During the Superbowl in January 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh personal computer with an Orwellian T.V. commercial directed by none other than Ridley Scott. It depicted one brave woman breaking free from a dystopian society indoctrinated by propaganda and police-state pomp and circumstance. The commercial ends with the tagline, “you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.”

The 60-second spot mentioned the computer only once and said nothing about its capacity or capabilities. Yet, this commercial has been lauded for years as advertising genius because it put everyone on notice that change was coming.

While the commercial was considered groundbreaking at the time, the fact is, Apple employed a tactic that’s been used successfully for thousands of years. It didn’t try to build brand value by selling a product, it sold a promise.

The earliest Egyptians branded pyramids, murals, and sarcophagi with the names of rulers whose stories were remarkable or inspiring. Ancient Norseman used the term brandr to describe their early rituals of staking claim to property or livestock. Ancient Roman artisans and manufacturers signed their glassworks and developed a method of trademarking their oil lamps.

The Munich Cage Cup (4th Century AC). Inscription: "Bibe multis annis" (Drink and you will live for many years)

All of these ancient civilizations employed these methods to make the promise to would-be patrons, prospects, and pursuers that whatever they sought could be found within. That’s branding in its truest form.

But, building your brand in today’s marketplace takes a bit more than a strategically placed pile of smoldering wood or a cunningly carved sarcophagus. If you want to drive revenue, you need to build your brand, which means you need to be able to credit growth or decline to strategic decisions. To do that, you need baseline brand metrics to measure.

Don’t worry, I’m here to explain what to measure and how to do it. In this article, we'll share the metrics you'll need. (Head over here if you want to learn more about the brand measurement process in general).

6 Brand Metrics to Build Your Baseline

Brand metric #1: Awareness

Awareness refers to a brand’s strength in the minds of consumers. Consumers can’t buy your product or service if they don’t know you exist and awareness will uncover the percentage of consumers in your market that know you exist.

Awareness measures the portion of a market that can identify a brand when either prompted with a list of brands (i.e., aided awareness or recognition) or unprompted but provided a category (i.e., unaided awareness or recall).

Example of the brand metric: Aided awareness

One of the best ways to prompt awareness is by asking survey respondents a simple question: When it comes to <category or industry> what brands come to mind? There are typically three approaches to measuring awareness, all of which stem from classic market research methods:

  • Aided Awareness: Consumers are provided with a list of brands and are asked which ones they recognize.
  • Unaided Awareness: Consumers are asked to name the brands they know within a particular product category
  • Logo Recognition: Consumers are given a set of logos and asked to identify which they've seen before
Example of the brand metric: Unaided awareness

Brand metric #2: Frequency

Brand frequency is a measure of how often consumers hear about a given brand across all forms of media. If people hear about you often, it means you're either advertising a lot or you have a ton of word-of-mouth buzz around your brand.

But keep in mind, frequency isn’t always a good thing. Frequency followed by a great customer experience is a winning combination. But the old adage, “Any publicity is good publicity,” has proven false time and time again. Southwest Airlines, H&M, and Roseanne Barr all spring to mind as recent examples of brands that garnered a boatload of ill-gotten frequency in 2018.

Measuring frequency is pretty straightforward. It simply requires asking survey respondents: In the last year, how often have you heard about <brand>? The question is most effective if it uses a 5-, 7-, or 10-point scale between "not at all" and "very often" or with a list of options that include “never,” “rarely,” “occasionally,” “often,” and “always.”

Example of the brand metric: Frequency

There's also a thing called effective frequency, which is the ideal number of times a consumer needs to be exposed to a brand before taking action, but before the exposure to the brand is considered wasteful. Effective frequency is dependent on industry, product, and the quality of the offer, which makes it an extremely subjective and a somewhat controversial metric.

Brand metric #3: Familiarity

Brand familiarity refers to lower order cognitive associations we have with brands that involve our perceptions, but not direct experiences. This isn’t to be confused with favorability, which we discuss later and refers specifically to those direct experiences. Familiarity is like judging a book by its cover. The cover, in this case, is your gut feeling or base level of knowledge about a brand before engaging with it as a consumer.

Measuring familiarity varies widely because it’s essentially quantifying a person’s perceptions, which, by definition, is an exercise in subjectivity. The simplest way to measure familiarity is to ask respondents how familiar they are with <brand> and use a 5-, 7-, or 10-point scale ranging from “not at all familiar” to “very familiar.” Another way to phrase the question is to include a list of options ranging from “very unfamiliar,” “somewhat unfamiliar,” “neither familiar nor unfamiliar,” “somewhat familiar,” or “very familiar.”

