Ford is Tops, Lexus Big Laggard when Compare Online Buzz To Customer Relationship Strength


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There is an interesting ranking of automotive brand social media (unique) mentions by Infegy, It ranks 33 auto brands by the volume of online buzz/comment from unique individuals or sources. We have measures of customer relationship strength (we call it Relationship Investment, showing the level of personal and functional connection customers have to their auto brand for 13 of the 33 they measured and thought it would be interesting to see how well they match up. Two big caveats here,

1) Online rank in this simple look is determined by # of mentions, which is almost certainly heavily correlated with # of customers. The customer relationship rank is based on ratings from individual customers and completely independent of the total number of customers. So, it is not really apples to apples. A better point of comparison would be a ratio of positive to negative comments, which would be unaffected by number of comments and account for the content of the comment.

2) There is also a classic chicken and egg (i.e. which is independent variable and which is dependent) here. Does the brand’s Customer Relationship Strength suggest how much online buzz there should be or does online buzz help create strong customer relationships? There is almost certainly a bit of both going on and I think most companies would elect to have Customer Relationship Strength as the “dependent” variable and the activity (especially their own social media activity) be the “independent”. However, in this instance the “status” column in this analysis provides an evaluation based on what one might expect by way of online buzz given the health of their customer relationships. In part, this is because the RI data was collected prior to the online buzz data. So perhaps online buzz of today is a harbinger of what is to come for the brand’s Customer Relationship Strength (all other things being equal) down the road?

The big over-performer here is Ford while the big laggard is Lexus. Ford is #1 in online buzz and yet they are middle of the pack (7 in ordinal rank) on the strength of their customer relationships. Ford has been doing a lot to generate its own online buzz so this makes sense. Lexus on the other hand has the strongest customer relationships of any brand we measured but is almost dead last (12th out of 13) in generating online comment/buzz. A bunch of auto brands are about where you would expect in online buzz given the strength (or lack of it) in customer relationships – e.g. BMW, Toyota Hyundai, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Infiniti.


Kevin Schulman
Twelve plus yrs of market research and analytics applied to customer acquisition, retention and consumer equity.


  1. Looking at the research instruments, It looks like they do not include enough predictively useful variables nor enough data to have real use as managerial performance management tools. They are both more sizzle than steak?

    They illustrate very well management’s real challenge; in finding useful performance measures and tools that they can use both to show how well they are doing and to guide proactive management action.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  2. Marketing, Research and Customer Experience Guy.


    Fair point based on what was shared in this post and completely agree that “thermometers” alone are not particularly useful. The diagnostics (e.g. what do we do about it?) are critical to make it more prescriptive.

    That said, there are way too many measures out there being used as KPI’s or proxies for firm profitability (e.g. customer satisfaction and Net Promoter) with plenty of “how do we impact it?” insight that if acted upon will, at best, have no impact and potentially, negative results.

    Here is a link to another blog post (on my corporate site) on the 3 must have’s for a firm KPI,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Kevin Schulman


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