Brand research: 4 tips for measuring your brand

Your brand is the beathing heart of the organisation. The organ that keeps the business alive and flourishing. It ensures that you stand out and that your products and services are perceived as valuable. Brand research helps you determine the health and potential of our of the brand.

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“An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

Brand research provides your marketeers and strategists with the crucial vitamins – a.k.a. insights – to keep your branding on course. After all, what’s the use of marketing communication if it fails to deliver greater brand awareness, more customer engagement, brand preference, and increased sales and growth?

Blauw gives 4 tips for measuring brand health to help your organisation to grow:

  • Measure implicit associations or actual behaviour
  • Start with exploratory (outside in) research (into CEPs and DBAs)
  • Don’t be blinded by short-term effects
  • Look at (and measure) the complete picture

1. Measure the unconscious

Researchers are increasingly convinced that human behaviour is largely determined by unconscious processes. Consumer decision-making is not nearly as rational as we think. Our choices for a product or service are often not well-considered. More often than not we are led by emotion and intuition. This is where a brand can make the difference.

Implicit Association Test (IAT)

To find out how the purchase process takes place in your industry, you need to get to the bottom of automatic, intuitive thinking. To do so one must employ implicit measurement. With this method, participants have less opportunity to think about their answers or actions consciously. You get their primary – i.e. instant, automatic and uninhibited – response. Their true, unbiased response.

This type of brand research is deployed when:

  • You want to identify the perception, mood and emotional associations evoked by brand assets or marketing content.
  • You want to know where your brand, product or service stands in the consumer’s mind, compared to that of the competitor.
  • You want to move away from (creative) choices based on boardroom ‘gut feeling’ or assumptions about the consumer’s experience or viewpoint.

If implicit measurement is not possible, you can look at actual behaviour to establish the current position of your brand. In this case, you measure the perception of your brand by exploring how people make choices, what triggers them, and the steps they take or skip when thinking about or attaining your brand. This is done with (exploratory) qualitative research.

2. Explore first, test later

When you’ve been with an organisation for a while, you may no longer see the brand’s opportunities (or weaknesses). The brand heart is beating nicely and seems to be in great shape. In fact, you take that for granted. So when you start a study or devise a new campaign with your in-house team, your vision is likely to be marred by blind spots. The cause? Lazy or even incorrect assumptions and ideas about what consumers think and feel.

By taking a step back, you can see things afresh and discover eye-opening opportunities to boost your brand.

What you need to know in advance

As the consumer’s brain is primarily focused on efficiency and avoiding stress –being bombarded daily with thousands of commercial messages – your brand must be easy to recognise and associate with specific situations. Brand recognition is activated through strong and distinctive brand assets (DBAs): brand elements such as a colour, the font of your logo, a jingle or a scent. Category entry points (CEPs) are the situations in which people typically think of a brand (ideally yours): ‘time for a break, time for Kit-Kat’, for instance. Or ‘Your not yourself when you hungry, Snickers’.

When measuring your brand or setting up a new campaign, it’s best not to make assumptions about the CEPs and DBAs of your brand. A more fruitful strategy is to collect unbiased input from qualitative (preliminary) research. This can be done via interviews or focus groups with customers and non-customers, or via online communities around a specific industry or product group. This ‘outside-in’ information can be gathered using techniques such as topics, photo sorting tasks and storytelling. This gives rich factual information about actual behaviour and the triggers behind that behaviour. Which is a lot more reliable than basing brand decisions on assumptions about the consumer or flawed gut feelings. Exploratory research reveals:

  • the main, daily issues and concerns for consumers in a certain category
  • how you can respond to these issues/situations and concerns
  • what brands they know, notice and buy in relation to those issues
  • how the entire process from initial thought to final purchase takes place
  • and what triggers their choice for brand A, B or C

Exploratory research (free of irrelevant parameters!) is the starting point for conducting a quantitative brand measurement or breathing creative life into a campaign.

3. Do not be blinded by short-term effects, start monitoring

There is a key difference between your brand and marketing. Sales and marketing actions are typically aimed at short-term sales, but a brand is not built in a matter of weeks. Just as an athlete needs to train for years to become stronger, better and faster, the brand heart of your organisation needs time to find its direction and grow step by step.

Effects of sales campaigns show up in the revenue figures much more quickly, but are not always an accurate predictor of the long-term effects at brand level. Embedding CEPs and DBAs in a consumer’s memory takes time. The stronger your CEPs and DBAs are connected with your brand, the better your brand will score in the market. If you fail to foster these more implicit connections with your brand, sales activations lose effect as soon as the promotion efforts stop. The best results are achieved by combining short-term sales campaigns with long-term brand campaigns.

So when you measurering your brand:

  • determine a starting point for your measurement
  • preferably with good exploratory preliminary research!
  • use that research to collect insights for the creative briefing and
  • then continuously measure what your branding efforts delivers

In short, monitor your brand.

4. Look at the complete picture

Determine where your brand stands, either implicitly (by preference) or via behaviour, perform good exploratory research before! undertaking steps to measure, and avoid being blinded by short-term effects. But what exactly should you measure? An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Unfortunately it is not that simple: you need to form a picture (step-by-step, if necessary) of the entire spectrum.

The heart that keeps your organisation alive is multi-faceted: blood, muscles, oxygen. Just measuring brand recognition or consumer preferences is like taking an Alka Seltzer to replace the multiple vitamins and minerals the body needs. So you’ll need more than just an apple.

To measure the health of your brand, you must measure and nourish three building blocks: Salience, Affinity and Performance.

Salience is the extent to which people think about your brand in relevant situations (situational cues or ‘hooks’) supported by (audio) visual elements that trigger brand recognition. These category entry points (CEPs) and distinctive brand assets (DBAs) must be unique but widely known, and strongly linked to your brand to be effective.

Affinity is the extent to which branding adds the correct emotional value (and personality) to your products or services. This building block relates to the ‘emotional component’ of the brand. Does the brand strike the right chord, does the brand attract or repel, and how does it compare with the competitor? Is it distinct in its affinity?

Performance is the extent to which branding creates added value for the brand and promotes conversion in the brand funnel. This concerns the consumer’s considerations and preferences, but also the ease with which the brand can be found and purchased (in store or online).

Want to start measuring your brand?