Measuring return on brand investment

As the axiom goes, what is not measured is not managed. And so it can go with brand - too many businesses let the value of their brand slip through their fingers by failing to measure its performance.
Especially in a down economy, appropriate standards of measurement, or brand metrics, are not just a good idea - they're mandatory for companies that intend to succeed.

As the axiom goes, what is not measured is not managed. And so it can go with brand – too many businesses let the value of their brand slip through their fingers by failing to measure its performance.

Especially in a down economy, appropriate standards of measurement, or brand metrics, are not just a good idea – they’re mandatory for companies that intend to succeed.

The right set of metrics will allow organizations to focus on brand growth, measuring the brand’s performance against the strategic plan, and more effectively allocating resources for business impact.

Choosing the right metrics are important, but the process starts earlier than that. It’s crucial that management strongly supports the brand’s role as a key driver behind the business’s overall strategy, from sales to pricing and across all delivery and customer touch points. Tightly tying the performance objectives of the organization to the brand’s performance ensures that brand is considered an ongoing priority. And the organization will reap the benefits.

Getting there requires undertaking an internal assessment to help identify where and how the brand should be measured relative to the organization’s overall strategic objectives:

* auditing strategic documents;

* conducting management interviews to determine decision-makers’ views of the business’s future and how brand fits in;

* assessing currently used performance metrics; and

* assessing the competitive landscape.

This assessment creates the framework for a balanced set of metrics that will drive objective decision-making and aids in measuring brand over time.

Brand metrics fall into two categories: brand image and brand impact. Brand image metrics measure the overall awareness of the brand; how important and meaningful it is; whether it is delivering upon what stakeholders value; and if it’s increasing a customer’s purchase intent. Brand impact metrics are business measures that indicate the brand’s role in driving the overall health of the business.

Smart companies use both types to give them a clearer picture of the brand’s value. The right ones must meet the simple requirements of effective, SMART brand metrics:

Strategic Alignment – Brand metrics must be aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization.

Market-Driven – Understanding the root cause of a measure is necessary through the market’s eyes, not the company’s internal lens.

Actionable – For a measure to be valuable to an organization, guidance for action must be provided.

Repeatable and Consistent – If a metric cannot be easily replicated, it probably won’t be. A simple, repeatable metric can create ongoing benchmarks and valuable measures.

Touch points – Metrics should cover all aspects of the customer experience. The brand should take into account all of its touch points.

In deciding which are SMART for your organization, it’s necessary to understand what each category of metrics achieves.

Brand image metrics are numerous, ranging from awareness to preference. They tend to be qualitative.

Each type has a specific purpose and is tracked by asking specific questions. The brand preference metric, for example, measures stakeholders’ preference for your brand relative to other brands and the degree to which they are willing to refer others to your brand or even become an advocate. A company may track this metric by asking such questions as: ‘How likely are you to continue to use Brand X?’ or ‘Given a choice, which of these three brands would you prefer?’ and ‘Have you ever expressed how much you like Brand X without being asked?’ The answers to such questions help companies develop rich profiles of stakeholders and their current perceptions of the brand, allowing customer touch points to be tailored accordingly.

Brand impact metrics are quantitative. Among them: market share; price premium (the average incremental amount your brand can charge over its nearest competitors); and share of wallet. These appeal to management as they draw the correlation between the measures and the bottom line.

It is useful to develop a brand scorecard. This synthesizes all of the selected metrics into one visual tool and serves as the dashboard by which to manage the brand. This enables the business to quickly identify trouble spots.

The scorecard allows for correlation between the dollar-driving brand impact metrics and the softer, market-driven impacts of brand image. Imagine a scorecard that features price premium and brand relevance. If the brand’s price advantage is beginning to erode, what could be the cause? Check the relevance measure to ensure the brand is still valued and differentiated in the marketplace. If not, those responsible for delivering the brand to the customer can respond accordingly.

Brand metrics help management identify areas for improvement and detail the appropriate actions to get back on track. With brands performing at their peak, they deliver more to the bottom line of and create a healthier organization as a whole.

Jeff Smith is a director in the Chicago office of Prophet (www.prophet.com), a leading professional services firm that helps clients better manage their brands as a strategic asset. He has over 13 years of experience in helping companies understand, develop, and implement market-driven branding and marketing strategies.