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Many use the terms brand equity and brand health interchangeably; they shouldn’t.

Brand equity refers to the size of a brand.  A brand with high brand equity has lots of customers, big market share, and a presence in the marketplace that leads one to believe that it will stay big.  Take two brands—Microsoft and Apple.  Both have lots of brand equity and because the corporate name is the brand, we can think of market cap as reflective of brand equity.  I am an outsider to both firms but I think the marketplace would believe that the trajectory of the two brands is somewhat different at this point.  Their brand health is different.

So, let’s think about brand health.  When David Meer and I worked together at The NPD Group, we had an impromptu “Synectics-style excursion” one day to explore the meaning of brand health by thinking about how you can tell if your dog is healthy.

Signs your dog is healthy

  • Has a normal appetite
  • Comes when you call it
  • Looks like the breed it is
  • Heals fast
  • Puppies need to grow into their paws to normal size
  • Has a bright, shiny coat
  • Doesn’t have accidents in the house
  • Cold, wet nose

So, following the metaphor, here are the signs that your brand is healthy

Dog is healthy if:

Brand is healthy if

Has a normal appetite

Brands “eat” Advertising and promotion support.  If the brand needs to increase marketing support, especially promotion support, to maintain market share it’s not a healthy sign

Comes when you call it

Does your brand come when consumers call?  Are they “calling it” (via social media conversations).  Is the marketing team listening and responding?

Looks likes the breed it is

Does your brand have the meaning to consumers it intends to have? Is it positioned as intended?

Heals fast

Good brands can receive bad news that, in an era of social media, can turn into massive body blows in an instant.  One of the most powerful signs of brand equity is that your customers will forgive you; is your brand bouncing back?

Puppies need to grow into their paws to normal size

Is your brand growing the way it should?  Are you aware of the geometry of a brand, the signs across multiple information streams that it has grown to full size?  For example, high penetration or trial that is not supported by commensurate customer retention means the brand will stop growing short of its full size.  This was the point that Nielsen made about Twitter a year or so ago.

Has a bright shiny coat

Dogs’ coats shine, making them attractive from a distance.  In the era of shopper marketing, nothing could be more important than having your brand jump off the shelf and tells shoppers in an instant what it is about.

Doesn’t have accidents

Well, no brand team wants to be fighting fires and cleaning up after the brand.  Brands are about trust and therefore consistency.  You should be able to have exactly the brand experience you expect, or better.  If your brand has inconsistent quality or train wrecks it will keep the brand team on defense.

Cold wet nose

Touching your dog’s nose regularly is a way of tracking if it is healthy or if you have to look further.  In this digital age, track your brand in all layers of consumer expression: surveys, social media, search, activity in owned media, etc.

So, we’re not talking about the size of the dog, we’re talking about if it’s healthy.  Brand health is critical to understand and measure because it is predictive of the future.  A big brand that is unhealthy won’t stay that big for long.

OK, that brings me to my final point.  At the ARF Research Transformation initiative, we talk about “The River”.   Today in our digital society there is a constant river of information that is fed by numerous tributaries.  The river is flowing continuously so conversation about your brand and people’s needs don’t happen on your schedule but on theirs.  Someone can search for your brand (or a competitor) anytime they choose to. Today, tracking surveys alone are not enough to fully understand brand health.   We must also look in the river and consider ALL the signs and signals in a digital age to see if your brand has a cold wet nose.

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2 Responses to “Does your brand have a cold wet nose?”

  1. This is a clever piece – I like the analogy, but I’m afraid I’ll never look at a dog the same way again.

  2. You do realize, of course, that I now have to print this and post it on the wall for my marketing team, don’t you? Delightfully clever analogy, but I have to ask…how on earth did you get started on the topic of branding and dogs? (Did it start with a conversation about printing your logo on your dog’s fur, then letting him loose in the neighborhood? Say it ain’t so…)