There seems to be an increasing amount of sector-specific tools for brand evaluation on the market, and we diligently spend time and money on monitoring, or feeling anxious that we’re not. And of course, we should be. As we know, a high performing brand is paramount to the success of any charity.
But after more than 15 years of experience in our sector, and having spent many hours pouring over brand tracking results, looking for the insight that will answer a fundamental question, I’m starting to realise that a tracking tool is not the only resource at your disposal – there are many paths to understanding the performance of your brand and what your audiences think.
The first and most important task is to convince your leadership team your brand is important and worthy of evaluating. This may seem obvious, but it never stops surprising me how much time I need to spend going back to the fundamentals of brand importance, and providing evidence to back that up.
In part, this is because brand is such an intangible concept. Business leaders want to engage with the tangible. Even though they would probably struggle to articulate many of their own purchasing decisions, intangible concepts are not hard facts or data and still throw the most senior of leaders. It’s hard to overstate the value of constantly highlighting the benefits of good, robust brands whenever possible.
It’s also due to the fear that grips the sector about spending money on brand. When challenged to prove brand will make a difference to ROI, there are no easy answers or guarantees. Yes, there are case studies – Macmillan Cancer Support being the most obvious, and yes we can show how seriously the commercial sector takes branding (look at the time and investment Interbrand spend on tracking commercial brand’s performance – this is serious business), but solid facts and statistics are hard to come by. Why? Because there’s no easy calculation that indicates success.
And so we need to take a rounded view, with evidence from all corners. At the last Brand Breakfast on brand evaluation, creating a brand dashboard was recommended as a way of monitoring the holistic performance of your brand, as well as a great way to keep your leadership team updated.
It’s critical to consider brand across interactions inside and outside your organisation. A dashboard is a good way of getting an overview of that, so you can start joining the dots and interpreting the connections. A good brand dashboard could compile results from:
- Core brand tracker KPIs (such as awareness, perception and propensity to support)
- Staff survey
- Key digital touchpoints (website, social media, etc)
- Income generation (fundraising and retail)
- Service touchpoints (calls to Helpline, publication downloads etc)
The purpose of the dashboard isn’t to pat yourself on the back when results are on the up, or make you want to put your head in your hands when they’re not, but to give you a window into how audiences are engaging with your brand across your charity. It’s important to understand what’s behind these results. Retail numbers could be up because of bad weather (everyone buying coats) coincidentally at the same time as brand awareness is on the rise. Hold back from popping that cork! Correlation doesn’t signify causation.
But most importantly, don’t lose a sense of what all these factors add up to. Take all your experience, use your imagination, listen to friends (while being aware of bias), attend focus groups and dig beneath the surface of what people are saying. This, integrated with your data, is where you will find the answers.