How does Better Brand Health compare with The Future of Brand Health?
Patrick Bruin, MIC (Marketing & Insights Consultancy) and Sjoerd Koornstra, (The House of Insights)
In 2021, ESOMAR and its Congress Programme Committee selected our paper for presentation at Congress; in this paper, we put forward our views on best practices to ensure "fit-for-purpose" brand health tracking in the future based upon on our global experience managing international brands. Jenni Romaniuk recently published the book “Better Brand Health”. This book focuses on the Measures and Metrics for a “How Brands Grow” world. For actionability purposes, a template questionnaire can be downloaded. The book gives an extensive description of metrics, how to measure them and reasons why you should measure them. Also, some other data sources are discussed as substitutes for or add-ons to Brand Health Tracking.
In this article we describe how the contents of Better Brand Health compare to our work on The Future of Brand Tracking. This will include discussing some specific metrics and measures mentioned in the book.
The foundation of a good Brand Health Tracking system
The foundation covers some generic aspects and some more specific aspects. The more generic ones are:
• Do consumers know me?
• Have consumers seen me?
• Do consumers like me?
• How often do consumers use me?
• What do consumers think about me?
• What is my overall fitness score (brand health / equity)?
• Do consumers prefer me over other brands?
We will discuss some striking points on these generic aspects but start with the main sampling requirement.
Measurement of Brand Health should be amongst users and not amongst buyers
Better Brand Health focuses on referring to people as ‘buyers’ and classes them as non-buyers, light buyers and heavy buyers We think however that users are more important for the following reasons:
1. A buyer is not necessarily a user. A buyer might receive instructions to buy specific brands. Especially in FMCG buyers could be instructed to purchase specific brands without any involvement with the brand. In this case the buyer is just an order picker.
2. Buyers who are not users are not able to evaluate the brand on specific usage characteristics, like e.g. bitter taste. These specific usage characteristics are measured as attributes.
As an example imagine a household with divided tasks. The wife is doing the washing and determines the brand and the washing powder product. The husband is doing mainly the shopping but concerning washing he is just order picking. He, the buyer of the product, might not have a clue about the product. That is why a large global beer company, which has a brand health tracking in more than 120 countries, is measuring for decades only amongst users. Also global companies in carbonated soft drinks and tobacco are measuring Brand Health amongst users.
Unprompted Awareness is important
Unprompted Awareness is not considered as important for two reasons in the book:
(1) the number of brands mentioned by consumers are fewer than for prompted awareness
(2) there is no guarantee that the same brand will be retrieved tomorrow.
We however think that unprompted measures like Top of Mind (the brand is the most present brand in the mind of the consumer) and Total Spontaneous awareness (the brand is actively present in the mind of the consumer) are important measures, especially in situations where you have to order a product without clear brand signage as can happen in bars / restaurants. For example, brands that are top of mind will be ordered by name and more than those that aren’t. Products may be physical available, but if you are not part of the evoked set of the consumers you will not be ordered at all. A Dutch rather well known gin brand has been launched in the US after comprehensive market research. Although market research was quite promising the brand was lacking awareness and was not ordered in liquor shops despite distribution availability.
In the book measures and metrics for Mental Availability are explained as “better” substitutes for Top of Mind. Below we describe that these have some disadvantages.
Overall fitness score is not clear
Better Brand Health doesn’t refer to an overall ‘fitness score’ (how does a brand score overall in the minds of consumers) like brand equity. The Share of Mind measure for Mental Availability comes close. This measure is related to the share of Category Entry Points. This is not an overall measure and rather contrived.
Besides the generic aspects we also mentioned more specific ones.
· The measurement framework should be consistent with decision making about the way brands are managed The measurement in the book is based upon the How Brands Grow Framework which is structurally adhered.
· The frequency should be in line with the ability to react by the organization. This aspect is neglected and left to the reader.
· The measurement should be comparable in time as well between different markets / categories. Concerning attributes measurement this is one of the weak points in the book. The comparability in time is dealt with through a rather pragmatic approach (recalculating for changes in the brand list). Comparability between markets, a must for global brands, is not mentioned at all. More attention could have been paid to this subject.
· The KPIs should be absolute with clear references and not relative and the KPIs should be simple and easy to understand. As an example, the Michelin star measurement is so strong and recognized due to the fact that the level of a one-star restaurant is in every country the same. In our opinion the Mental Availability metrics, like Mental Market Share, Mental Penetration, Network Size and Share of Minds do not meet these two requirements. These measures are all relative and calculated on category entry points. These category entry points can differ per category and per market. Calculations of these metrics require thinking power of the reader to digest.
Brand Health is not the same as communication evaluation
Brand Health is a reflection of all the brand signals in the market. To measure different marketing activities (advertising, sponsoring etc.) in detail in a Brand Health Tracking system is either too much to handle for respondents or becomes too shallow. We strongly recommend to limit to the measurement of awareness of different touchpoints and stick to that level. Meaning: not to show e.g., stills of commercials or deep dive into certain touchpoints (like Word of Mouth) as is proposed in the book.
A good analytical software tool is essential
A "How Brands Grow" approach to marketing emphasizes connecting with non-buyers and light buyers. This requires flexible analysis of data from various groups, allowing for slicing, dicing, and comparing across different time periods and markets. Treating Brand Health Tracking the same way as other data sources and accessing the data with a BI tool without proper data preparation can lead to problems. The book doesn't mention this, but we believe it should be taken seriously.
Here are some high-level reasons why:
Data often needs to be weighted for a representative picture, and certain groups may have been "boosted", affecting the weighting.
· Respondents may not answer all the questions, resulting in missing values that need to be addressed.
· Surveys with a continuous nature conducted in multiple countries often have different measurement periods. Presenting a global view of brands in one dashboard requires pre-structuring data from different markets, time periods, and user groups.
During a software review (https://www.moa.nl/softwarereview.html), we found that these issues often cause implementation problems in companies. Therefore, we recommend considering software providers that have already incorporated these functionalities.
The questionnaire should follow a logical flow
In order to obtain the highest quality answers, we strongly recommend to follow a simple and consistent flow:
1. Category Usage
2. Brand Awareness
3. Brand Usage
4. Brand Perception / Image
5. Brand Touchpoints Awareness
Respondents get confused when you start with awareness, brand image and at the end brand usage as is done in the template questionnaire The flow is in Romaniuk’s book category screeners, brand awareness, attributes, attitude, WOM, marketing activities, category and brand buying. We also think image can only be measured from brands people are aware of.
The book gives a thorough view of Measures and Metrics for a “How Brands Grow” world. We have taken this world as a given without disputing it in this article. We think however that the book has room for improvements concerning:
- Sample composition
- Specific measures and focus
- Design for comparability in time and between markets
- Structured questionnaire
This book is based on very thorough scientific and academic work, done by acknowledged thought leaders in the field of marketing. We feel however, that it remains theoretical, despite its title and promise. E.g., publications in respected industry organizations (congresses, websites, magazines) are not mentioned. Also standardized tools from consumer insights agencies are not discussed and this is emphasized by the fact that analytical software is not touched upon either.
Burggrave, C.R. (2018), Marketing is Finance is Business. Milton Keynes, Lightning Source
Koornstra, S.O. (2020), Software Review: Data integration tools with data analytics, visualization and dashboarding. Amsterdam, MOA publication