This is a challenging subject. Many people believe the only measure of success is the final results. For example, if you are selling a product did you sell more because of the investment in your communication campaign? If yes, then it is judged a success. If no, it is judged a failure.
While on one hand I agree with the notion any investment in a communication campaign should deliver incremental results (at least to a degree to offset the investment), I don’t subscribe to measuring success that way.
Final results are considered an “end-process” measure. They let you know how well you ran the race and what place you finished in. But, that information doesn’t allow you to make any mid-course corrections to either get on track or to positively enhance the results for a maximum return on investment.
Consequently, I advocate “in-process” measures. These are signs of whether you are on track or not. Continuing with the race analogy, “in-process” measures are the equivalent of split times that inform you whether you are ahead or behind your target pace.
The best “in-process” measure in my mind, is a brand equity monitor.
A brand equity monitor provides a quantitative market research methodology to determine changes in target customer perceptions regarding the key “equities or attributes” that drive preference.
Consequently, the first step in creating a brand equity monitor is to gain insights into what those equities are for the category in which your brand competes. An actionable brand equity monitor will capture perceptual data for both your brand and a pre-defined set of competitive brands.
For each equity you have respondents tell you on a scale, typically from 1 to 10, how closely it is associated with your brand in their mind. You need to make sure the sample size is statistically projectable, and you will want to field the brand equity study on a regular frequency (typically annually).
When you have the quantitative results in hand, you can begin to analyze the relative position of your brand vs. competitive brands in the mind of your target customer.
The rule I used is – A statistically significant difference in score at the 80% confidence level was worth a deeper analysis. Note, I used an 80% confidence level rather than the more stringent 95% you often see in publications. For perspective, an 80% confidence level implies there is a 20% chance your conclusion is wrong. In business, many times you make decisions on the proverbial flip of a coin, so I always felt an 80% confidence level was more than adequate.
When you have run the study at least twice, you can then begin looking at how the scores change over time. The key thing you are trying to evaluate is did the brand communication effort over the last year 1) make an overall difference 2) lengthen the gap on equities that are competitive advantages and 3) close the gap on equities that are competitive disadvantages.
If nothing changes in a year, you need to understand why your effort made no difference.
It takes time to get the first brand equity monitor pulled together. And, it is time well spent because you do not want to change the questionnaire going forward. You want as much of an apples-to apples comparison as possible when looking at the data year over year. The sustainability of the questionnaire is directly driven by how well you understand the choice drivers in your competitive category.
You can use a brand equity monitor to also get data on brand awareness, brand recall, and brand loyalty. Gathering these data is a function of the questions you ask in the study.
You could design and deploy a brand equity model yourself, but because of the mission-critical importance of getting the right measures and the reluctance you should have in changing questions over time, I would recommend partnering with a quality research firm.
The agency will not only help you design the study so it has statistical validity, but will also give you an important objective third party review to minimize question bias.
Remember, the value of the data is in aiding decision making. You want it to be as reliable as possible. It is wise to remember the old adage of garbage in, garbage out. The investment in a research firm to help design your equity study is worth it.
Of course, having the brand equity data to look at is fascinating. But if you don’t use it to make decisions moving forward these data are no better than an end process measure. The power in using an in-process measure is the flexibility to make changes aimed at maximizing the performance of your brand.
Professor David Aacker has written a number of papers about brand equity that are worth reading. He defines brand equity as brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality, brand association and other proprietary assets (e.g. logo). His simplest characterization of brand equity is “the value of a brand”.
Professor Kevin Keller has also played in this space and created his own “Customer-Based Brand Equity Model”. Definitely read the work of these two academics so you can be grounded in the subject.
Always remember, data is an aid to not a substitute for judgement.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Ed Burghard and excerpted from his book Building Brands: What Really Matters
The Blake Project’s brand equity measurement system is comprehensive, measuring each of the five drivers of customer brand insistence – awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection – along with other factors such as brand vitality, brand loyalty, brand personality and brand associations. Contact us for more on brand equity measurement
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education