Monday, March 16

Measuring Communication, Equation Influencers Part 2


“Brand is the relationship between a product and its customer.” — Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO Worldwide

While more formal definitions might include "the assortment of qualities that differentiates the brand from other commodities, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands" or "marketing effects or outcomes that accrue to a product with its brand name compared with those that would accrue if the same product did not have the brand name," Dusenberry’s proposition defines brand equity succinctly.

Brand equity is derived from what people think and feel about a particular person, product, service, or company.

In recent years, an increasing number of people misdefine brand as an identity, image, mark, or logo (e.g., as in a cattle brand). However, it's none of those things. For the relationship between those things and their relationship to a brand, it might be worthwhile to refer to an older brand primer post, which includes a in depth comment from a trademark lawyer as well.

For the purposes of measurement, a better definition that reflects Dusenberry’s proposition is that a “brand” is better thought of as the net sum of all positive and negative impressions. For example, when people think of Apple, they have an immediate emotional reaction to what Apple represents as it relates to them. It may be positive or negative or neutral or degrees in between.

The impact of brand equity on the whole of communication can be extraordinary. Simply put, Apple has developed a brand that is powerful enough that anything it does is news. The same can be said about Apple CEO Steve Jobs. It's simply not so for the bulk of many of other companies.

Brands have a two-fold relationship to the overall communication strategy.

In the ROC equation, brand equity is demonstrated as a second influencer that impacts the whole effectiveness of communication. Specifically, Brand times Intent (message plus suitability times reach) divided by duration or B • I (m+s • r)/d. The more powerful the brand, the more people take notice.

However, planned communication can also negatively impact a brand. For example, Pepsico's Tropicana package redesign had a dramatically negative impact on the brand relationship between the product and the consumer. Interesting enough, the Arnell Group didn't change the brand as much as they changed the identity of the product, which came to symbolize the relationship that consumers felt toward the product.

What the Arnell Group never seemed to consider (or Pepsico, which seems to be redesigning its entire portfolio of products for the sake of change), was that its most loyal consumers identified the orange with the straw imagery much in the same way Coca-Cola has infused itself into the psyche of American culture and around the world. In sum, the package redesign diminished the brand equity.

Over-reaching creative, erred publicity stunts, and forced viral campaigns all have a tendency to diminish brand equity. Why? Such efforts tend to push for frequency and reach at the expense of the value proposition and message, which are critical components in establishing a brand promise.

An interesting side note about brands and their meaning to people.

We've had a laugh or two over the Microsoft Branding Parody that pays homage to Fred Manley's “Nine Ways To Improve An Ad.” However, there is something else to think about.

Over time, Microsoft's brand became so entrenched with a "generic" identity that it became difficult for the company break away from it, even with the help of Jerry Seinfeld. However, as Microsoft recently learned, even a generic brand might avoid lowering the bar too much as it did with Songsmith video.

The reason this is relevant is because of another theory we've had in the mix for some time. The Fragile Brand Theory suggests that it is less important to stick with your brand choice (innovative and elusive like Apple or a generic giant like Microsoft) than to switch and swap identities that confuse your publics. In general, people develop relationships with the sustainable familiar, regardless of the brand that people, products, and companies try to project.

If there is a distinct takeaway separate from the measurement abstract, it is that as much as brands influence the impact of communication, communication tends to influence brand over the long term. Dramatic juxtapositions of established brands, regardless of what they are, do not end well.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

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