Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a celebrated American statistician, had an abiding interest in quality. Known as the “Father of Quality Evolution,” he transformed modern marketing, teaching that by adopting appropriate principles of management, companies could increase quality, build customer loyalty, and simultaneously reduce costs – but only through continual improvement initiatives. As believers in that premise, and to provide even higher quality engagement metrics, we are in the process of evolving the structure of our 2011 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI).

Readying for the 2011 wave we are eliminating some categories that have gone the way of the dodo (Long Distance Phone Services), eradicating categories that have shrunk to only one or two national brands or providers (Retail Stores: Electronics), and re-assigning some categories to better reflect the consumer view of the marketplace (for example, On-line Books and Music brands are being aggregated into a single On-line Retailers category).

Dr. Deming wisely advised that “it is not enough to do your best; you must first know what to do, and then do your best.” Following his advice, we turned to the experts who know best – the consumers – to help us understand how to evolve the 2011 CLEI. As such we’ll be adding 9 new categories: Conditioners, Drug Stores, E-Readers, Movie Rentals, On-line Retailers, Shampoos, Social Networking Sites, Tequila, and Tooth Whiteners.

We’re pretty confident Dr. Deming would have approved of our predictive approach to loyalty and engagement. He counseled clients that “if you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” So, as always, we’ll be shunning direct Q&A and will rely upon our validated, emotional, below-the-radar psychological assessments to identify precisely how brands can best create loyalty (and profitability) in the 75 categories we’ll be measuring next year.

Change can be an exciting process. But it’s wise to remember that when people (and categories) change they don’t take time to notify brands. Brands who can strategically transform and adapt to changes ahead of the pack always do better than brands that don’t. But as W. Edwards Deming observed, ‘it is not necessary to change. After all, survival isn’t mandatory!”