brand's perception, brand's market reach, brand audit, brand performance audit

Learn how to rank a brand’s performance, and perform your own brand audit.

Doing so will help you uncover a brand’s perception challenges and help you understand your brand’s market reach, and help you to gauge how well a brand is performing in comparison to its competitors. 

When businesses are within competitive marketplaces there is a need to constantly be aware and gauge how a brand is performing. A brand is represented by its marketing and communications on the surface, but underneath it is represented by all activities of the organization, the successes and failures of its core product/service offerings, the financial stability of an organization or entity, and with all of the brand’s touchpoints with its consumers/clients.  Gauging the performance of a brand is a significant challenge as it includes both what visibly can be seen,  and what people are feeling about a brand. 

brand's perception, brand's market reach, brand audit, brand performance audit

View the top 100 Brands as according to Interbrand. These top 100 brands are leaders within their industries and their successes and challenges impact brands around them as influencers and trend setters.

Source: Top 100 Brands of 2017 Interbrand

What ElephantMark largely helps with is reviewing how a brand is perceived, and how it makes people respond emotionally to it. To do this we need to inspect or rely on market research in 4 areas: brand perception, brand consistency, brand communications strategy, and a brand’s market reach.

Branding Perception Example: Every day we choose brands on how we feel.

What your brand’s audience feels about it, is the definition of brand perception. Simple enough, right? But its hard to quantify feelings accurately, and to do so we have to do a bit of research into understanding your audiences views of your services, products, your sales processes, and how your brand fits into your industry or marketplace. Some basic brand perception qualities that you should ask audiences about include a brand’s… Quality, Value, Visual Aesthetic, Senses, Personality, Reputation, and Status.  People look at brands with a judgemental eye. Every brand experience whether it is in-store, in front of a computer, in a contract, or over the phone is all part of the larger picture that defines what your audiences emotionally feels about your brand. And ultimately why consumers will or won’t choose your brand over others.

People use concrete logic only to confirm emotional responses, and that emotion whether it is engaged or excited or apathetic is what we really need to understand, to gauge how well a brand is doing to communicate and craft emotional responses to its brand audiences and to gauge engagement in comparison to its competitors. For instance, I may logically need to go the grocery shopping at the end of each week, but I am more interested in and excited to pick a brand that I’d like to shop at rather than about what items are needed. It’s irrational, intangible and it’s a choice even if it is a mundane task, and we do this everytime we “need” to do or acquire something.  Everything from the tone of a brand representative’s voice to the readability of your marketing materials, to how it makes consumers feel by participating in a branded experience ( IE visiting a store, using an application, buying a cup of coffee etc. ) is all part of this perception, and when you think about it like that it’s monumentally complex.

So how do we rate or rank something so ephemeral and so all-encompassing? Traditional methods include surveys, interviews, market research studies and in-person dialogue with store owners, brand representatives, employees, consumers, and reviewing competitors and analyzing their marketing initiatives and successes/failures. That takes time, and we offer that research for some clients by working with 3rd party analysts who do this for a living.

If you would like to start this initiative on your own as a member of a larger corporation to get a sneak peek into what people think about a brand, start by searching across social media. For Example: Just type any major brand in the search field on Twitter like #dunkindonuts, and it will result in both complaints of that brand and praise for that brand. There will be nuggets of gold and absolutely off-putting remarks. If you correlate enough concerns/praise you might have something to take note of. Unfortunately not everything online is true, and not everything is stated on social media. So it’s important to not weigh any one source of information until it is vetted more than others when analyzing a brand’s perception. For smaller brands, this task becomes a serious challenge and it does require getting feedback, we suggest self-maintaining and cost-effective ideas as simple as a feedback survey after a purchase or sale, as simple as adding an email with a link to a survey when sending a receipt in the email. Additionally, We suggest monitoring monthly brand engagements, social, web traffic, rating websites, time spent on your web experiences, time spent in a store, repeat customers versus new customers.

