“How do you measure a brand?”
By the time I had commented, there were already more than two dozen opinions, none of which seemed to be in agreement.
The recommended techniques varied from looking at branded search traffic to direct website traffic to social media mentions and sentiment to word of mouth to simply revenue.
Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of consensus on how to measure brands in marketing. Hopefully, that all changes with this blog post.
In the last decade, I've measured hundreds of brands. While most of the techniques mentioned in that LinkedIn thread were intended to be helpful and useful on some level, I would humbly suggest using the slightly more rigorous process that's laid out in this post.
Ready to get started? Let’s measure some brands!
Brand Measurement in Summary:
- Brand awareness and distinctiveness are the two most important predictive factors of company growth
- You can’t improve what you’re not measuring
- Brand measurement programs help marketers track important brand metrics like awareness, preference, and demand
- Brand measurement programs rely on hundreds/thousands of responses from real consumers to create brand metrics
- Creating your own brand measurement program involves setting objectives, choosing a survey mechanism, analyzing results, and sharing insights
- Effective brand measurement programs don’t rely on search engine traffic estimates, social media sentiment, or advertising brand lift studies
- The CMO’s of the fastest growing brands rely heavily on brand measurement programs
- Brand measurement programs allow you to measure and grow your brand
Why Is Brand Measurement Important?
For as measurement-focused as we marketers have gotten, far too few marketing programs that I’ve come across–and I’ve seen a lot of them–are supported by a well-run brand measurement program.
Let’s first talk about why brand measurement–and doing it the right way–is so important.
As someone who got into this industry by way of business analysis, project management, and revenue cycle consulting, I’ve always believed that numbers are always the most important aspect of any marketing program.
And there’s a hierarchy of numbers, or metrics, if you will.
Some metrics stand out as being more important while other metrics are completely novel.
And there are a few metrics that matter more than any others. We call these metrics Key Performance Indicators, Key Outcomes, or some other proper noun.
Not measuring your brand is a huge mistake and here’s why:
- How Brands Grow, by Byron Sharp, documents hundreds of examples of why awareness and distinctiveness are the two most important drivers of brand growth and long-term company success
- Studies find that consumers show an overwhelming preference for high awareness brands despite quality and price differentials
- Brands in the initial consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased eventually than brands that aren’t in it
- Brand awareness has a greater impact on building brand equity than does advertising promotions
- At least 13 of Al Ries’s The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (Advertising, Publicity, Contraction, Expansion, the Word, Quality, Credentials, the Category, Consistency, Change, Mortality, Singularity and Color) are all supported by measurement
- Brands that have more awareness grow faster
- There's a strong positive correlation between brand awareness and salience with company revenue and market share.
And so while our industry is obsessed with cost per lead, return on ad spend, customer acquisition costs to lifetime value ratios, and conversion rates, we rarely measure what are among perhaps the most important metrics: brand metrics.
What is Brand Measurement?
OK, we now know brand measurement is important, the next question should be: What is brand measurement?
Brand measurement is the process of identifying brand metrics, creating a methodology and cadence for taking measurements, and then adjusting your marketing strategy using the insights you gather over time.
Brand measurement programs measure aspects of a brand’s product, competitors, and its category and include metrics such as advocacy, affinity, appeal, association, awareness, loyalty, perception, personality, reputation, recall, preference, strength, sentiment, salience, trust, usage and more.
Unlike social media listening tools or search engine traffic engine estimates, brand measurement programs are typically conducted using real people either via email, in-person interviews, or ideally, consumer panels (e.g., Pollfish).
Each time a study is performed, results should be analyzed and added to a brand measurement dashboard (e.g., Google Data Studio) where they can be analyzed, tracked over time, and communicated to key stakeholders in the business.
Something like this really elevates insights into a more actionable format:
What Isn’t Brand Measurement?
Before we get too far, it should be noted that there are a few other techniques out there that quantify brands that shouldn’t be confused with brand measurement.
Brand lift studies measure the impact of advertising efforts by seeing how different creative performs with control and expose groups of consumers throughout a campaign.
Brand equity indices and valuation models are championed by the likes of Kantar and WPP and use revenue information about the company, survey data, and their own internal methodology to determine the financial value of brands.
Both of these approaches have merit, but are outside of the scope of this guide.
Ok, let’s unpack each one of the key steps to measuring your brand. But first, if you want this guide in a more portable format, download it for free here.
How to Measure Brands
Now we need to build a brand measurement framework. Each of these tasks will vary depending on your brand, but the general process is the same:
- Set Your Brand’s Objectives
- Create a Brand Measurement Methodology
- Perform Your Brand Study & Analysis
- Update Your Brand & Marketing Strategy
Next, let’s go through the steps of actually measuring your brand.
