Your business brand—it’s how you connect with your customers. And it’s what differentiates you from your competitors. Your brand is one of the most valuable assets of your business. In fact, a 2018 analysis by the Marketing Accountability Standards Board found that, on average, brand value counts for over 19% of a business’s overall enterprise value. For well-known consumer and luxury brands, that number can be much higher. And according to a McKinsey & Company report on the value of brands, strong brands consistently outperformed financial market averages in both bull and bear markets.
Brand health tracking is a way of measuring the overall strength of your brand and tracking its strength over time. This area of research is constantly evolving, so it’s important that marketers stay on top of the latest developments.
To that end, we’ve put together a guide that details the latest methods in brand health research—methods that work, and those that have fallen out of favor—to help you determine whether it’s time to refine your current method of measuring your brand’s effectiveness.
Brand health data is particularly helpful for understanding conversions, gaining a sense of your brand in the competitive landscape, and identifying new opportunities to differentiate your brand or win new customers. By surveying your customers, you might be surprised to learn, for example, that they feel that your product’s features are no better than your competitor’s. But you might also learn that your brand fares much better than the competition on emotional perceptions like partnership and caring. This can help you formulate new marketing strategies.
By gathering data about awareness, consideration, purchase intent, preferences, and brand perception largely through regularly conducted surveys of your target audience segments, referred to as brand health trackers, you can monitor your brand’s health to quickly respond to any shifts in sentiment.
Below are several brand health research methods to consider:
Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been the darling of the brand metrics field for many years because it’s simple to measure and can quickly provide an overall perception of your brand.
NPS is measured on a 10-point scale based on how likely a customer would be to recommend your brand. Each customer is categorized as detractor, passive, or promoter. NPS is calculated by subtracting detractors from promoters. For example, if 10% of respondents would not promote your brand (detractors), 10% are passive, and 80% would promote your brand (promoters), your NPS would be +70 (detractors subtracted from promoters). Passive respondents are not calculated. Measured on a scale of -100 to +100, it’s easy to gauge how well your brand is faring.
NPS has fallen out of favor in some shops because while it can tell you whether customers would recommend your product (or not), it doesn’t tell you why. And while you may know your brand’s score, you have no data on how to convert your brand’s detractors and passives to promoters, or how to attract more supporters to your brand.
Transcripts of customer service calls and social media posts can offer all kinds of valuable clues as to how your brand is perceived in the marketplace. Sentiment analysis, the analysis of subjective data, can help you mine this valuable information.
Sentiment analysis uses natural language processing (typically artificial intelligence/machine learning) to extract and analyze subjective written text, and then map overall sentiment ranging from negative to positive. You can analyze a vast quantity of text that would be impractical to analyze manually from time and cost standpoints.
The output of sentiment analysis is usually a breakdown of all the data into the percentages that are positive, neutral, or negative. While you can work to shift these percentages (for example, increasing positive sentiment) the analysis itself does not tell you why customers rated you as positive versus negative, or which aspects of the customer’s experience can be improved to address sentiment.
There are several downsides to incorporating sentiment analysis into your brand health program. First, your sentiment analysis model is only as good as the data you train it on. In many cases, the sources of this data—social media posts or call logs—can represent a particular moment in a customer’s interaction with your brand. And, let’s face it, few people call customer service lines or take to social media to praise a brand. More often than not, these are moments of frustration and venting that will not give you an accurate read on how your brand is perceived. Second, it can be difficult for artificial intelligence to understand the true sentiment of social posts which are often sarcastic or part of a larger conversation. So while sentiment analysis can provide valuable information, it’s currently not valuable or cost-effective enough for most businesses.
As you can see from both NPS and sentiment analysis, one of the challenges of brand health tracking is that you can monitor changes in metrics or sentiment over time, but you don’t necessarily have the ability to understand why the metrics are changing. Conducting interviews or working with focus groups—small, demographically diverse groups of selected people who can help elicit consumer perceptions about a brand or product—provides a new stream of data that can add context and richness to survey statistics to help you understand why your brand perceptions are changing.
Working with a research partner to help set up and facilitate interactions with your target audience, you can collect consumer perceptions in a variety of ways.
One option is to conduct focus groups once or twice a year to understand how your customers’ needs and pain points are evolving—and how your company is either meeting those needs or missing the mark. Another option is to interview your survey respondents about why they chose a particular rating for your brand. For example, if you notice a dip in preference among customers in Canada, you can interview those respondents who rated your brand low on this metric and probe as to why.
Incorporating qualitative data from customers is an excellent way to make your brand health tracking richer and to ensure that the voice of your customer is represented.
To get the most out of focus groups and interviews, it’s important to have a clear research objective in mind. Be sure to work with a strategist who can help you design research that’s focused on answering your most pressing business questions without leading respondents. It’s also important to make sure that interviewees or focus groups comprise a diverse representation of your target audience.
Brand health trackers derive their value from the stability of the questionnaire or the ability to ask the same questions and track changes over time. However, business objectives and industry trends change frequently. Adding a rotating question module to your brand health survey is one way to get a read on pressing questions or hot topics—like user privacy or industry trends—while maintaining the time series data that makes your brand survey valuable.
A rotating question module is placed at the end of a trend survey (one that stays consistent over time). As the name suggests, you can change these questions regularly to address moment-in-time issues.
A rotating question module allows for the overall questionnaire flow and valuable time series data to be maintained. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that the addition of questions will increase the length of the survey. Be sure to think through the survey from your customer’s perspective to ensure that it will be a good experience.
Brand health tracking is critical to any business—whether a multibillion-dollar tech company or a mom-and-pop retailer. Understanding the strength of your brand and how your customers perceive your brand is not only critical to determining your marketing strategy, it’s critical to engaging and retaining current and prospective customers and maintaining a thriving business.
Our Firewood strategy team has extensive experience in managing brand health programs. We can help you start a brand health program or enhance your current program to keep you on top of these important industry trends.