September 6, 2016
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
- More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
- Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
- Lululemon is doing just fine, thank you. Today, Lululemon's stock price is twice of what it was in mid-2014 in the throes of crisis. In the same time, the S&P 500 has moved up 10%. For brands and CMOs that feel brand pain, it may be time for soul searching: is it your brand that is dying? And why? Brands like Lululemon, Tesla, USAA, and Lego continue to resonate and inspire cult-like fervor.
Keeping Brands Alive And Kicking
To build value we first need a robust framework for measurement. In my recent report on brand building, I discuss three different streams:
- Survey-based brand tracking is most common and best developed. But it is plagued by process and timing issues, and the terrible job that most people do in answering questions about how they feel about things.
- Social listening provides near real-time feedback and the ability for quick response and corrective action. But a consistent brand measurement methodology without inherent sample bias is still in the works.
- Neuromarketing is perhaps the most exciting development that provides a real read of what people think without having to ask them. This too is an evolving discipline, but holds much promise in exploring the emotional dynamics of brand building.
Interested in learning more about how to best measure and power your brands? Forrester clients can download and read my latest report: "Branding Never Sleeps: Relentlessly Measure, Manage, And Improve Your Brand."
Keep on branding!