14 Dec 2016 19:03 IST

Find out where your brand stands today

Why it is important to assess the health and equity of a brand, and how to go about it

One of the most commonly carried out activities in strategic market research is assessing where one’s brand stands today. Which means understanding the health or equity of the brand.

I use the term ‘strategic’ for this kind of study as it truly impacts marketing plans on a larger scale, with a slightly longer-term impact on performance. Those planning to undertake marketing and its sub-disciplines need to have a very clear idea of what brand health really is, and how it is assessed.

Let me add a note of caution here — I would advise the use of the term ‘assessed’ rather than ‘measured’ because we need to keep in mind at all times that marketing is an inexact science. Any attempt to quantify it completely is not only futile but also undesirable.

To begin with, words like ‘brand health’ and ‘brand equity’ can be used more or less interchangeably. In theory, and in the English dictionary, these words may have minor differences, but in practice, they connote pretty much the same.

The need

Why does a company need to consciously assess the health of its brands? One could argue that brand strength is evident in sales performance. But understanding brand health is an indicator of its possible performance in the long run. Sales performance, on the other hand, only indicates where the name stands in the short term.

Moreover, a healthy brand can be extended to other categories — closely related or sometimes even fairly distant from the parent category. Finally, a brand in good health can command a higher price than one that is not.

How to assess

Let us now look at how to assess a brand’s health.

For this, we must first understand what the qualities of a healthy brand are. A brand can be called healthy if it has all, or at least most, of the following characteristics.

~ Enjoys high awareness

~ Has a high share of consumer purchase and usage behaviour

~ Enjoys good disposition

~ Is strongly positioned across platforms and has benefits that are relevant to, or sought after by, its consumers

~ Enjoys good channel support / ‘push’

A typical brand health study needs to deliver certain information to the marketer, such as a clear indication of how strong the brand name is today; what the key strong points and weak points of the brand are; what works for the brand right now and what does not; as seen by consumers, which brands are competition and why; and how secure the brand’s customer base is.

To ensure that the above deliverables are met, let us look at what these studies check. There is a set of measures related to various key indicators of brand performance. These are related to awareness, advertising, purchase and usage, preference, disposition or commitment, image or positioning statements, and channel or push — pricing / offers / visibility / availability / packaging.

These broad measures can be broken down into smaller ones, , and are detailed below. The points, or questions, and possible response choices have been grouped in sets that could form a useful survey framework.

~ Awareness related

1) What is the brand’s awareness level today? Top of mind / unaided / after aiding

2) What is the level of consumer familiarity with the brand?

3) What is the level of advertising recall? Top of mind / unaided / after aiding / content and message recall

4) How does each of the above measure when compared with competition?

5) What is the level of recognition for the brand’s current ads?

6) What is the extent of recent awareness creation for the brand?

7) What is the extent of recent visibility through all actions?

~ Behaviour related

1) What is the extent to which the brand has been tried by consumers?

2) What is the level of lapsing?

3) What is the level of new trial lapsing in recent times? (Past 12 months / Past six months / Past three months)

4) What is the current user base for the brand?

5) How does each of the above measures compare with the competition?

6) What is the purchase or usage set for the consumer?

7) Which other brands does it tend to get grouped with, in the event that it is not a solus usage pattern? And to what extent is it the most-often used brand in those cases?

8) What is the purchase pattern? Where do consumers buy it from? How often do they make a purchase? How many pieces at a time?

~ Disposition related

1) What are the most preferred brands in the market?

2) How large is the typical preference set?

3) What is the level of acceptance for the client brand among those who don’t consider it a preferred brand?

4) What is the incidence of rejection for the brand?

5) What is the perceived cost of wrong brand choice?

~ Positioning related

1) How does the brand fare vis-à-vis competition, on positioning and image parameters such as

- Core product benefits

- Value for money and price perceptions

- User imagery

- Benefits promised

- ‘Soft’ imagery parameters

2) Which of these parameters is driving the category? Which one should the client brand consolidate, or enhance or urgently work on?

~ Channel and other measures

1) Which channel-related initiatives have been recently noticed by consumers?

2) Which channel initiatives have induced consumers to switch or try brands?

3) Which brands receive positive or negative word of mouth (WoM) from retailers, as recalled by consumers?

4) Which brands receive positive or negative WoM from other consumers?

5) What is the consumer perception of client brand’s relative performance on

- Availability

- Pack design

- Pricing

- Offers

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