Example of the brand metric: Familiarity

Other, more specific, examples can involve surveys or interviews related to:

  • Characteristics & Features: Surveys or interviews that ask for free associations about the brand's core qualities and features
  • Style & Design: Feelings, thoughts and ideas associated with the look and feel of the design
  • Price: Superficial impression about the brand's price
  • User Profile: Assumptions and ideas about what kind of person purchases from a brand
  • Purchase Conditions: Assumptions and ideas about which scenarios most often result in someone purchasing from the brand
  • Personality & Values: Knowledge and ideas surrounding the brand's unique style and what it stands for
  • History & Traditions: Knowledge and understanding around the brand's background, news, events, etc.

Brand metric #4: Favorability

Favorability is all about consumer judgment. Do your customers like you and are they willing to recommend you? That last part is key. It’s what differentiates favorability from related metrics like familiarity. Favorability measures a consumer's judgments in the higher-minded areas of quality, superiority, consideration, and personality after having had direct experiences with the brand.

Start by asking respondents a seemingly simple question: “How likely is it that you’d recommend <brand> to a friend or colleague?” The answers you receive will depend on whether you’re measuring responses for quantitative or qualitative robustness. Both are valuable research methods if you’re clear about the type of information you’re seeking.

Example of the brand metric: Favorability
  • Quantitative measurement: A Yelp! or Google My Business rating, a customer satisfaction score (CSAT), or market surveys are all good examples of quantifying consumer favorability.

    The most widely used consumer favorability methodology is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). In this model, consumers are asked whether they'd recommend a brand to someone on a scale of 1 to 10, where one indicates they’d never recommend the brand and ten indicates they’d absolutely recommend it.
  • Qualitative measurement: By definition, qualitative measurement is a fuzzier favorability methodology and often involves surveys or consumer interviews. Qualitative measurement is when you’ll ask consumers questions like, “How does <brand> make you feel?”

    The key to finding value in qualitative responses isn't to take every consumer response literally, but to recognize the aggregate wisdom in their feedback and identify overall sentiment and categories of ideas. Sometimes, an anecdote is all it takes to strike marketing gold.

Brand metric #5: Preference

This isn’t suave marketing speak. It’s exactly what it says on the box. Preference simply refers to the number of consumers who would rather purchase a product or service from Brand A over all the others out there.

Measuring preference is literally just asking respondents: Which <brand> do you prefer? Of course, in some product categories, you'll find consumers who possess strong preferences for one brand over the others. In other product categories—particularly those for newer or obscure brands—the vast majority of consumers won't yet have a preference.

Example of the brand metric: Preference

It’s also popular to then ask consumers why they prefer the brand they selected. Open-ended responses to this question can typically reveal the insights that can transform a brand into market leader.

Brand metric #6: Demand

Demand refers to the portion of the market that is currently or has recently been a customer of a given brand. Demand is the North Star of all the brand metrics. It’s the brightest and shiniest; the one everyone thinks they can identify; and, too often, is the only one used to blaze the trail toward a brand strategy. Truthfully, you can measure demand in myriad different ways.

Web analytics data, market research analyses, and even direct sales data are popular ways to measure the demand for a brand. A simple, yet effective, way to measure brand demand is to ask your potential consumers whether they are a current customer or have recently purchased your goods or services. The question can be as simple as, “When was the last time you purchased from <brand>?” This method provides an easy way to track and trend market share over time and provides a clear performance indicator for how the brand is ultimately doing.

Example of the brand metric: Demand

The bottom line

American author and marketing guru, Seth Godin, wrote in Permission Marketing, “making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.” And if today’s brands want to distinguish themselves—better yet, if they want to avoid becoming obsolete—they’ll stop at nothing to keep their promises to their patrons, prospects, and pursuers.

The fact is, in every given category there's a #1 and a #2 brand, and after that, no one cares. Who’s next in line after Coke and Pepsi, Ford and Chevy, Nike and Adidas, McDonalds and Burger King? Do you know? I certainly don’t.

Being the number one brand in your space is the only long-term strategy you can count on to drive growth. Understanding the most effective brand metrics to measure that growth is the best way to sell your strategy to leadership and achieve your business goals.