Does Your Brand Even Have A Pulse? A New Way to Measure Brand Energy

Does Your Brand Even Have A Pulse

Over the past two weeks I have been discussing how leading US academics have made a breakthrough in measuring brand energy. Regular readers will recall that these frighteningly bright people synthesised NYSE listed company performance information with measures of brand health. These latter were drawn from the world’s biggest database of brands: BrandAssetValuator.

They then went on to identify those aspects of a brand that appear to drive higher energy levels. They named them VISION, INVENTION, and DYNAMISM.And finally ranked NYSE listed brands by scoring them from 0-100 on a model too clever too explain. In the end they were able to group brands into seven energy levels.

The top level was Volcanic, which we discussed at length last week. A CEO with a Volcanic brand is the commercial equivalent of a US Marine with a Congressional Media of Honour. A man or woman of action; prepared to take risks; bright and brave enough to wrong foot the opposition.

But what of the six other levels? Let’s review, and then let’s play a game.

Level 1: Volcanic. You’ve got the idea, right?

Level 2: Burning. Your brand is as hot as a pili pili chicken at Nandos on a hot Saturday afternoon. Consumers feel its heat in their lives. You’ve come a long way, but you still haven’t quite learned how to live in the spotlight. It’s time to do something different, something that pushes your brand up to the ultimate level. Brands in this position may have a window as tight as two years to make the leap. Starbucks was here once. So was Viagra. So was Myspace. In East Africa, most of our ISPs were here two years ago. You get my point – carpe diem.

Level 3: Charged. A pat on the back, Madam Brand Manager. Your brand is being noticed and is moving in the right direction. (Remember how important I said DYNAMISM was?) Your brand is liked and repeatedly bought by loyal consumers. Now is the time to figure our how to get it into the mass consciousness. One way to do this is to think outside the confines of your market segment, and beyond the functional delivery of your brand. How can you give it greater social relevance? Coke did this in the 1930’s when they gave Santa a Coke-red coat and moved the brand from summer refreshment to all-year-round fizzy drink icon.

Level 4: Pulsing. Well, at least your brand has a pulse. This is a condition in which we find many brands in Africa. Market share gain is positive; profitability is good. Which is why most CEO’s and CFO’s stop thinking beyond this point, and disappear off to sort out a distribution snarl-up or have another go at battling counterfeit products. You can’t blame them, running a business in Africa is like putting on a plate–spinning display in a Greek Restaurant. But you can blame the Marketing Manager. It’s his job to keep pushing for more INVENTION, more DYNAMISM behind his brand. MacDonalds was making good money offering meat in a bun at a low price, but they went on to add fun – Happy Meals, birthday parties, a rather scary clown. More recently they have added health. A pulsing brand needs a Marketing Manager who wants to make his name.

Level 5: Inert. You guessed it. The reason I write this column is that I believe there are far too many brands in this category in Africa. I’m not even sure they are brands. At best they are named products. The bottom 9800 brands in the Superbrands long list are arguably all inert. Their logos only inspire excitement among their CEO’s wives. Their Marketing Managers have been exhausted by the process of developing straplines like ‘We care for you!’ and have now slumped into a daily routine of scamming money from third party suppliers. Some of these brands are in low interest categories. So what? In the unspeakably dull computer components sector, Intel has become an iconic brand. If they can do it, so can you. But you have to want to.

Level 6: Sleeping. This is probably the starting point for most new brands in Africa. And as I said above, the pity is that many of them only make it to Inert. A brand in this state needs sound professional advice on targeting and differentiation. Get these wrong, and she’ll never wake up. ‘ If you ain’t segmenting,’ said Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School, ‘ you ain’t marketing.’

Level 7. Decaying. The good news is that I doubt we have many brands in this category in Africa. We don’t have many brands to begin with, and most of them haven’t been around for very long. However this will become a marketing challenge in future decades, so it’s best we all know it exists now. Elsewhere in the world decayed food brands are exterminated by supermarket own label. Or are so weak that they are better marketed and sold through an intermediary. If a whole category falls into decay, it becomes vulnerable to competitors like Sir Richard Branson, whose skill is to reinvent an industry in his own image. Watch out for signs of this in your category.

So, Brand Energy – a new way to contextualise brands. It isn’t proscriptive. Heaven preserve us from textbooks and articles which insist that there is only one way to look at brands. But I find it useful in prompting open discussion about brands. I hope you do too. Now what about that game?

So, take a piece of paper. No, that shows my age …open a spreadsheet, why don’t you? Pick a marketing category. Along the X- axis write the names of all the brands in the category, and on the y-axis write the seven categories of brand energy. Then, without thinking too hard, plot the energy level of each brand. Finally, try to summarise why you think the better performing brands have more energy. Clue – think about VISION, INVENTION and DYNAMISM.

Anyone wishing to share their results with me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it is certain to receive a copy of a very useful booklet all about Brand Energy. The entry that shows the best insights (or gives me the loudest laugh) will receive a hardback edition of John Gerzema’s brilliant book ‘ The Brand Bubble.’

Come on, it’s more fun than counting ‘Anguka milioni Na Zain’ texts.

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