If there was ever a year where it was top of mind, it’s got to be this one.
For those of us lucky enough to be thinking of it as improvement, rather than survival, then it’s that time of year we do our annual health check, and put in place some habits to help us get stronger, fitter and more energetic.
All this can apply to brands too.
So, how healthy is your brand?
This sounds like a big question and it’s easy to ignore it - to jump into tactics for growth rather than putting in benchmarks for health.
But if you don’t know your starting point, how do you know your tactics are the right ones?
Do this brand health check at least once a year then PLAN against the results and you’re more likely to see the progress you’re looking for.
It’s not as tricky as you’d think.
Here’s the five things you need to cover, and you can do this in just 2 bits of research – one that’s customer focused, and one that’s focused on your employees.
A marketing funnel is a way of breaking down the way a customer gets to know and buy you – from ‘awareness’ (when they first learn about your business) to ‘purchase intent’ when they are willing to buy you. Measuring it means doing a piece of research among your potential customer base and asking questions that track to the different stages in the funnel. These five stages, and the order you should ask the questions are typically:
Now. I know it’s not ‘trendy’ to talk about funnels anymore. There are lots of replacement models (as in this HBR article, Replacing the Sales Funnel with the Sales Flywheel).
Lots of alternative advice, such as Neil Patel recommending you, “create your own funnel “roadmap” that incorporates all the steps you need to engage and empower your customers in a way where everyone wins.”
I’m totally on board with the fact that brand building today is a much less linear process than it used to be, and hence the funnel has its limitations, but if you’re starting from scratch, if you have no brand health metrics in place, then at least start with the traditional funnel.
Understanding simple things, like whether you have any awareness among the customers you’re trying to reach is pretty key – because it focuses you on the areas you need to focus your marketing spend on to help you grow.
As Mark Ritson says in ''Funnel juggling' is the answer to marketing effectiveness',
“The presence of a funnel is always a sign that you are working with a well-run brand. But how that funnel is used to originate strategic and tactical activity is also a significant, further indicator of brand expertise.”
Only once you have the basics in place should you start, “funnel juggling.”
Understand if what you want to stand for is what your customers associate with you.
The second health check you need to do is to understand how well you’re establishing your brand strategy.
In your strategy you make decisions on what you want to stand for in people’s minds – the associations you’re trying to build. (If this is all new to you, then my free course, 'Brand Strategy in 7 Simple Steps', explains all the fundamentals).
So you need to track whether what you want to stand for is what your customers and potential customers are associating with you.
In the same piece of research you’re doing on your brand funnel, ask a question or two about attributes. Develop a list of possible attributes (including the ones in your strategy!) and ask to what degree people associate them with your brand (using a five part scale: Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree, Strongly disagree, or as a ranking question).
You should also bring in your key competitors to see whether they are more, equally, or less associated with these attribute associations.
Do employees understand your brand strategy? Is it motivating and inspiring? Do they understand how their role contributes to the bigger idea of WHY you exist? Do they feel that it’s their job to deliver on it?
Why should you care about this? Because your employees are the people who deliver your strategy. If you’re communicating what your brand stands for externally, but nobody has a clue internally, it’s only a matter of time before you disappoint – or lose – your customers.
If you don’t have questions that assess this in your employee survey, then build them in pronto.
And if you don’t have a brand strategy – then that should be your first resolution of the year! (If you need help, then my Brand Strategy Academy online course can teach you exactly how to do it).
Don’t pause on your employee study though. Get some benchmarks in place so you can track the impact of your new strategy over time. You should see some significant changes once it’s in place, like these stats show.
Bain’s research shows 3x greater productivity from inspired employees vs. dissatisfied employees.
In a 2015 HBR study, The Business Case For Purpose, 89% of the 474 executives surveyed said that organizations with a shared purpose have greater employee satisfaction. And 84% agreed that business transformation efforts will have greater success if integrated with purpose.
In a pwc study, Putting Purpose to Work, 83% of employees said having a sense of purpose gives them meaning in their day-to-day work.
(Your purpose is just your answer to why you exist - the first question you need to answer in your brand strategy).
A net promoter score is a worldwide, accepted metric of customer satisfaction that predicts your growth rate. It’s got at by asking one simple question:
“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [your company name] to friends and family?”