When you have correlated enough data research of a brand’s perception you can identify working hypothesis’s based on data points and in general gauge engagement rationale, and identify challenges a brands may have, and it can lead to future scopes of work to solve a brand’s perception challenges or to pursue further marketing initiatives that enhance strengths you’ve uncovered.

Branding Consistency Example: Coca-Cola as found on Pinterest

Branding consistency is simply how consistent your brand identity & marketing materials are used across all channels of brand interactions/experiences. Branding consistency is critical to generating memorability and awareness of your brand within an industry or marketplace. Major brand’s like Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft spend the time to develop consistent messaging systems that work across all of their brand activation points including products, signage, way-signage, store-fronts, reseller programs, advertising, social media, uniforms, merchandise, website presences, and all print collateral. For them its critical that each touch point represents the larger brand as something equally memorable as what they were first known for ( IE buying a cup of coffee, and a pair of great sneakers, an Operating System ).

To determine if your brand is consistent count how many brand usages you have in all of its iterations, count how many typefaces your brand uses in all of its applications, and count up how many colors are used in your marketing touch points, and review your current ad campaigns and marketing initiatives to discover if they sound like they come from a single source or many different ones. If you lost count of lock-up usages, counted more than 5-10 consistent colors in your marketing collateral palette, and you uncovered that your marketing has more than one voice that represents the brand in your marketing touch points than you may need to spend the time perform a full brand audit. Upon completion of a brand audit, we can help develop a set of brand guidelines to provide brand consistency.

Brand Positioning Example: Target – Expect More. Pay Less. 

A brand’s communications strategy includes the brand’s voice, tone, positioning statement, and messaging that is directly or indirectly targeting specific audiences. If done well a strategy should thoughtfully define how a brand is received by a consumer. A brand’s positioning statement defines that desired emotional response by a consumer in one sentence. A brand positioning statement can be internal, but in the case of Target above it is also external.

With time a Brand Communications Strategy constantly needs to be updated with its target audience’s interests, and environmental changes that may impact a brand. For instance during a recent wave in popularity of healthier, cleaner, simpler food products brands such as Coke, and Pepsi reduced their super-market square foot brand presences drastically. Can you remember when entire aisles were just Coke products? This happened because Coke’s product was challenged for how healthy it is for adolescents and youth and for adults, and we have seen resellers drop super-sizes, and Coke itself experimenting first with Diet Coke in the 1980s and now with and now with even healthier product lines such as Coke Life. Despite this critics still, argue that they may be ‘greenwashing’ or making claims about how healthy their products are while Coke their traditional product is considered a sugar-filled beverage. It is clear from the outside that brand’s communications strategy is in the process of reacting to these current industry environment challenges, and it is clear that they are focused on generating new audiences for their products and it will be interesting to see how this impacts the overall brand in the next decade.

While reviewing your brand marketing strategy you may want to look to see how similar your brand strategy, marketing materials, communications, brand identity is to other competitors.  We suggest reviewing this constantly to set yourself and position your brand away from your competition ( Is Your brand Too Similar to Another? ). By doing so you will open up new audiences and be a leader in your industry and not just another within the back of the pack. Whether large or small, a business needs to review their marketing strategy over time proactively avoiding marketing pitfalls.

Your brand’s market reach can be defined by the number of brand engagements in: Social media ( followers, likes, shares ), web traffic ( views, engagements, and users for all of your web presences ), your advertisement views, store walk-throughs* ( If applicable where your product(s) are viewed ),  phone engagements, direct mail or print collateral engagements, sponsorships, point of sale engagements, & 1-1 brand engagements.  Tracking these metrics is part of the lifeblood of running any business, and it helps guide any business in advertising and campaign strategy. Comparing these to your competitors to gauge your brand’s strength is a useful tool and on the web/social it is fairly easy to do.  

Thanks for reading, this is the 1st draft feel free to connect if you have suggestions or feedback! The whole goal of this post is to give marketing managers and business owners a chance to understand how branding agencies review brands. Looking from the outside and from a different perspective may help you create a broader understanding of your brand within its current marketplace.

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