Does Brand Exist?

Well, from a purely rational standpoint we can define a brand by tangible inputs that can be isolated and measured.

For example, if we know that strong customer advocacy is a key indicator of a strong brand, then metrics like Net Promoter Scores can be put into place to measure, track and strengthen this tangible aspect of brand.

Similarly we know that brand’s are ultimately delivered by employees, and it’s a pretty straightforward exercise to measure employee satisfaction and engagement.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

But what about the less tangible aspects of brand…the irrational emotional connections that people form with their favorite brands?

In other words…what about Brand Love? How do we measure that?

And if we can’t measure it with data does it mean it doesn’t exist? 

Believe it or not, I’ve been having this very conversation with some very smart, very rational and perhaps a bit short-sighted business people lately.

On one level, they admit that people can have strong relationships with brands. They’ve observed it in their personal lives  friends waxing poetic about a certain car or Apple product in a way that goes way beyond the function the product serves in their lives (e.g. getting them to work quickly and safely or playing music with high quality sound).

We’ve all  seen extreme manifestations of Brand Love…a tattoo of a Nike swoosh on someone’s ankle, a buzz cut in someone’s hair of the BMW logo, a child (or Poodle) named Chanel.

But these are usually isolated moments. Anecdotal snapshots. Not necessarily something you can measure in an online survey of a sample of hundreds or thousands of people.

And when you do ask outright how much someone “loves” a brand, often the answers are guarded as our rational selves take over and we feel a bit silly professing our love for inanimate objects. Especially to a research organization.

But the hyper rational approach to brand means that if you can’t measure something with statistically significant data, then perhaps it’s a “nice to have”but not a fundamental part of brand.

And if that is the case, then we end up setting the bar too low on our objectives and measures of success. Sure a brand can tick all the boxes on delivering on its functional promise…but if we don’t value and strive to also make an emotional connection then we’re missing out. And chances are the brand in question will never go from good to great.

In my arguments to prioritize Brand Love as a key measure of Brand Strength, I keep bringing up the analogy of religion. Billions of people around the world believe in something (in one form or another) that can’t really be measured or proven. And they go to great lengths to protect their beliefs.

Another analogy is the intangible element of personality. Have you ever had an employee or colleague that technically ticked all the competency boxes, but you knew this person would never get very far at the company because no one wanted to have a beer with them? This aspect of someone’s performance is a lot harder to quantify than the tangible stuff like the sales or awards. But nevertheless it’s equally (if not more) important element of defining the success or strength of that person. It its something that needs to be paid attention to and coached, and improved when there are issues.

I do believe in tangible measures of brand (e.g customer satisfaction, advocacy, recall, engagement) but I also believe that strong brands have a certain “je ne sais quoi”. Something less definable, perhaps less measurable, but nevertheless just as important…even if it might take a leap of faith to believe that it exists.

I think its important in this new world where data rules and we are only judged and rewarded by what we can measure, to not let Brand Love slip away just because it’s harder to wrap our arms around.

If brands only strive to deliver, but never to delight I think mediocrity will be the prize.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How do you measure Brand Love?

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