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Brand Experience

Brand health: How to heal a sick brand

Having a strong brand in good health will keep you one step ahead of the competition. What is brand health, how can you measure it and what can you do if your brand looks a little poorly?

What is brand health?

Brand health is the way a company or brand delivers on its promises to customers. The more delighted customers are with the product or service, the better the brand’s health. Rob Rush, of Deloitte & Touche LLP sums it up: “In short, the closer a customer experience is to the brand promise, the healthier the brand.” A healthy brand is a strong brand.

Why track brand health?

While you can measure your company’s financial success using sales figures, measuring your brand health needs a different set of metrics, to understand:

  • what people think of your brand (brand perception)
  • how memorable your brand is (brand recall)
  • how people interact with your brand (brand attributes)
  • how people buy and use your brand (brand purchase)

Brand tracking is essential, to:

  • Monitor the overall health of your brand
  • Understand how your brand performs for your target audience
  • Inform where to direct your marketing strategy and budget
  • Flag up any negative trends and address them immediately
  • Benchmark against the competition
  • Assess the effectiveness of your advertising
  • Identify your brand advocates
  • Achieve brand equity

When you plan a brand strategy, brand tracking should be built in right at the beginning. It’s how you measure results.

Free eBook: How to Manage Your Brand in Times of Change

How to measure brand health

There are lots of brand tracking metrics available, but the thing to remember is you don’t have to use every one of these. Cherry-pick the basics, and the ones that are relevant to your business right now. As you grow, you can bolt others onto your brand tracker.

  • Brand awareness
    Use survey questions to measure brand awareness that cover both your business and your competitors. Use aided and unaided questions to capture respondents’ awareness of your brand.
  • Brand attributes and associations
    This measures the thoughts, opinions and experiences customers associate with your brand, and their expectations. Use statement-type questions on a Likert scale (Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree). You can collect opinions on product features, and how the products fit into their lifestyle.
  • Brand perception
    This is what customers believe a product or service represents, not what the company owning the brand says it does. Their judgments can come from buying the product, reading an online review, comparing experiences of it with friends, or talking to your staff. Surveys, focus groups and forums and social media listening will help you measure brand perception.
  • Brand loyalty
    When customers are treated well, satisfied with the product/service, and the brand values chime with their personal values, they will be loyal. In short, a brand has to meet the customer needs. NPS is a classic metric for measuring brand loyalty: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [brand] to your family and friends?; as is Customer Lifetime Value.

Download your free NPS survey template now

  • Brand preference
    This is a simple metric that tracks the number of consumers who prefer to buy your branded product over the same product from a competitor. You use a list of tick boxes of other brands, and ask the question: Tick which brand of [product] you prefer to buy.
  • Brand usage
    This metric will tell you how often consumers purchase your brand’s product or service. Use tick boxes labeled with your brand and competing brands, and ask respondents: Please select which of the following brands you buy or use regularly.
  • Brand purchase
    Identify previous or existing customers by asking: Have you purchased [product] from [our brand] before?
  • Brand tracking
    Track your brand funnel and how well you move the market from brand awareness to advocacy.
  • Ad concept testing
    Measure the strength of your ad concepts before you spend budget on taking them to market
  • Customer insights
    Conduct research that reveals hidden customer insights only you know about.
  • Brand position testing
    Optimize your brand positioning by measuring the reaction to different value proposition candidates.
  • Message targeting
    Understand how well your messaging is resonating with different consumer segments.
  • X+O-data integration
    Understand how your brand and business KPIs interact and affect each other. Is your marketing driving growth?
  • Website metrics
    There are lots of these, but probably the most important ones are: value per visit, total site traffic, traffic sources, conversion rate, lead generation cost, bounce rate, average session duration, interactions per visit, top pages and exit pages. And you can go beyond analytics with website feedback surveys.
  • Social media listening
    With almost everyone constantly on their phones, listening to social media is essential for any brand. There are also social media marketing metrics you’ll need to track, including reach, engagement, shares, referrals to your website, click-through rate, bounce rate, conversions and cost per conversion.

How to heal a sick brand

Has your brand lost its way? Lost its market share or share of voice? Maybe it has even lost its soul? For once-mighty brands that are gradually losing their grip, there are often more questions than answers:

  • Has our brand changed, or have our existing customers?
  • Has brand reputation been affected?
  • Is our offering outdated?
  • Is our brand promise not chiming with the upcoming generation?
  • Has our advertising gone stale?
  • Is this a product problem or an image problem? Maybe both?

Shrinking brands often find that they are suffering from one or more of the following market problems. Your brand may have:

  • An experience that is out of sync with the rest of the market
  • Expanded into too many markets and has lost its essence
  • become stale and no longer creates excitement with customers or employees
  • Had its health ignored for too long and is showing signs of fatigue
  • Become mired in the past, and hasn’t evolved with new buyers
  • Had its focus narrowed and lacks sufficient channel distribution
  • Found itself in a dying market
  • Been reduced merely to a commodity

Brands that need a turnaround should start with a 3-point game plan:

1. Diagnose the problems

A brand can lose its way for many reasons, but it’s not always immediately obvious that it’s happening. A brand will begin to show symptoms of decline here and there, little-by-little, without a sudden drop off (unless dealing with a crisis - but even those can be recovered from)

You might notice:

  • A modest shrinkage of market share
  • Some anecdotal comments from buyers about switching brand
  • Less loyalty among buyers
  • Competitors feeling a little bolder and beginning to score wins more often
  • The media not seeming quite so interested in your brand as it was, and people are talking about it less.

Many brand managers won’t pick up on the problem until something sets off an alarm, and then suddenly the entire business is thrown into a panic. This is often the most dangerous time for a brand because distressed executives and marketers may respond with knee-jerk actions, make rushed decisions, and overreact to the problem. Everybody will have an opinion about what to do, but that’s also part of the problem. You don’t need opinions - you need data.

To diagnose a brand, you need quantitative and qualitative data to ascertain:

  • Do customers believe your brand has stayed true to its original values?
  • If so, are those values still in harmony with those of customers?
  • Has your brand’s messaging and value proposition become less desirable? Is it still meeting customer needs?
  • Is your brand’s positioning less compelling than those of competitors?
  • Are your products still solving pain points and delivering enough value?
  • Is your brand consistent in its marketing, customer experience and product value?

2. Set turnaround goals and take action

Once you have diagnosed the root of your brand’s atrophy, the next step is to lay out and work towards turnaround goals for the short term (6-12 months) and the long term (13-36 months).

These goals may include:

  • Improvements in your NPS and Customer Lifetime Value - indicators of loyalty
  • Pre and post-campaign performance standards
  • Increase in market share
  • Brand funnel improvements
  • Product quality standards
  • Employee engagement objectives

3. Measure your progress

You can only know that your brand is back on track when your metrics tell you they are. Without measuring improvement, you can’t determine if all your efforts are paying off. Use a selection of the tools mentioned above to measure your brand turnaround.


Free eBook: How to Manage Your Brand in Times of Change