By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO
This post is part of a series taken from Robert Bradford’s article Understanding the Competitive Value of your Brand published in Compass Points September 2005. In Part One, we introduced the series and discussed What makes a brand valuable? In Part Two, we discussed Why branding is important in the global marketplace. In this post we will discuss How to evaluate your brand.
How to evaluate your brand
Objectively evaluating your brand is difficult, especially if you want to put an exact dollar number on it. Fortunately, this is usually not required for good strategic decision making. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least a general concept of the value of your brand when you are considering strategic options.
The most objective way to evaluate your brand is to measure the outcomes that occur with and without the use of your brand. Sometimes this is simple, because the way you market may well lend itself to testing different hypothesis about your brand. For example, a seminar company might test mailing brochures that feature (or don’t feature) specific brands, to find out the extent to which one of those brands is pulling in attendees at the seminars. Likewise, if you have the wherewithal, you might go so far as to test selling a “generic” version of your product in the marketplace to see if it can carry the same price as your current brand – at acceptable volumes. This is a little more difficult with retail products, as some retailers will insist on only stocking brand name products on their shelves. In addition, retail stores – especially large chains – typically demand some kind of compensation for the use of their shelf space, which makes retail brand testing quite expensive.
If testing is out of the question, you can also approximate brand value by looking at the popularity and price of competing brands with little or no brand power. If you don’t have an absolutely generic “no-name” competitor, it can be difficult to be objective about this – after all, how do you decide which competitor has the least brand power? Also, there may be some confusion about value because there are several components to the success of a brand:
Brand Sales = (Cost + Margin) * Volume
If you were to attempt a calculation of brand value, you would be faced with extracting non-brand factors which affect these three numbers. For example, cost can go up or down depending on operation skills, management, underlying cost structure, and purchasing skills. Margin may be driven by brand power, pricing skill, and power in the distribution/retail channels. And volume can be affected by both cost and margin, brand power, and distribution network, as well as underlying demand for the products or services being offered.
Even so, at the end of the day your brand gets you one of two measurable outcomes: margin or volume. Comparing your margins to the competition is one way to assess the value of your brand, if you take heed of the caveat about other factors which may change margin. Comparing volume is less likely to yield a good estimate of brand value, because you can – in many markets – drive higher volumes with no brand value at all by charging lower prices. This, by the way, is a terrible strategy to be following if you are concerned about cheaper foreign competition, because there are significant costs that you simply will not be able to beat your foreign competitors on.
In the next post of this series, we will discuss So your brand isn’t that valuable – is there hope?
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