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Brand Measurement: In Search of the Missing Link

by Matt Hunckler

Depending on what books and blogs you tend to read, you may think “brand” is a bit of a dirty word. Through a recent rebrand experience at Slingshot SEO earlier this year, I gained some perspective on the real value of “brand.”

Branding often gets a bad rap, because it’s not always easy to directly tie to an exact return on investment. This may lead some folks in the biz to ask the question, “Is branding dead?”

And the answer to that question is, “It depends.”

Understand “brand.”

What’s your definition of brand? If you’re just thinking in terms of tagline, typeface and logo, you’re not getting the whole picture. Not only that, but you won’t be able to even start to try to measure brand’s impact on your business.

So, if a brand is not a logo, then what the heck is it?

One thing is for sure. Your brand is absolutely not whatever you say it is. Consumers are savvy and know when they’re being “marketed to.”

If any words are valuable, it’s the words that are used by your clients and partners when they talk about your brand. Jeff Bezos put it best when he said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Yet, you can’t control what your industry is saying about your brand—or can you?

Shape your brand.

Let’s focus on what you can control.

In business, it’s not what you say, but what you do that counts. But it’s not just what you do. It’s also how you do it.

Brand isn’t simply the words we speak, but everything we do to communicate and in what ways we communicate them. It’s through all forms of communication that the rest of the world builds their perception of your brand.

From brand perception, the world decides what words, sounds, and images they use when they communicate about your brand. And that just feeds the fire because it’s people as a whole who shape our worldview (not just marketers directly).

This presents a bit of a problem when looking to measure the ROI on brand, because there is so much data—most of which is very much qualitative (generally hard to measure and compare).

Measure and track brand.

Our CEO, Jay Love, talks to us about finding your on-base percentage—the few key metrics that, if executed relentlessly by their team, results in consistent success.

This is exactly the mentality you want to have when you look to measure brand. This approach takes the paralyzing, daunting task of measuring brand impact, and makes it actionable.

Find the brand metrics with high correlations to your key performance indicators. (For the marketing functions, these are usually measurements like leads and revenue). There are a couple brand metrics that are particularly great “on-base percentages” when looking to measure brand:

• Measure branded search traffic. It’s so important that you separate this from your non-branded search traffic in your analytics platform. This is one of the greatest measurements of brand awareness and even brand affinity. There are also golden nuggets to be found in researching which words are paired with your brand (for example “Slingshot Ranking Whitepaper” or “Slingshot SEO CTR”).

• Measure social media mentions. Leverage tools like Infegy or Topsy to get a 360 view of what’s being communicated about your brand. Just be sure you aren’t measuring only raw social mention count. Sentiment is just as important. Many social media tools, like CoTweet, allow you to tag each mention on the social landscape. Take advantage of this and start to categorize online communications to begin to see where the real impact is.

This year at MozCon, Jamie Steven (VP of Marketing at SEOmoz), gave an inspiring, actionable talk on brand and brand measurement. He recommends creating a basic brand tracking worksheet. I implement this tracking strategy to get started with brand tracking. There’s a great example in Jamie’s slides, which you can find here.

Use culture as a brand catalyst.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has a wonderful quote: “Brand is a lagging indicator of culture.”

So true. Going back to the brand shaping conversation, brand is how you communicate and the way in which you go about delivering value to your clients or customers. There’s nothing that more directly influences how your company delivers value than your team and the culture you create together (this subject deserves its own dedicated post to fully explore).

But I think Tony left something out (this was probably intentional—he’s far more eloquent than I).

Culture also feeds back into the brand. It catalyzes the conversation and communication, amplifying any marketing messaging or advertising efforts.

Your culture is a platform. If you take the effort to build it right, it will not only support a strong brand but also exponentially build brand equity.

At Slingshot SEO, we’re a work hard, stay late kind of group. It’s a young, smart team that loves to collaborate on projects, but also likes to kick back and have fun. We love the deserving brands we serve and love helping them win—every time.

How about you? How do you communicate your brand? What are you measuring?

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