Your brand is not what you think it is.

That’s right, it’s not. Never has been, never will be. For the uneducated in brand management, this might sound like a steaming pile of the proverbial. For the rest of us, it makes perfect sense. 

Your brand is never what you think it is, because you're biased. If you're market oriented, you'll understand that. What your brand really is, the true value of it, lives in the hearts and minds of your collective consumer, not on the whiteboard in the marketing department, or inside the brand wheel created by your fancy new brand agency. 

You can influence it, sure. That’s the name of the game in brand management. Building brand equity through clever, consistent positioning. Of course, you’ll still never know what that brand equity actually is until you ask your current and potential customers.

If you’ve never measured your brand equity, you might be in for a shock. Remember, brand equity is what’s left in the mind of the consumer, after you take away the generic product. Total experience, minus the commodity. 

Melbourne Business School Adjunct Professor and general marketing guru, Mark Ritson, perhaps sums it up best with his Coca Cola example.

What’s left when you remove the generic cola from Coca Cola? There’d be some positive association. Refreshing maybe? American perhaps? Fun and social? There’d also be some negative association, though. Full of sugar, overpriced etc. All of these associations combine to form Coca Cola’s brand equity.
— Mark Ritson

The job of a Brand Manager, after they’ve created an awareness of the brand amongst the target segment, is to build positive brand equity. To ensure that the association with the brand, when you’ve removed the commodity, is as close as possible to the positioning that’s being communicated. 

Finally, brand health must be measured. Regularly. If you’re not measuring brand awareness and brand equity, how do you know whether your efforts are worth a pinch of salt? Have you raised brand awareness amongst your target segment over the course of the year? Have you built a more positive brand equity? Is a competitor’s brand equity rising at a greater rate than your own? You’ll never know until you ask your current and potential customers through periodic, quantitative market research. 

As a marketing department, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that positioning comes from communications and advertising alone. It’s certainly an important component, particularly amongst potential customers, who’re yet to experience the brand first hand, but it’s only one part. Don’t forget about all of the other brand touchpoints and experiences that must also accurately represent the desired position. In-store experience, after sales experience, pricing, product development, product/service quality, quality of sales staff, and distribution channels to name a few. All of these touchpoints must reflect the desired position because they all influence brand equity. 

Unfortunately, because it doesn’t appear on the balance sheet, the importance of brand equity is often underplayed. However, it’s often the most valuable asset an organisation has and, to paraphrase Mark Ritson again...

If brand equity is the largest asset a business has. Surely then, it makes sense to be monitoring and measuring it to see how big or small it has become over a defined period of time.
— Mark Ritson

Are you measuring yours?