify analyzes search ranking for brands on Google and Bing and saw a trend that one brand often outdid another in this round. This could be because either they are too focused on Google and forgot about users who search on Bing, or because brands don’t incorporate relevant keywords on their local pages.
The battle between 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness exposed LA Fitness’s weakness and helped give 24 Hour Fitness an advantage that ultimately gave it the win for the whole Brand Battle.
Across Google and Bing local searches, 24 Hour Fitness’s website had a responsive optimized design for multiple devices and provides extra value with use of user location on multiple pages and its local page performance succeeded in building an authoritative presence on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
On the other end, the Google and Bing local search results pages for LA Fitness had no optimization for desktop or mobile, and some local pages were unresponsive to user location. LA Fitness’s webpages were missing valuable options including click-to-call, local social media pages and driving directions.
Again in the home improvement chain battle between Home Depot and Lowe’s, website architecture, usability, SEO factors, content and design gave Home Depot a huge lead. Lowe’s had a noticeable absence of local pages across Google and Bing, and the company’s locations were returned 12% less often than Home Depot’s locations in the top 2, 3 and 4 spots in search rankings, giving Home Depot another win.
Battle round: Local Ads
Local advertising has huge potential to drive new customer traffic into local stores. This round often found one brand being aggressive on “locally optimized ads” whereas its competitor not even investing a dollar on ads.
In the Brand Battle between affordable luxury hotel chains Marriott Residence Inn and Hilton Garden Inn highlighted how important it is to diversify advertising and focus on local.
Hilton’s paid search strategy was stronger than Marriott’s, and Hilton scored more than three times the points to beat Marriott in general advertising. Hilton’s ad campaigns drove 156% more average monthly traffic than Marriott, and on mobile, Hilton led with 46% more average monthly traffic.
Hilton also left Marriott far behind with its commitment to keyword searches in the local advertising round. On average, 82% of Hilton’s search keywords ranked in the first, second, or third position on SERPs, compared to 65% of Marriott search keywords.
Keywords also played a role in the knockout competition between tax preparation companies Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax. On an average, 68% of search keywords for Jackson Hewitt ranked in the first, second, or third position on the search engine results page, and its pay-per-click keywords brought in monthly traffic of more than 5,500 users.
Liberty also lost the local advertising battle round due to its mystifying choice to spend zero dollars on online advertising. Jackson Hewitt spends more than $13,000 per month on its search ad campaigns, using generic and simple keywords such as “file taxes online”, “free online tax filing”, and “how to file taxes”, a simple tactic that earned Jackson Hewitt an easy win in the local advertising round.
Brand Battles were scored using Brandify’s Social Data Matching (SDM) technology with data from various channels,* including Google, Bing, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare. Data was entered into the Brandify analytics engine to test the two companies’ local digital marketing footprint to determine a final Brand Score for each. The Brand Score is calculated with an algorithm consisting of more than 250 variables over 5 core location-based areas: Data Quality, Local SEO, Reviews, Social Engagement, and Local Advertising.
*Other channels sources included in this analysis: Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.
Brandify is transforming the way businesses connect to consumers by leveraging location technology and offering unrivaled personal service. Brandify has helped hundreds of brands understand and improve their local presence. Current and past clients include True Value, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Applebee’s, Black & Decker, and more. For more information about Brandify, go to brandify.com.