Tracking for brand growth: The magic formula

Discover the tracking elements that drive brand equity: what metrics to include, which data sources to combine, and how frequently to measure them.
21 October 2021
Strong brand equity: Nike
Mary Kyriakidi
Mary
Kyriakidi

Demand Generation Director, Brand Guidance

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The magic formula for brand growth exists... and it’s rooted in your brand tracker. Although this article won’t tell you what single action to take to grow your brand, it reveals the amalgam of indicators – a well-balanced mix of short and long-term indicators – that will point to the answer. Systematic tracking leads to sustainable brand growth. The trick is to pay attention to the right signals and act and react quickly.

Order matters: Your brand tracker comes first

Diagnosis is like asking your brand: ‘what is wrong with you?’. Your brand tracker should be your starting point to work out what’s going on before you build, tweak or revitalize your brand strategy. When KFC and The National Lottery addressed a sales dip with rigorous diagnostics, they were hailed for their shrewd approach. But more importantly for them, they got to the source of the problem before they committed to fixing it. Rather than using advertising as the default answer, KFC boldly showed where the food came from and shook off the negative associations with its name, whilst The National Lottery kindled an emotional connection with the public by re-affirming its association with wider societal benefits.

Not all diagnosis is created equal

With an (un)spoken watchful eye on budget and a hovering trust deficit, the modern marketer perpetually strives to build marketing momentum and gain C-suite buy-in. The less fluffy they sound, the greater the chance the rest of their business will listen.

Imagine our modern marketer walking into the boardroom and saying:

Our brand diagnosis is telling us we can justify a 10% price premium by strengthening X brand image association, which translates to £8m+ EBITDA in the UK and £50m+ globally”.

This statement is simple, yet insightful, multi-factor-dependent, yet specific. It’s the kind of language that dazzles and convinces in the boardroom; the kind of narrative that can only be derived from a thorough diagnosis: a range of data types and leading-edge analytics that work interchangeably to highlight the problem, draw attention to the answer, and serve as a course-correcting enabler for sustainable growth.

Revealed: The blended scorecard

Your brand is one of your business’ most valuable assets and your brand’s equity in the minds of the consumers is a game-changing multiplier in determining your value. Ergo, whilst conceptualizing the finest performance mechanism for your brand, it’s crucial to include metrics that help you nudge equity at every stage of the tracking journey. Let’s cover each stage along with their optimum time frames for measurement:

Nudge your brand equity at every stage

Nudge your brand equity at every stage

First impressions

Your brand is searched for, your activity gets people talking, consumers leave behind a trail of sentiment, news spikes divulge what people collectively felt it was worth writing about. You can analyze search and social data about your brand and category using human expertise and AI, as often as it is needed – fortnightly or even more frequently. This provides an understanding of existing and potential new needs and occasions to fuel category and brand growth.

When Amazon secured the rights to exclusively screen some Premier League games in the UK in December 2019, it drove record levels of new Amazon Prime subscriptions. Search traffic for Amazon Prime and the huge peaks around exclusivity told the story in search language. It was the moment Prime search exceeded Sky sports for the first time ever.

But beware of stillness in search and social signals, as this can also reveal unexpected truths. The recent anticipated backlash to the ‘Not your Mother’s Tiffany’ campaign turned out to be nothing more than a vociferous, but constrained whipping of the brand on social media; the overall volume and the sentiment of the comments remained intact.

Initial signals of brand response

Still in the short term, you can measure the effectiveness of your individual ads and diagnose areas of strength and weakness before your campaigns go live or whilst in flight. Is your advertising contributing to brand prominence? Is it hitting the mark with messaging towards intended associations?

Nike’s ‘You can’t Stop Us’ campaign offered hope and encouragement during the pandemic and illustrated that the closure of stadiums and gyms did not stop athletes pushing forward. Kantar BrandZ data confirmed that this campaign built on existing strong perceptions of social responsibility and global leadership.

Nike’s campaign built on strong perceptions of social responsibility and global leadership

Nike’s campaign built on strong perceptions of social responsibility and global leadership

Building valuable associations

If all that’s worked, by the time it’s full moon again, you’ll see progress in the way your brand associates with category needs and occasions. The category dynamics are exactly that – dynamic. A monthly scan of these metrics is a sound and tactical move. It helps you insulate against new threats and maximize growth from adjacent categories.

In his interview with Charlie Rose, Jeff Bezos lists the many ways to center a business. Amazon goes with customer obsession – a sweet fixation the retail giant nourishes with an empty customer seat in every single one of their meetings. Kantar BrandZ data shows that across a wide range of customer needs, Amazon is defined by a clear difference underpinned by customer centricity, online experience, leadership, disruption, creativity and adventure.

Are you first to mind?

How quickly a brand comes to mind, what we call salience or what Byron Sharp refers to as ‘mental availability’ in his 2012 book ‘How Brands Grow’, is a proven indicator that can monitor and guide performance in the immediate short-term. Does your brand come to mind first at key decision-making points? If yes, you are more likely to be chosen.

Takeaway delivery brands were some of the strongest in our Kantar BrandZ database in 2020, having developed a highly trusted reputation in just a few years since online apps exploded the category. The main driver of their upturn was salience, something that’s typically driven by investment in advertising. Although salience alone is not enough to make a sale, neither is an indicator of future success. The ‘coming to mind’ pulls can offer instant gratification – as they did for the takeaway delivery brands during the pandemic.

Winning brand equity

Dreamland for brands is the place of strong brand equity. Reaching it is a challenge: our analysis shows that on average equity shifts by 0.6% annually. But it comes with great perks: your brand is becoming consumers’ first choice and you are getting away with charging more.

The strength of a brand’s equity is quantifiable. We measure it with a validated metric, Brand Power and our Kantar BrandZ 2021 most valuable global brands report is filled with examples of brand equity growth of established brands and new risers.

Put down the crystal ball and pick up the simulators

Throughout the different stages of your tracking journey, you can take control of your brand’s destiny by simulating different ‘what if’ scenarios. For instance, what would the impact on sales be if a. I invested more money in my campaign and went for this specific channel mix? b. I paid more attention to ‘these’ trends? or c. I pushed ‘this’ blend of brand attributes?

When to use detection and prediction apps to forecast and alter the course of future sales

When to use detection and prediction apps to forecast and alter the course of future sales

Don’t let short-term fixation hurt long-term growth

There you have it: a well-balanced blended scorecard that channels your focus from the short to the long and from the long to the short in the pursuit of brand equity and sustainable growth.

Measurement is not (or rather shouldn’t be) a beauty contest; it’s a meaningful input into the decision-making process, an input that stimulates interaction and exercises influence in the boardroom. Successful brand building starts with the realization that if you prioritize short-term gains, you will inflict long-term damage. The realization that the stronger the brand, the more superior the shareholder returns, the greater the contribution to the business’ future cash flow. If you’re in it for the long run, sustainable growth is the only option.

To find out more watch our on-demand webinar: Finding growth in good times (and bad) or please get in touch to discuss.

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Finding brand growth in good times (and bad)
Kantar experts reveal the magic formula for sustainable brand growth in this on-demand webinar: an amalgam of short and long-term indicators that nudge your brand equity at every stage of the tracking journey.
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