I’ve had a lot of branding discussions this week that were spawned from my branding rant earlier.  One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do I measure branding?” and then “How much does it cost to do that?”

At the bigger companies I have looked at there were two big pillars of
activity going on: monitoring media mentions over time and brand
tracking surveys.  But just because you don’t have the budget and
market intelligence department of a bigger company, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be
tracking this stuff.

Brand Tracking the Big Budget Way – The Brand Tracking Survey
My
experience is that large companies spend a lot of time and money doing
brand tracking studies.  These tend to be very well architected surveys
to measure awareness, consideration and preference of a brand vs. other
folks in the space.  These surveys also get into brand attributes where
your brand gets ranked against others for things like reliability,
performance, ease of doing business with, etc.  The results from these
surveys are hugely useful.  The only problem is that it took a squadron
of Market Intelligence professions to get it, and more importantly
interpret it.  There are outside agencies that can do this stuff for
you too, but as you might imagine, this kind of work is time intensive
and therefore not cheap and getting decent post-survey insight without
a deep understanding of your space and customers is difficult.

Customer
Satisfaction surveys aren’t a lot better.  I’ve worked at companies
that spent months of effort building and executing these surveys only
to get questionable results.  One company I worked for (which not
surprisingly, no longer exists) boasted about 98% customer satisfaction
yet never in my life have I worked with as many unhappy customers.  You need to spend time to get the right set of questions and then interpretation of the results is critical.

Brand Tracking the Small Budget Way – Net Promoter Score

There are ways you can get some insight
from customers that isn’t totally complicated and time consuming.  I am
a fan of Net Promoter Score (NPS).  This comes from the book “The
Ultimate Question”
.  From their website:

Just as net worth
represents the difference between financial assets and liabilities, Net Promoter quantifies
the difference between customer assets and liabilities. With one question, we can sort
customers into three categories: Promoters who are loyal and enthusiastic; Passives who are
satisfied but unenthusiastic; and Detractors who are unhappy but trapped in a bad
relationship. Quite simply, you calculate the NPS score by applying the formula P – D = NPS,
where P and D are the percentage of promoters and detractors.

What is the question you ask?  How likely would you be to recommend
our company to a friend?
Now, I know that this isn’t perfect and I
know if you had loads of time and money you might get something
better (you can read some criticism of NPS here).  But in my mind if you want to get an idea of the health of your brand in the eyes of your customer easily and quickly, you can’t get any better than this.

Brand Tracking Dashboard the Big Budget Way – PR Clipping Services

If you are lucky enough to be working with a PR agency one of the standard
services they offer is a press clipping service that shows you all of
the press mentions for your brand in the media.  This is fine if you
can afford it but with the rise of blogging, microblogging and all
other sorts of user-generated content, some of those clipping services
are missing a lot of what’s out there.  We are now starting to see folks out
there that do a great job of monitoring social media.  If your business
relies heavily on that, it is probably well worth the investment to
look into these companies.  I’ve used Radian6 and those folks get it.

The Do It Yourself Brand Tracking Dashboard

Oh but poor you, you have zero budget and aren’t likely to get some
anytime soon.  What do you do?  Measure what you can and over time
refine your measurements based on what you have learned.

1.  Press mentions – you are doing this now (I hope) and
tracking if they are positive, negative or neutral.  The important
thing to note is that the actual number doesn’t actually mean much.
The change over time is what you are looking at.
2.  Blog mentions – Some folks put this with press
mentions but if you are doing different things to reach out to bloggers
than you are to reach our to mainstream media then I would separate
it.  I use Google Alerts to track this.  Before that existed for blogs I used Technorati.
Do a search on your brand name and then hit the subscribe button on the
top right to view the updates to this search in a reader.
3.  Twitter – Everyone should be tracking what is being said about their brand on Twitter. Go to http://search.twitter.com/
and type in your brand name.  Again the actual number of positive or
negative mentions means little but the trend over time is important.
(Note – there are a lot of media publications twittering headlines – I
leave those out and only count live people).
4.  Other Social Media – Depending on your business there
are probably a number of forums or other places where your customers
gather that you want to monitor.  This will be specific for your
business so you need to do some digging on this one.
5.  Web Traffic and Searches – The trend over time gives you an idea of the level of awareness for your brand.

The key with all of this stuff is to measure and look at the changes
over time.  As you go along it will get easier and easier to fine-tune
your measurements.

That’s it for me and branding this week.  I gotta go – I have a report to run.

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