Measuring Brand Health to Improve Top-Line Growth

Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a key set of fundamental metrics — which can be actively managed — linking the health of brand to revenue and consumer commitment.

Executives like to talk about strong brands as platforms for sustained growth. In the management literature, the link between brand equity and shareholder value is well accepted. So, why is the responsibility for brand-building not more actively managed in the executive suite? In our work across sectors, we see companies often failing to “walk the talk” — unable to grasp the link between brand health and revenue commitment from customers. They treat brand-building superficially, believing that what matters is making brute-force impressions through large advertising campaigns.1 Yet brand health is based on more than image and, through a set of key interrelated measures, can be linked to business performance. How does the concept of brand health compare to the notion of brand equity?2 Brand equity is linked to shareholder value.3 It is an intangible, long-term measure of a company, which is of little use to executives making investment trade-offs that affect top-line growth. By contrast, brand health is linked to current and future value with consumers and differences in competitive position. It is tangible and vital to managing brands and business performance on a forward-looking basis. To measure brand health — and, contrary to conventional wisdom, it can be measured — is to obtain a 360-degree view of a brand in its marketplace, a wide-angle view of consumers and competitors. What is required is isolating underlying elements that matter, measuring them and linking them to business performance. “Companies don’t work hard enough to understand the dimensions, even while extolling the importance of brand,” says Charles M. Lillis, a director of Washington Mutual, SUPERVALU, Williams Companies and Medco. Sustaining active brand management confers prime benefits for most companies. Our work, based on data gathered from over 7,000 consumers about 11,000 customer-provider relationships across large sectors of the U.S. economy, shows a statistically significant correlation between brand health and sales. The healthiest brands have twice the amount of customers reporting increasing spending than the worst-performing brands. These findings, and the manageable metrics they suggest, will allow marketers and investors to “connect the dots” between key elements of brand health and business performance and to reconcile previously separate notions: brand and operations, the short term and the long term, investment and return.

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References

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of Dr. Charles M. Lillis; Dr. Cal Duncan, marketing chair at the University of Colorado; and Dr. Roger J. Best, emeritus professor of marketing, University of Oregon and author ofMarket-Based Management, now in its fourth edition. We would also like to thank Len Vickers, Brian Morris, Nancy McGee, Brad A. Ball, Genevieve Smith and Karen Adelman Foster.