Marketers may soon find their brands measured by heartbeats as much as by online surveys and social media engagement. New technology allows companies to study facial responses, vocal inflections, and other emotional cues that reveal how consumers truly feel about brands and experiences.
As the tools for brand measurement evolve, so must marketers’ understanding of what brand measurement includes and how to use that information to create a competitive advantage. Tried-and-true brand health metrics — such as awareness, consideration, and purchase intent — still serve a purpose, but these measurements are inherently diagnostic. They might educate marketers on where their brands stand relative to the competition or even alert them of problems on the horizon, but they are not prescriptive enough to recommend a course of action.
By tracking brand-specific attributes that reflect strategic positioning (and comparing those attributes to baselines, benchmarks, and targets), marketers can develop systems that not only tell them when to respond to changes, but also advise them on future strategic directions. As new tools allow marketers to move beyond survey-based measurements, the possibilities expand even further. Facial recognition, biometrics, and voice technologies remove all bias from the equation, revealing consumers’ true opinions and emotions.
Brand measurement, long relegated to simplistic analysis, is rapidly evolving. To make the most of this opportunity, marketers must learn how to navigate a world of heightened capabilities and expectations.
When Diagnostic Brand Measurement Isn’t Enough
More often than not, brand tracking presentations delivered by market research agencies involve lengthy slide decks, hundreds of data points, and very little actionable information. Traditional brand tracking isn’t going away, but it’s no longer enough. Marketers need to know what to do with the data they track and think about their measurement capabilities across three distinct time horizons: the past, the present, and the future.
Diagnostic measurements, which inform marketers about the past, have been standard for decades. Modern digital attribution models have increased diagnostic capabilities by informing companies about metrics like customer acquisition, but they still look more backward than forward. Prescriptive measurements, meanwhile, address the present. These brand-specific measurements can help companies establish market-driven milestones and make objective decisions about the management of their brands.
The final category, predictive measurements, distinguishes itself from prescriptive analysis by looking to multiple possible futures. Data mining and modeling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning help marketers use current information to make educated guesses about the future and prepare to address challenges and opportunities.
The Future of Smart Brand Measurement
Marketers can add prescriptive and predictive capabilities to their diagnostic foundations by following these tips:
1. Include new metric types.
Each type of metric discussed here serves a purpose, but the real value of brand measurement is realized only when marketers utilize the entire set. Track diagnostic, prescriptive, and predictive metrics to create a clearer and more complete picture of brand performance.
2. Measure against the competition.
Don’t limit brand measurement to only your brands: instead, select a few competitive brands and determine how they score on similar attributes. Ideally, also track successful brands in other unrelated industries to identify the industry-agnostic factors that correlate most closely with successful brand-building.
3. Establish baselines and goals.
Effective brand measurement cannot exist in a vacuum. Track trends and compare past and present performance to identify opportunities for improvement. Go one step further — into the future — by setting targets and goals for select brand metrics.
4. Connect the brand to the business.
Brand measurement should inform and improve business performance. In the age of big data, marketers (and all other business functions) are more accountable than ever for their contributions to the bottom line. Include business performance metrics like leads, sales, and market share in brand measurement to correlate the contribution of marketing activity to the company’s overall performance.
5. Don’t go overboard.
One of the most common pitfalls of brand measurement systems is allowing them to become overly complex. When this happens, it’s easy to abandon efforts altogether. So while it is important to establish meaningful and aspirational objectives for measurement, it is equally important that the system be realistic in both its scope and pace. When considering the types of metrics to include — and analysis to conduct — it’s wise to increase efforts over time, adding new capabilities as proficiency increases.
More than any other business function, marketing is under renewed pressure to prove its value. This is especially true in branding, which is inherently a “softer” and more intangible discipline for which measurement can be challenging. To prove the value of their contributions, marketers must move beyond mere tracking and toward more advanced measurement practices to understand how the brands they steward impact business results.