OPINION17 September 2014

The next generation approach to brand equity tracking

Opinion

Measuring and monitoring brand equity has become a required discipline for any global marketer. Brands are important and valuable assets to corporations, and there’s a business imperative to understand their position in the market.

Any respectable research firm has a proprietary approach for measuring and tracking brand equity. While philosophies, terminology and specifics may differ there are common components to most models, including: brand strength, brand image, brand behaviour and scorecards and KPIs.

The advantage of these approaches is that they are fairly easy to understand, and make monitoring rather simple. But there’s something wrong with this picture.

All these approaches have a common weakness: they measure the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’.  And they completely miss the ‘what’s next’. This is why clients often become frustrated with traditional brand equity monitoring programmes, which measure, but don’t diagnose, and definitely don’t help create plans for the future. The majority of approaches also don’t deal with the way marketing and branding works today. 

The times are a-changin’:

The internet and new media have changed the world. Especially in the way people absorb and process information. Everything is faster, shorter, more compact.

People still learn about and build relationships with brands. However, the learning and relationship building no longer happens exclusively through repetitions of TV spots or controlled one-way marketing activities. The way people acquire their knowledge about brands has changed.

New ways of advertising and communicating have emerged, from digital to mobile to social to experiential and beyond, along with new forms of media and devices. The ‘evasive consumer’ is increasingly a reality.

So brands must become more creative and inventive to reach and interact with consumers while being consistent across all modes of expression, from communications to experiences. We are experiencing a paradigm shift in how brands are managed: from push- to pull-marketing. And with this shift, brands need to ensure that people are drawn to them, irresistibly attracted.

Next generation tracking should link with the mechanics of brand management in the following ways:

1.   Help brands to become living systems

It is no longer enough to have a well-defined proposition and some key signifiers. In today’s ‘click-society’ people are looking for constant stimulation. Static gets boring quickly. And if your brand is boring, you’ll be out of sight or ignored before too long – and eventually forgotten. Brands have to stage themselves repeatedly, presenting themselves from new and surprising angles.

In our work, we incorporate a view on a brand’s character and an indication of its position within culture, because we believe that the strongest brands are living systems. Starting with brand personality we create a character of flesh and blood.  Brands need strong identities. They will have to combine character, talent and signature to create a meaningful and synergistic entity.

2.   Help brands create holistic experiences

Next generation brand tracking must measure the ability of the brand to consistently deliver across all touchpoints, because brand experiences are increasingly important as a mode of communication. Experiences, whether via advertising, in person at retail, or virtual, all need to work hand in hand to be consistent. 

3.   Help brands increase their ‘magnetism’

While ‘brand Presence’ has always been a key success factor, in the marketing world of today, presence needs to have magnetic qualities, including clarity, uniqueness and appeal to attract people in an irresistible fashion.   We need to measure the ability for a brand to have ‘magnetism’ and draw people toward it. 

4.   Help brands understand and drive ‘active brand perception’

Scientific studies prove that brands need to be ‘thought of’ at the right moment of the purchase decision. Not just as a name, but in association with what consumers aspire to feel, and display.  Next generation brand tracking should help brands understand how to be top of mind when people make their choices. 

Toward a Next Generation Approach

Brand equity tracking has to go beyond predefined lists to cover what is really on the top of consumers’ minds, using open-ended qualitative questions for depth.  It has to anticipate and give you a view on where things are going for your brand, not just on where things are today or where they have been. 

At its best, brand equity tracking has to be prescriptive in order to help you make your brand even stronger.  It needs to be built for the way marketing – and research – works today.

Chris Prox is CEO of Icon Added Value in Germany and Brian Kushnir is EVP and managing director of Added Value North America. 

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