April 14, 2023
8 mins

What you need to know about measuring and improving brand equity

Brand equity describes the value a brand holds in the eyes of its customer and the market. Here's how to measure it and take it to the next level.
Communications

Without thinking, name five brands in your head that you would describe as iconic, long-lasting, and trustworthy…

Did Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, or Nike make the list? 

I think it’s fair to assume at least one of them did. 

And there’s a reason why so many people come up with the same list of brands when they are faced with identifying who is at the top of the pack. It has to do with brand equity. 

What is brand equity? 

Brand equity is the value a brand holds in the eyes of its customers and the market. 

Let’s talk about bottled water.  

When you’re at a neighborhood cookout, you’re likely dipping into a big cooler of Deer Park scattered among cans of Coke and Bud Light for your hydration needs. You’re greeted with a flimsy plastic bottle, a fairly generic-looking label, and water sourced from Pennsylvania. It’s water, it’s refreshing, and it pairs well with a grilled hot dog and SPF30. 

But if you’re checking in to a 5-star hotel, it’s more likely you’re welcomed with a glass of champagne and find bottles of Evian in your hotel room, carefully placed on your bedside table next to a heavy leather-bound room service menu. The bottle is made of a thick, heavy plastic—or glass—and the label has a clean-looking, soothing appearance. Before you know it, you’re drinking water sourced straight from the French Alps, just a hop-skip-and-jump away from the very fields where the Von Trapp family frolicked in some very alive hills. 

Two bottles of water, two very different brands. 

We are constantly assessing brands and creating judgements, evaluations, and associations that contribute to their brand equity. And with higher brand equity comes quite a few business advantages. 

First and foremost: A strong brand = loyal customers. Self-described “Brand Intimacy Agency” MLBM is devoted to helping brands foster emotional connections with their customers, a crucial part of creating brand loyalty.

In MLBM’s 2022 Brand Intimacy Study, Disney was the brand with the highest brand intimacy score (68.1), followed by Tesla (67.4), and Apple (65.3). And while a term like “brand intimacy” might lead you to believe it’s a simply a vanity metric, MLBM found that the average profits of their top 20 intimate brands generated a whopping 88% more profit than the Fortune 500 top brands did in 2022. 

We are constantly assessing brands and creating judgements, evaluations, and associations that contribute to their brand equity. And with higher brand equity comes quite a few business advantages. 

In addition to loyal customers who can’t live without your products, higher brand equity can result in increased market share, the opportunity to command premium prices, lower marketing costs, and an overall competitive advantage. 

But make no mistake—brand equity does not necessarily correlate with how expensive or nicely designed an item is. It’s all about how your core demographic relates to your product and how many customers continue to choose you over and over, despite cost, branding, and competitors. 

How do you measure brand equity?

There are a variety of factors that go into measuring brand equity, and while it’s historically been more of an art than a science, brand health measurement platform Harris Brand Platform is one company working to bring concrete, real-time data to the ever-elusive brand equity score. 

For Harris Brand Platform, brand equity is measured in four categories: momentum, consideration, quality, and familiarity. 

Momentum refers to a brand’s ability to beat out its competitors and maintain its market position. Consideration tracks how relevant a product is to its audience—when someone is on the market for a bar of soap, does Dove come to mind? Irish Spring? While Quality may seem self-explanatory, it doesn’t just come down to the literal quality of a brand’s offering, it can also refer to the perceived quality of a product. And lastly, Familiarity measures how recognizable a brand is to the general population. 

But how are things like “consideration” measured? Getting a good pulse on these metrics often means fielding surveys and conducting market research. But there are also a number of metrics you can pull without a research agency as well to start to understand where your brand equity stands. Here are some ways to measure the four categories that contribute to brand equity:

  • Momentum: customer retention rates, repeat purchase behavior, and brand preference surveys
  • Consideration: results from focus groups, competitor analysis
  • Quality: customer satisfaction surveys, product testing, third-party evaluations 
  • Familiarity: surveys or market research that ask questions about brand recognition, recall, and top-of-mind awareness 

How do you build brand equity?

Building brand equity isn’t an overnight task you can easily check off a to-do list. It’s a lasting commitment to your customers and your brand that takes continuous work. The job is never done when it comes to taking care of this crucial, hard-won metric, and it will ebb and flow throughout a brand’s lifetime. 

To build brand equity, you need to focus on three things: brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand reinforcement. 

Brand awareness is the extent to which your audience knows who you are. You can’t have loyal customers if you don’t have any customers in the first place. To cultivate brand awareness for a company just beginning its journey, it will likely take a large investment in marketing and advertising. 

Once people know who you are and are taking a chance on buying your product, brand loyalty enters the picture. According to Harris Brand Platform, creating “consistent consumer experiences is key to maintaining loyalty. Loyalty decreases your need for marketing, increases your leverage in the industry, and situates your brand more competitively.”

