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Don’t know if you missed it, but struggling retailer Sears was forced to sell its 90-year-old Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Sears got either $775 million or $900 million for it depending upon the source, which may sound like a lot at either end of that range, but a fair price, given it was one of very few sub-brands of any substance Sears has left.

Millennials don’t, of course have any memory whatsoever of the Sears (& Roebuck) catalog, the of its time, but while conducting this year’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Brand Keys asked Millennial respondents some side-bar questions, one of which was, “You know Sears?”

After gazing into space, the respondent would either say something like, “It’s a store, right?” or say nothing, look down, thumbs tapping, and proudly hold up the screen of their smartphone and say, “A store, right?” OK, the average age of Sears’ customers (not including shanghaied teens and grandkids on their way to the movies or the food court) is pretty well north of 50, but the thing is that Millennials knew Craftsman was “tools.”

They also knew DieHard. It was either a Bruce Willis film franchise or a car battery. We accepted both answers, but kidding aside, they did know they were batteries. They were a little less sure about “Kenmore,” but got a reasonable level of association with “appliances.” But the real questions were, “Why weren’t all those sub-brands strongly associated with Sears and why didn’t they bolster Sears?” Predictive emotional brand engagement may help to answer those questions.

‘Brand engagement’ is how well a brand is able to meet expectations the consumer holds for the path-to-purchase drivers in a category. Those drivers and expectations come in the form of a Category Ideal. Brands best able to meet consumers’ expectations for the Ideal generate greater loyalty and are profitable market leaders. Brands that can’t meet expectations lose customers and market share. Always.

We conduct a psychological and statistical analysis and a comparison of how well the brand does versus the Category Ideal (configured at 100%), which allows us to assess brand engagement strength. So the reason the sub-brands were more engaging than Sears was that they are seen to better meet the expectations for their categories. It also helps, one can only suppose, that people actually know where the sub-brands compete.

Here’s how Sears, Craftsman, DieHard, and Kenmore rated for engagement over the past 5 years. See if you can catch the brand engagement pattern.


2017               65%

2016               68%

2015               68%

2014               70%

2013               70%



2017               89%

2016               88%

2015               87%

2014               88%

2013               85%



2017               86%

2016               85%

2015               85%

2014               83%

2013               82%



2017               90%

2016               90%

2015               89%

2014               89%

2013               87%


The nice thing about emotional engagement brand metrics is that they track very highly with consumer behavior in the marketplace. Where emotional brand engagement is high, customers are six times more likely to behave better toward that brand. Sears has been losing engagement strength for, well, as long as we’ve tracked the brand, which is over a quarter of a century. This year comparable-sales have been down 12%. We’re pretty sure Millennials don’t know the term “death spiral” but Eddie Lampert, chairman and chief executive of Sears, does.

Which is why a classic brand like Craftsman is on the block and why eventual bankruptcy has to be in Sears’ future. After all, eventually Sears is going to run out of sub-brands to sell!


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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