1) Set Your Brand’s Objectives
As with any measurement program, the first step in building a brand tracking program is to first ask yourself what goals or objectives exist within the business?
The business goals can then be directly mapped to one or more brand measurement objectives.
There are a million reasons to measure your brand, but the most common objectives include:
- Grow brand awareness
- Develop brand salience
- Elevate levels of category use
- Increase positive consumer sentiment
- Build top-of-mind consideration for your brand
- Gain market share and preference from competitors
- Deepen positive associations and connections with your brand
- Determine the strength of your brand messaging and advertising
There’s no correct number of objectives to pursue at any given time, but too many can draw focus from the most important ones.
Choose wisely and gain buy-in from the most important brand and business stakeholders.
2) Create a Brand Measurement Methodology
Once you’ve got your brand objectives recorded, you can then move on to creating a brand measurement methodology. This process allows you to accurately and consistently measure your brand over time.
In order to create a successful brand measurement program, include the following steps when developing your methodology (not necessarily in this order):
- Consumer targeting
- Measurement mechanism
- Statistical modeling
- Questionnaire development
- Study cadence
- Budgeting and scheduling
Each one of these steps deserves a few important considerations.
Consumer targeting: The first step in creating a measurement methodology is to determine who the consumer of the brand is.
Are you working with a B2C brand? A B2B brand? Maybe even an employer brand? Where geographically is this consumer? Are they online? Offline? Are they willing to participate in market research and if so, how?
Defining, then finding your brand’s consumer is critical for success.
Measurement mechanism: The next step is to figure out how you’re going to technically run your brand measurement program.
Sometimes, doing a few small focus groups with key customers or customer proxies is all you can afford to do. Simple is better than nothing.
Using a company’s email platform and subscriber list is another commonly used technique, but is often suboptimal for measuring brands due to the biased nature of most permission-based email lists (i.e., a subscriber on your list is almost always going to be aware of your brand).
Purchasing email lists can work, especially in niche B2B scenarios, but response rates are generally pretty low, and privacy laws are increasingly prohibiting where this tactic can be used.
The best source of respondents for brand measurement studies is most often a consumer panel service. Studies through these services are relatively affordable, reasonably accurate, and easy to replicate over time.
Pollfish, SurveyMonkey Audience, and even Google Surveys are all examples of survey platforms that yield quality results and are typically the best source of consistent, unbiased respondents who can be used to track a brand’s growth over time through a measurement program.
Statistical modeling: Next, math. You have to figure out how many people need to be in your panel in order to reach desired levels of statistical confidence when interpreting the results.
300-400 responses is generally a good starting point for brands that will produce an average margin of error of around 4% with 90% confidence.
Even better: somewhere around 1,090 responses will usually lead to about a 2% margin of error.
Exactly how many respondents you choose for your studies will vary depending on the velocity of your brand/category and how much you’re willing to pay for increased confidence in the numbers.
Questionnaire development. The next step of the brand measurement process is to develop the questions you’ll be asking your panel.
In general, most survey takers start to burn out near the 20-question mark–sometimes sooner depending on the formats and nature of the questions.
Out of that 20-question “budget,” you’ll want to allocate a few questions to each of these aspects of your brand:
- Brand questions to support the creation of metrics such as awareness, favorability, and demand
- Competitor questions to track associations, characteristics, and preferences
- Category questions to track usage, growth, and perceptions
Check out our Encyclopedia of Brand Metrics if you’re struggling with exactly which metrics and questions should go into your brand measurement questionnaire. It features more than 100 metrics, including 10 must-have brand key performance indicators that should be a part of every brand analytics program.
The two most important things to get right here are 1) only include questions/metrics that support your brand objectives and 2) try not to change things up too much once you start your measurement program or you could lose the ability to compare data over time periods.
Study cadence. Ok, we’re nearly there. Next, you need to determine the cadence of your program, or the number of times you’ll want to update your brand measurement study each year.
Fast-moving brands in growing categories tend to want to take measurement quarterly or even monthly. A few brands track daily.
Most brands find that semi-annual or annual measurement tends to be the ideal level of cost and benefit.
Budget and scheduling. At this point, you have your panel, your survey mechanism, your questionnaire, and your cadence determined. The only thing remaining is to finalize budget and scheduling.
There should be some degree of budgeting and scheduling that occurs prior to this step, but it’s impossible to know exactly how much things will cost and how long they’ll take until you have all the details in place.
A few scheduling considerations:
- Some brands’ collection periods only take a day or two to gather results.
- Brand studies for brands with highly niche products or highly targeted geographies tend to take longer, sometimes up to a month.
