Measuring the intangible – Insights on the return on brand investment (ROBI)
Brands own a little piece of memory. How much is yours worth?
According to market research company Millward Brown, “brands account for more than 30% of the stock market value of companies in the S&P 500 index.” Apple’s brand is worth a staggering $214 billion USD—or 58.5% of the value of the entire company; a literal hundred billion dollar idea.
Few would question the value of a strong brand, but creating metrics for and assessing the economic value of such an abstract entity has proven challenging.
Investing in your brand might feel like a leap of faith, but in actual fact it might be one of the safest business decisions you can make.
In decision-making, the heart often overrules the head.
Part of what makes brand so powerful is its ability to connect with people on an emotional level. Brand building is one of the few ways of reliably creating a ‘sustainable creative advantage’ in a world of so much choice.
Although there might not be a tangible difference between your own products vs. your competitors', companies can create preference for their products or services by building positive emotional associations with their brand. Badly conceived and executed, they can hit a wall as a mere pastiche of colours and superlatives in the absence of a big idea and story.
While short-term campaigns may increases sales for their duration, establishing a strong brand takes time, resources, campaigns and messaging that don’t (usually) make an immediate or significant impact on bottom-line in the short term.
The emotional associations to Apple’s brand are that of simplicity and design elegance that enables technological and creative freedom. No other tech company, prior or since, has managed to imbue their brand so strongly with such fulfilling emotional connotations, although more are beginning to try. The result of Apple’s efforts is a level of brand loyalty enjoyed by companies few and far between.
Regardless of size, brand equity measurements are entirely in the hands of your customers and their judgment call. Ask yourself the hard questions:
Where am I ranked in relation to my competitors from a price perspective?
Is my customer loyalty based around continual product and service innovation?
Am I achieving a price premium in the category?
Am I reinvesting this additional brand premium for further innovations in my company’s products or services?
Do I have a set of tangible and intangible indicators on which to measure my brand performance?
Do I have a sustainable competitive advantage?
Do I visit these annually and benchmark my brand’s performance?
From a design and story perspective, think about your brand from the outside in and ask yourself:
Is my story distinctive?
Is it articulated clearly across all my brand touch points?
Is my proposition clear and precise?
Does the visual interpretation, e.g. graphics and photography support this proposition?
Have the graphics and storylines been consistent over time?
Is there a solid logic in the communication of my brand?
Is my story engaging to my target market?
Does my written and visual communication invoke the appropriate feelings and emotions?
Your brand is an implicit guarantee. It does not have a life or momentum of its own. Their real power lies in what they evoke, which is often more than what they are.
You’re making a promise to your customer that you will repeat the experience, in the hope that you will get into their shopping basket time and time again.
We’ve always believed the brand experience—being a cumulative set of impressions—is critical at every point.
It’s all about the unsolicited extras you never knew you were going to get when you went out to buy a product or service.
Return on brand investment (ROBI) can be measured in hard metrics and soft observations. It requires a commitment and the honesty to face the fires of customer neglect and product imperfections. So few companies do this and report on their ROBI. The emotional charisma of brands is often lost on the finance team with their own mantra of EBITA.
Your brand has incredible untouchable value and their best climate for success is when it is led by a wise and benign dictatorship and followed by a soft, wired culture. We’ve been in many rooms when they are born over the years, seen some sad early deaths, the strugglers and those which become famous. Beliefs and values are everything when you build one.
Many of our own children enjoy their shade today because a healthy tree was planted and tended to a long time ago.
Written by Brian Richards & Kyle Ranudo