Creating “consistent consumer experiences is key to maintaining loyalty. Loyalty decreases your need for marketing, increases your leverage in the industry, and situates your brand more competitively,” according to Harris Brand Platform.

To foster brand loyalty, you’ll want to put the customer experience above everything else: Providing top-notch customer support, understanding your customer at the deepest level and listening to their needs, and personalizing communication with them are just a few ways you can do this. 

The last piece of the puzzle is brand reinforcement. This requires aligning and reinforcing your brand’s values with consumers. If done successfully, you’ll attract those with similar values. 

Think about Patagonia. They’ve spent decades solidifying their position as a company that values sustainability and quality—and their policies, marketing, and brand vision all align with that. Brand reinforcement gives a company the opportunity to make a stand and prove their investment in their mission, but it’s easy for this to also quickly turn into the thing that tanks brand equity. 

“Consumers are much less comfortable championing brands that don’t align with their values, and gimmicky campaigns meant to check a box aren’t fooling anyone anymore,” says Elspeth Rollert, CMO of Stagwell Marketing Cloud.  

Saying you value sustainability but negatively impacting the environment with your product materials will be called out by consumers. Saying you value diversity but using AI to generate diverse models on your website will be called out by consumers. Saying you value LGBTQ+ rights through flashy marketing campaigns while supporting political candidates that support anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will be called out by consumers. 

“History shows that one tweet, design decision, or campaign doesn’t fully convey or celebrate the breadth of a brand’s mission,” says Rollert. “But one tweet, design decision, or campaign alone can absolutely damage brand perception, the repercussions of which can be felt throughout an organization, potentially resulting in lost customers, negative press, and even plummeting stock prices.”

Treat your customers poorly, align your brand with controversial influencers, and slash your advertising line item for the year—that’s how to decrease your brand equity.

Brand equity in the wild

So now that we are all aligned on what brand equity is, let’s dig into a couple of examples of rebrands and campaigns that moved the needle on brand equity. 

Mastercard

Year of rebrand: 2019

Harris Brand Poll category impacted: Familiarity

The story: What if the key to increasing your brand value lies in…dropping your brand’s name? 

Mastercard’s 2019 rebrand took what had become its iconic interlocking red and yellow circle—which since 1968 had also been accompanied by the word Mastercard—and dropped the Mastercard, leaving only the iconic circles that they had spent the last almost five decades solidifying in the cultural icon lexicon. 

This immediately put their logo among the ranks of logos so famous they don’t need to display their name. Apple, Twitter, Instagram—no brand name needed. As brand strategist Nahim Afzal said, “By dropping their name, Mastercard are subtly shifting their identity to align with the familiar app icons you see every day on your phone screen. In fact, they themselves have acknowledges that before long we’ll be in a card-free world, and so they’re taking the initiative to actively invest in that future.”

Elevate your POV: So does this mean you should revisit your logo and drop your brand name? 

Probably not. 

Mastercard’s decision was hinged on the ubiquity they had worked to establish over many years of brand work. This final step just solidified how well known the Mastercard brand really was. Chief marketing and communications officer at the time Raja Rajamannar said in a statement, “With more than 80 percent of people spontaneously recognizing the Mastercard symbol without the word ‘mastercard,’ we felt ready to take this next step in our brand evolution.”

Old Spice

Year of campaign: 2010

Harris Brand Poll category impacted: Consideration

The story: It’s Super Bowl XLIV, and the New Orleans Saints are playing the Indianapolis Colts, creating the perfect atmosphere for a halftime show played by The Who.  

You’re snacking on chips and salsa when Isaiah Mustafa’s deep voice jolts you out of a habanero trance: “Hello ladies,” he says. “Look at him. Now look at me,” he demands. 

So begins a marketing campaign that firmly pushed Old Spice out of its perception as “your grandpa’s shaving cream” into “your boyfriend’s incredible-smelling body wash.” Not only did the company air an attention-grabbing commercial in a highly coveted Super Bowl spot, they also went to work on social media, where Mustafa interacted with fans and followers on Old Spice’s accounts after the fact. The numbers for this campaign are pretty remarkable: Body wash sales increased 107% year over year. 

But how did this impact consideration of the product? 

Elevate your POV: The legacy men’s grooming brand was looking to expand their reputation outside of older men and target two new groups: Younger men and…women? 

Wieden + Kennedy, the creative agency that partnered with Old Spice on the campaign, found that 60% of men’s body washes were actually purchased by women. So the idea was to both appeal to a younger demographic by presenting Mustafa as the guy you could be like if you wore Old Spice and also to introduce women to this new side of the brand. 

Sarah Dotson

Sarah Dotson is the Editorial Content Manager for Stagwell Marketing Cloud.

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