In the early days of advertising, brand tracking was based on simple metrics, like sales. As a result, marketers largely relied on their instincts to evaluate a brand’s strength, determine whether a given campaign was successful and guide future decisions. Sales metrics are still part of the picture, but with regards to brand strength, there’s so much more insight to gain.
Are people aware of and familiar with your brand? If they are, will they consider trying and using your brand? What attributes do people associate with your brand? How does your brand measure up against your competitors? Where is your brand strong or weak?
As these questions imply, the strength of any brand is defined by the relationships it forms with customers.
This has always been true, but today, businesses can assess these relationships better than ever, thanks to new methodologies and the sheer amount of data available. In particular, understanding and tracking relationship metrics will help you analyze brand performance and brand strength, make valuable adjustments and continue to build a brand that connects with your target audience.
So, where do you start?
Brand perception and relationships are what matter.
Tracking your brand is a complex task precisely because it involves myriad individuals’ perceptions of your brand and the personal relationships they form with it. You can proclaim a certain brand meaning for your business all you want, but the reality is based on people’s perceptions—a brand is ultimately what other people say it is.
Therefore, any brand tracking effort requires a tailored approach, combining trade area and competitor research with relationship analysis. Of course, at Liquid Agency, we have our own special blend for this undertaking. We look at:
- Brand relationship formation—Visualized as a progression using the brand relationship funnel
- Brand perception and your opportunities—Analysis of your performance across key attributes among those who’ve formed a relationship with your brand and with measures such as:
- Personal meaning
- Go-to options
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Competitor benchmarking—What are the opportunities your brand has to defend and grow its position against competitors?
Relationship formation and the relationship funnel
The “relationship funnel” helps represent how people perceive and interact with your brand, from their first encounter to becoming their go-to choice, and it enables you to monitor brand strength based on that progression. From top to bottom, the stages we use here at Liquid Agency are:
- Awareness—Does the person recall your brand or recognize your name and other brand elements (whether aided or not)?
- Familiarity—Does the person understand your brand’s purpose and offerings? More than basic awareness and recognition, this is the stage where genuine relationships begin forming because your brand starts meaning something to people based on their interactions with it.
- Consideration—Does the person consider your brand when making purchasing decisions?
- Usage/purchase—Does the person use your brand? Have they used it in the past?
- Relationship strength—Has the customer developed an authentic relationship with your brand that carries genuine personal meaning? Are you their go-to option? Would they recommend your brand to others?
At each stage of the consumer’s journey through the relationship funnel, you’ll need to continuously evaluate how to keep them progressing while reinforcing the understanding of your brand you’re seeking to impart. Generally, this is accomplished by launching new campaigns that reinforce the elements that resonate with those who believe in your brand—notably, expression attributes (e.g., tone and voice, visual guidelines and imagery).
Steady, continuous movement through the funnel is the main measure of success here (along with a growing community of “brand believers”). That’s because a bottleneck means:
- Your brand’s meaning isn’t aligned with brand believers’ values, needs or wants; or
- Your campaigns aren’t reaching the right audiences
Three measures for assessing relationship strength
Once consumers have formed a relationship with your brand (i.e., at familiarity and later stages of the funnel), you’ll start more focused evaluations of perception and relationship strength. At Liquid Agency, we rely on three primary measurements for evaluating brand relationships.
1 Personal meaning
When evaluating personal meaning, you’re looking to understand the genuine, emotional connections that people (or a community of brand believers) assign to your brand. For example, you might incorporate surveys that ask customers to characterize this relationship, collecting responses such as:
- If [Brand] were no longer around, I’d feel like I lost a friend.
- [A particular cause] is important to me, and I feel like [Brand] is an ally.
- [Brand] is like having a personal assistant because of the everyday convenience they provide.
2 Go-to option
The stronger your brand’s relationship with customers is, the more likely you’re their go-to option whenever they’re seeking that experience, product or service. This relates to both intentional preferences and heuristics, which are mental shortcuts people automatically adopt to simplify their decision-making.
This measure will let you know whether your campaign is reaching your target audience and staying on their mind. It will also help inform you of opportunities to become the go-to option for more customers (e.g., messaging adjustments, advertisement locations).
3 Net promoter score (NPS)—when necessary
Your net promoter score (NPS) is quantitative data that scores how likely your customers are to recommend your brand to their family and friends. It’s tracked via a single-question survey: “On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family?”
However, while NPS does provide value, it’s limited in isolation. Without other data (e.g., personal meaning, go-to option) to explain why consumers would or wouldn’t make the recommendation, it doesn’t tell you much. What resonant brand elements should you reinforce? Where might you need to revisit the drawing board? NPS alone won’t tell you.
Comparing your brand’s strength against your competitors
The last metric(s) to look at involve your competitors. This is crucial because people’s decision-making and brand belief are entirely rooted in the perception of your brand as it relates to attributes such as:
- Is your brand easy to do business with?
- Is your brand innovative?
- Is your brand dependable?
- Is your brand forward-thinking?
- Is the brand trustworthy?
There are three reasons for analyzing your brand regarding these types of attributes:
- You must ensure your brand strategy is resonating and gaining traction. For example, if you run a bank and base your brand strategy around being easy to do business with and flexible when accommodating customers, is that how people perceive you? Or did your brand strategy efforts miss some considerations that affect perception and relationships?
- Comparing your attribute performance against other competitors reveals opportunities to grow (and encroaching threats). To return to the bank analogy, if your competitors score poorly on financial guidance and advice, that may be an opportunity aligned with your “easy to do business with” strategy. So, you might blend messaging into campaigns based on helping customers buy their first home or secure a business loan to pursue their passion.
- Have your brand-building efforts capitalized on an attribute you weren’t expecting? People may be picking up on something you never considered. But if it’s gaining traction and strengthening your brand, you’ll need to weigh whether to incorporate it moving forward.
- What matters to your brand believers may shift. If so, you’ll need to pivot your strategy.
Based on your findings, you may need to make adjustments to your brand strategy. At the very least, you’ll need to continually optimize your campaigns and messaging to further connect to your target audiences.
Strengthening your brand through strategy
Brand strength is determined by relationships, measured by evaluating your relationship funnel, brand perceptions and against your competitors. However, forming the relationships these measures are based on requires brands to offer something for people to connect with—and that begins with your strategic brand platform, which defines essentials like what your brand is and what it means.
Without a well-defined brand platform, you can’t track brand strength effectively because your campaigns and experiences won’t be unified or consistent.
Those core elements that brand believers build authentic relationships with must be present to guide you through this iterative, incremental measurement process.