Companies across a whole array of industries continue to spend big dollars on brand research. The perennial problem is that most brand measures don’t relate to the real world (for example, how, as a brand manager, do I action ‘suits my needs’?) and have no linkage with real business outcomes. How much do I actually need to improve in these ‘important’ brand performance ratings to generate a specific impact on sales?
The problem starts with the fact that, as brand custodians, we are starting our understanding of brands in the wrong place. We are too focused on measuring ‘the brand’ and not starting with understanding the underlying human motivations that the brand can tap into. Then, assuming we can determine what will really motivate people to want our brand, how do we know this will, in practice, impact our market share?
The challenge with understanding human motivations is that many motivations are unconscious. Even where they are conscious, people find it difficult to articulate them. The even bigger challenge is transcribing this to what it means for the brand.
For example, we have conducted research to understand the key human motivators that beer manufacturers can tap into, and discovered that across most developed markets the main motivators are the need to feel better about oneself (confidence building) and the need to make connections easily with others (connectivity and companionship), as illustrated in the motivational map below.
The challenge then becomes one of converting this understanding of people and their motivations into metrics that can be measured and that relate to the brand. If we end up with metrics like ‘a brand that makes connections easily’ we fall into the ‘suits my needs’ trap – that is, we end up with metrics that a brand owner cannot influence.
We know that if we are rigorous in understanding core human motivations (the starting place) and translating these into brand characteristics that brand owners can influence, we result in a model with a high degree of accuracy (85-95%) that explains how people choose brands.
Looping back to our starting point, it is all good and interesting having a model that tells me I can make people more predisposed to my brand if I tap into a particular motivation, but what is going to be my return on investment? Show me the money!
The most important element of the whole exercise is in determining the potential incremental returns from brand repositioning (or simply strengthening current positioning) on actual share gain and relating it back to the cost to the business of moving in this direction.
Once we know where the brand should go, as brand custodians, we need to enable and activate people to ‘effectively’ buy our brands. This is a matter of determining how we ensure that desire to buy is activated in store.
Overall, it is a matter of focusing on two people-centric levers to create brand growth:
- Creating strong brands in the mind, and knowing the potential return on investment of this, and
- enabling and activating people to effectively buy the brand (shopper activation).
In-store activation and measuring its return, however, will be a topic for another day…