How should you measure the value of brand awareness?
I’m asked that frequently by B2B marketers, but they aren’t really asking how to measure it. That answer, of course, involves analytics.
What they want to know is how to connect brand awareness efforts to business value. (And they equate value with more revenue or lower costs.)
Connecting brand awareness to revenue or expenses is not unlike figuring out how a baseball player’s statistics relate to the team’s wins. So many other things must happen that pinning wins on a player’s batting average involves a tenuous connection at best.
The value of brand awareness comes from influencing the customer’s perception of your brand. To measure the impact, you’d need to track how your efforts improve that perception over time. And then, even more specifically, you’d need to connect how that improved perception translates into actual business value (e.g., cost savings or revenue).
Getting up to bat comes first
The very nature of “brand value” presents a challenge. “Brand” is your idealized version of what your company stands for. You hope “brand value” marks an important waypoint on the customer’s journey. However, “awareness” only begins the path to that destination.
Your natural inclination is to connect the starting point with the endpoint. You want people to know about, engage with, and believe in what your brand stands for. However, becoming aware of a brand doesn’t immediately change people’s perception of how trusted or valuable the brand is to them.
It’s not that you can’t connect brand awareness to cost savings or revenue (brand value). It would be easy to do the math: X number of new website visitors = Y amount of increased revenue.
However, that simple equation gives too much power to the initial investment in achieving awareness – and too little to any other experience between awareness and purchase.
More realistically, at the highest level, more positive brand awareness equals a greater probability of cost savings or revenue. Brand awareness, following the baseball metaphor, gets you more times at bat. That increased frequency will probably equate to more hits. And more hits provide a greater probability of more wins.
So the question becomes, “OK, then how do we measure that greater probability?”
Now, you can architect useful measurements.
Setting objectives is first base
Start with an objective – a goal. Agreement on the objectives matters (e.g., increased leads, higher quality leads) more than the accuracy of the analytics. You also must agree on what will define progress toward that objective. I’m a huge fan of OKRs (objectives and key results) as a designed way of setting marketing objectives and measuring success.
However, at this point, you may throw up your hands. “But, yeah, that’s the problem, Robert. You just told me that connecting revenue to brand awareness is problematic. Clearly, I don’t want to start with that as my objective. But what objectives will help me show a greater probability of achieving more revenue or savings?”
Good question. Let’s work backward. Instead of setting objectives, start with pragmatic things you can (or at least should be able to) measure around brand awareness value. Then, consider the objectives that might be supported by those methods of measurement. Finally, see if you can connect them to a higher probability of revenue or savings.
I’ve seen these three simple measurements for brand awareness value work with my clients.
Growth in traffic and engagement
To measure brand awareness, look at the traffic to your website, thought leadership content hub, or both. You also can distinguish and segment between organic and paid traffic, campaign ID, or distributed content channels.
Perhaps, you value traffic that comes organically higher than branded search times. Or maybe you only count traffic from branded advertising. Or it could be traffic from content, thought leadership, your brand name, etc. To pick the right metric, refer to what agreed-upon success looks like for your company.
You can see how arguing (and mutually agreeing on) an objective with those measurements becomes easy. The metrics might be time on site, bounce rate, pages viewed, or (my favorite) the best next action from this traffic (e.g., newsletter subscription, more content viewed, shares with social networks).
You can see how it becomes easy to argue (and mutually agree on) an objective with those measurements. For example, it could be:
“Our efforts demonstrably increased searches for our brand name, more organic traffic to our website, and an increase in subscribers to our thought leadership newsletter. So, yes, we are achieving greater brand awareness.”
These measurements fit nicely into an overall objective of driving greater brand awareness of the company and its share of voice of its new approach to X solution. The key results might include:
- Quantity of traffic (or increase) as a percentage of our total addressable audience/market
- Quantity of conversions to known audiences (e.g., newsletter subscribers). This is a great metric to assess if you’re making your target audience aware.
