TEN things you can do to INSURE your brand’s health
TEN things you can do to INSURE your brand’s health
Last week I had my annual physical with my primary care physician. Thankfully, after losing 35 pounds and eating right this past year, I was given a favorable bill of health and told to come back the same time next year. Blood pressure, check. Blood tests, check. Cholesterol, all within range, check. Weight loss, check. I felt pretty proud of myself, I admit.
The experience made me think about branding health checks. Were companies taking the time to examine the health of their brands, both internally and externally? Was there a process they went through to determine their brand's health? What were the tests they might take that would be the equivalent of blood pressure, cholesterol, stress tests, etc.?
The more I thought about it, it occurred to me that companies should be undertaking an annual physical assessment of their brand health. If brand health tests results are poor, they should act quickly to remedy their ailments and improve performance before the brand becomes terminal. This analogy isn’t so far-fetched; just look at what has happened with Sears, Payless Shoes and Toys “R” Us within the year. Would they have passed their annual physical “brand” health test?
So what tests should brands submit to so that they can effectively monitor their brand health?
- Tracking studies. Monitor your awareness and purchase consideration scores against your primary competition and new innovative, disruptive alternatives. Think of it as taking your brand’s blood pressure. If you see that your awareness scores are declining, and your first-choice preference is low; it means that there is a problem with your brand recognition and purchase consideration. Often this indicates you are being outspent in media dollars and exposure, that your competitor’s message is more relevant and appealing, and/or your advertising message is not getting through creatively.
- Return on investment and loyalty measures. Take a long hard look at your lifetime value of your customers regarding repeat purchases and attitudes toward brand loyalty. Think of this as your blood test. Are you a brand that they will recommend to their friends on social media? Do they believe in your brand purpose? If you learn that your customers are only purchasing your products one time, there could be some dissonance issues that you need to address.
- Consumer and employee research and qualitative insights. Consider conducting internal and external focus groups to measure the relevance of your brand in people’s (customers and employees) lives. Think of this as taking your brand pulse. This is a great way to understand how to improve how your brand intertwines in the lives of your employees and your customers. Are they advocates and champions? Do they believe in what the brand stands for? Do they take the time to post opinions about the brand positively on social media?
- Content data analysis and CRM. Once you’ve identified the key metrics that influence your brand health success, it should be monitored weekly monthly and annually. Think of this as a brand heart monitor or EKG. It requires a sequential framework and process. Work hard to organize your data and analytics with dashboards and technology so that you meet the criteria of HARD, SIMPLE and EASY. Organize the data so that the complexity of the information is not hard to understand so that it is simple to view trends and identify relevant insights. Keeping the data and analytics simple, makes it easy to make recommendations and actions that can influence and change trends in the right direction fast.
- Is your brand obese and overweight? Are you a house of brands or branded house? Think of this as if your brand is overweight and needs to lose some pounds? Does it have too many competing products which have the potential to cannibalize each other customers and cause confusion and mismanagement? One has to wonder what is happening at Campbell’s Soup, Marriott, Unilever, and InBev? Maybe it’s time to shed some weight and divest some of their branded products and focus on their core businesses.
- Employee engagement. Do employees understand your brand? Are they motivated by your promise? Can they tell your story? Think of this as a hearing test or agility test. Exploring the brand’s messaging and refining it as necessary is very important, both internally externally. Can employees articulate what the company stands for, what is their brand purpose and what behaviors they need to embrace to provide exceptional customer experiences? Can they articulate the culture? If not, it is imperative that the company address the situation immediately.
- Net promoter scores. Think of this as a stress test. Before you start any brand expansion plan, take a temperature check to find out how well your brand is doing in terms of customer satisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure trusted by marketing professionals to reflect general brand health. To calculate NPS, customers are surveyed on one single question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or a colleague?” Based on their rating, customers are then classified as either brand detractors, passives or promoters. The Net Promoter Score is determined by subtracting the percentage of customers who are detractors from the percentage who are promoters. A good NPS is considered to be anything above zero, with anything above 50% being excellent.
- Is your brand relevant? Think of this as your lifespan expectancy test. No matter how much customer loyalty and awareness your brand possesses, if you fail to respond to trends and changing tastes, you’re likely to be going the way of brands that no longer exist - just like video cassette recorders or a hand-held calculator. You can’t rely on your history to secure your future; long-term brand health relies on thinking ahead and acting now ( it’s like having a colonoscopy every five years after 50 for early cancer detection). Surveying consumers to see how relevant they consider your brand to be is a good way to measure if you’re doing enough. Do they think they’ll still be buying the kinds of solutions you can offer in 5, 10, 15 years, or do they dream that something better will come along one day? Perhaps there are already challenger brands on their radar? If you don’t seek to find out as early as possible, you might be left behind when a disruptive technology and the company becomes a serious threat. - Brand equity alone hasn’t protected legacy hotel brands from industry disruptor VRBO or TripAdvisor.
- Is your brand identity, personality, tone and manner up-to-date? Think of this as your fitness test. Is the “brand identity” appealing and likable? Does it reflect the values and the culture of your company? Is it in tune with the times and political agendas of the day?
- Overall brand wellness. After you have taken an assessment of all the previous factors, you will be able to weigh the elements of each to arrive at an overall wellness equation or index. This measure should be weighted based on the priorities of your corporate strategy, long-term growth plans, quality standards, process improvements, ability to recruit talent and return on investment. Together, they should work and provide an overall health check of the brand performance and provide direction on how to improve areas that are poor or out of sync.
If you and your company would like to do a brand health check and audit, Inward would be more than happy to provide support and guidance to your brand. As your doctor would tell you, don’t take your brand health for granted. It must be managed with a proactive program to ensure long-term wellness and survival. We can help. Come into our “laboratory/health club” and will help you get back in brand shape with a program of nutrition, weight loss, diet, exercise, sleep, and positive thinking. It’s the only way to keep your brand vital, exerting high-energy, demonstrating vigor and flexibility to achieve customer appeal for the future.
Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770