0 = not at all likely, 10 = extremely likely.
Customers who give you a score of 9 or 10 are classified as ‘Promoters.’ They are the more loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying you and referring you to others, fuelling your growth. (They are great people to ask for a testimonial).
Those who give you a score of 7 or 8 are called ‘Passives’ - satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who might leave if a better offer comes along.
Customers that give you a 6 or below are classified as ‘Detractors’ – unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede your growth through negative word-of-mouth.
How do you get to your one overall NPS score?
You subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters.
(Here’s a calculator you can use to do it for you).
Your score can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter).
According to SurveyMonkey’s global benchmark data, which accounts for the NPS of more than 150,000 organizations, the average score is +32, and the top 25% of performers have an NPS of +72 or higher.
But these benchmarks can vary, depending on the industry you’re in. For instance, the top 25% of consumer goods and services industries have a score of 72+, the top 25% of technology companies have a score of 64+.
But if you’re hovering around the 70 or above mark you’re doing great.
You want to look at your net promoter score both from a customer and employee perspective.
For employees you’ll want to tweak the wording of the question to:
“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [company name] as an employer to friends and family?
But the value of asking the question is not just the score itself, but the follow-up questions you can ask to understand WHY you’ve been given that score. So don’t forget to follow up with a second question – whether that’s simply, “Can you tell us why you gave that score?”, or one that’s tailored and routed depending upon whether they are Promoters, Passives or Detractors.
Bain invented the score in 2003, and have created an easy-to-understand video, Understanding the Net Promoter Score℠, here.
What’s a healthy brand identity?
Well, firstly it’s one that's fit for purpose. There are three parts to this:
Consider the recent Burger King refresh of their brand identity, rolled out last week. There were two main reasons for the change.
Firstly, better alignment with the brand strategy.
In the words of Fernando Machado, global CMO of Restaurant Brands International (who led Burger King marketing for nearly six years prior to this elevated role he took on in January 2020):
“This is a brand that has a very clear personality. It’s fun, self-deprecating, a bit edgy. We adjusted the visual identity to better fit what this brand is about. There was a bit of a disconnect starting to happen because the brand has evolved so much.”
Secondly, to create a more functional, fit-for-purpose identity. The previous one hadn’t stood the test of time, and wasn’t optimised for a digital and mobile-first experience.
In Machado’s words, “It didn’t age well. Like the shine on the buns… buns don’t shine.”
But you’ll see in the identity that this was definitely a refresh, not a radical rebrand. And that’s because of our third point – the distinctive assets the brand had built over time, that they needed to keep familiar.
Distinctive brand assets were originally defined by Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute as, “The non- brand name elements that trigger the brand into the memory of category buyers.”
Distinctive assets are based on things like colour (Tiffany’s duck egg blue, Cadbury’s purple), slogans (Just Do It, Gives You Wings), music, sounds and jingles (Intel’s chimes, McDonald’s I’m Lovin It), Characters (Compare the Market meerkats, KFC’s Colonel Sanders), shapes (Coca-Cola bottle, Mastercard’s overlapping circles), fonts (Lego’s) and even smells (did you know the smell of Play-Doh is trademarked?).
Having a set of distinctive brand assets has been strongly linked to growth, as Byron Sharp, in How Brands Grow, identifies.
“There are only a few key strategies to grow a brand. You can lower the price… but this is self-defeating…You can improve the quality of the product or service for the same price, but this also negatively affects profit margins. Essentially, these two strategies are similar and not attractive…
The other way to grow a brand is to invest in market-based assets – to improve the brand’s mental and physical availability… The trick is to make an investment that builds the brand’s assets, so that in future the marketing budget gets a greater return. Building a distinctive memory structure achieves this.”
What does this mean for your brand identity? That a healthy brand identity is one that includes distinctive brand assets that support what you want to stand for in your brand strategy.
So take a long hard look at your identity and answer the three questions above to help you understand if it’s fit for purpose and working hard enough for you, or not.
In summary, hold your horses for a little while on spending a ton on marketing tactics that you hope might grow your brand and your business.
Take a breath, take a health check, and understand the place you’re building from.
Wishing you a very healthy year ahead.
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