- Try to time studies to be completed and results fully communicated in time for any important company fiscal planning activities (e.g., quarterly/annual planning)
- Try to time studies to coincide with the high point of any advertising spend to increase chances of detecting gains driven by the campaign
For budgeting, this is almost completely a function of the other steps you’ve taken to this point. Cost is a function of the number of people you target, how in-depth the targeting is to reach them, and how many times you want to update your brand metrics.
$5,000-$10,000 is a common annual investment for brands that want a basic, yet functional brand measurement program.
Brands that run studies twice a quarter in two dozen cities across the world should realistically budget somewhere between $100k-$200k per year.
Just like with anything else in analytics/insights, the amount you spend on brand measurement should always be determined by the value your brand gains from the investment.
3) Perform Your Brand Study & Analysis
Next comes the fun part: data!
Assuming you’ve performed steps 1) and 2) correctly, you now have a study that is ready to be loaded up into whichever survey tool you’ve decided to use.
Every survey tool comes with its own limitations, options, and capabilities for how it can be configured, but in general, make sure you’re making note of these things as you’re building your study so you don’t end up having to back-track:
- Character limitations for questions and answers
- Limitations on number of answers that can be used
- Question type options (e.g., multiple choice, matrix-style questions, etc.)
- Randomizing and reversing answer options
- Branching or skip logic that should be used
- Screening questions
You may need to make a few changes to your study methodology based on the survey platform you use.
Go ahead and do that if you have to, then launch your study according to your brand measurement schedule.
If you’re like me, waiting for the responses to gather will be the longest N days of the fiscal period.
After your responses have been collected, it’s time for analysis.
Now, everyone does analysis a little differently.
Barbarians screenshot results out of their survey tool and embed them into Word docs.
People with a basic respect for data and analytics build spreadsheets with charts, pivot tables, and maybe an executive summary tab.
Brand measurement experts bring the data into their favorite analysis and/or dashboarding tools.
Here are the steps we take to create most of our brand measurement dashboards:
- Extract data from Pollfish
- Load Pollfish data into Google Sheets
- Load Google Sheets data into Google BigQuery
- Build Google Data Studio data source using Google BigQuery table
- Build brand measurement dashboards in Google Data Studio
- (Optional) Create and connect Extracts to Google Data Studio dashboards
Not everyone will want to use Google Data Studio, but we like it because it a) can be shared with anyone, b) easily lets you tell the brand’s story over time through data, and c) is free.
And finally, brand measurement pioneers will use machine learning tools like RapidMiner to uncover patterns in tens/hundreds of thousands of rows of survey responses that will reveal which factor(s) are the leading indicator of whether a consumer will use your brand (Spoiler: Usage of competing brands).
Whatever you do, make sure you are focused on tying the metrics back to your brand’s objectives and how your company is doing in its efforts to achieve its goals.
4) Update Your Brand & Marketing Strategy
The last step in the brand measurement process–and this is an important step that unfortunately sometimes gets skipped–is to update your brand and marketing strategies.
In some organizations, it’s enough to review your brand measurement report/dashboard/analysis/work product and have everyone self-organize their way to incorporating the insights and findings into their plans.
It’s more common though to need to take a bit more of a consultative approach.
There are typically only a handful of insights (~3-5) that are worth focusing on each time you run a brand measurement study. Find the biggest factors that can impact your business objectives, and direct people’s attention to these key details.
It’s better to have every business area and team within a company working to deliver on those small number of things that separate brand leaders from everyone else.
To that end, the best brand measurement programs proactively communicate results, implications, and recommendations to different stakeholder groups within the company.
Teams that should be considered when communicating brand measurement results include:
- Public Relations
- Product Management
- Government Relations
- Business Intelligence
- Human Resources
Ideally, you go on a “road show” for each of these teams or at a company-wide meeting. There should be a summary presentation that includes the 3-5 insights that matter along with recommendations of what to do with those insights.
Ideally, everyone can get access to your brand measurement report/dashboard.
Ideally, you do this on a regular basis.
The brands that focus on increasing their awareness and investing in their own distinctiveness are the brands that end up growing the fastest and ultimately becoming the market leader.
And just like Al Ries said, if you aren’t the market leader or #2 in a category, find another category.
Brand Measurement, In Closing
There has never been more interest in brands than there is today, but not as much as there will likely be tomorrow.
But you can’t improve what you can’t measure. That’s why more and more CMO’s of today’s fastest growing brands are making brand measurement programs a central part of their analytics and growth-marketing strategies.
After measuring hundreds of brands over the last decade, the process shared above has been proven to deliver results and grow brands.
But nothing’s perfect. So give it a try and let us know what changes you made to measure your own brand.