- Increased engagement on the content platform
But with that demonstrable measurement in hand, you must answer the final “So what?” You still haven’t connected brand awareness directly to revenue. But should you? If all anybody cares about is increased revenue, then what’s the worth of spending money to increase brand awareness and/or perception? Here’s the correlation where you might get agreement from the teams: If you increase brand awareness of the company and its share of voice, you create a greater probability that those audiences will become leads.
That’s when you connect your brand-awareness OKR to a sales-enablement OKR of creating more leads from those audiences.
Surveys, research, and polls
You also can measure the quality (as well as the quantity) of brand awareness efforts by asking people what they think. It’s especially helpful when you have an existing audience (subscribers to thought leadership), existing customers (people who know and like your products), and new, lesser-known audiences.
You can measure classic things like brand recall – how well your target audiences can remember who you are or what you stand for. Or you can measure things like how much your brand is trusted by various audiences. In this measurement exercise, you regularly measure the brand’s “lift” over time as you execute activities like content marketing, brand advertising, or paid and organic search optimization.
A large number of objectives can connect to this measurement approach. For example, an objective could be to “markedly increase the level of trust in new prospective customers who have just become aware of what we do.”
Among the metrics to execute that objective:
- The number of subscribers who increased their trust in the brand since signing up for your content marketing compared to existing customers or those who don’t know the brand.
- The number of “unknown” people who increase their trust in the brand after exposure to its messaging or content.
- Ranked trust of your brand vs. competitors or others in your space among audiences, prospects, leads, and customers.
You may not directly correlate better results to revenue or cost savings, but you can connect that those results (if positive) increase the likelihood of meeting those objectives.
For example, you may notice email subscribers who give a higher trust score convert at a higher rate into customers. You may find trust in your brand goes up in advertising that focuses on thought leadership rather than sales offers. Thus, you can find it easier to get to an agreed-upon OKR that says greater brand awareness and trust in all audiences connect to easier opportunities to sell or customers who convert at a higher rate.
Media listening and analysis
I saved the broadest measurement of brand awareness value for last because it’s probably the most debated topic in brand marketing efforts. The question is, literally, just awareness: How many people did you make aware of what your company does?
This approach, inherently, doesn’t measure the subsequent actions. It’s the 50,000-foot view of awareness. Clearly, brands think they get value in throwing their name on the jerseys of soccer teams, the sides of Formula 1 cars, billboards, stadiums, or (at a smaller level) sponsoring conferences and events.
However, you can measure these big-picture efforts. Research tools and services allow marketers to measure consumer intelligence and sentiment. You also can monitor Google search volumes, social media trends, and even earned media mentions. These tools show the quantity and, in some cases, the quality of the impact of reaching them.
For example, a new brand might have an objective to “reach at least 25% of our total addressable market to increase recognition of our brand and what it means.” Among the key measurements to assess that objective:
- Increase the Google search volume of the brand name and/or key benefit statement by X percent.
- Create a disproportionate share of voice across social media of mentions or unsolicited opinions of the company’s key benefits or its thought leadership.
- Create an effective CPM (cost-per-thousand) paid media strategy to efficiently reach your target market with the brand message.
Once again, correlating these metrics to revenue is tough. However, they could work as a key performance indicator (KPI) related to helping you achieve other objectives. For example, you may equate that reaching more people presents more opportunities to drive subscribers to build deeper trust. You may also conclude a broader, simpler reach helps establish your brand as a legitimate competitor in sales conversations.
Getting on base equals wins
In the end, measuring brand awareness as a valuable activity of marketing really requires connecting it to other measurements that benefit from its success.
To bring it back to baseball, it’s not unlike the real-life story played out in the movie Moneyball. The Oakland Athletics figured out – and ultimately agreed among team leadership – the metric of on-base percentage connected to wins better than just about any other metric. They couldn’t draw a direct line from on-base percentage to wins. However, they could use on-base percentage as a foundational measurement because it connected perfectly to an increased winning percentage.
Brand awareness is the “getting on base” of marketing. Of course, plenty of other things can happen that optimize or ruin your scoring chance after you’re on base. But you can’t score unless you get on base.
Batter up. It’s your story. Tell it well.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute