Understanding the “Whys” Behind Your Brand’s Health


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As new brands gain approval and brand teams begin to manage in-line business imperatives, they are starting to ask their ATU trackers to move beyond the “what” of measuring awareness, trial and usage. With valuable brands at stake, they are beginning to require answers to why their brand is healthy and what is behind their brand’s health.

To answer the “whys,” GfK’s R&D has turned a technique from qualitative research into a projectable quantitative tracking tool called Consumer Brand Relationships (CBR).

The first thing health care practitioners (HCPs) will tell you is that facts determine their decisions. And yet we have all watched while a brand won share that is disproportionate to the facts regarding that brand relative to the alternatives. We also have seen brands with dismal market share despite solid reasons to believe otherwise. After watching health care practitioners’ behavior and reading behavioral economics, we all know that decisions are not completely rational. The unique ability of CBR is to measure brand health in a holistic way that includes emotional and social elements. It does so by measuring the strength of each customer’s relationship with the brand, hence the name: Consumer Brand Relationships (CBR).

By using a relational metaphor to gain detailed insight, the CBR examines the connections between customers and the brand. Its roots are in qualitative research projective techniques, and we literally ask the customer to tell us which of nine types of relationships come closest to describing their relationship with the brand. It is a single question and we measure each brand. We find that professionals can answer this question, and it moves them beyond the purely rational veneer and into a more holistic and realistic picture of the landscape.

Most ATUs track brand health by measuring intended behavior or using an index that combines intended behavior and attitudes. The result is an intuitive brand health metric that ranges from “strong” to “weak.” Unfortunately, we often find that brand health measures fail to discriminate among brands, or only do so if they are recomputed to force a distribution that is similar to market share.

What can you do to get behind flat scores, or to understand the “why” behind brand health? CBR can help you uncover the dimensions where you can find differentiation and thereby boost your brand health.

While there are nine relationship types to capture a range of situations, let’s focus on two of them from one of our case studies. When asked to think about their relationship with a prescription pharmaceutical using this metaphor, some physicians chose “Social Circle” and others chose “Close Friends and Family.” Think about what is behind the choice to place a brand in the latter category (as opposed to the former): “Close Friends and Family” is a more intense relationship, warmer and more intimate, imbued with more trust. Emotions and the irrational play a large part in this choice.


Yet both of these relationship types reflect a strong brand relationship. We find it useful to break apart the “strong” category when all brands are strong, or when the business opportunities are greatest inside one of the broad categories.

In the example shown, there is a significant opportunity in converting the weaker and less warm relationships to the warmer and more intense (“Social Circle” to “Close Friends and Family”). The share of prescriptions is much greater for “Close Friends and Family,” which leads to the importance of focusing on drivers of conversion in this specific area.


This case study illustrates how CBR helps companies whose high-level brand metrics are flat across time and across competitors, who need to understand the emotional basis behind brand health, and who need to uncover opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

All evidence indicates that to unearth the differentiators that impact your brand success, the “whys” have it.

For more on CBR, see the Harvard Business Review article: “Unlock the Mysteries of Your Customer Relationships” by Jill Avery, Susan Fournier and John Wittenbraker at


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tom Hartley
Tom Hartley is Vice President responsible for Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty and Advocacy, Employee Satisfaction & Employee Engagement, Tracking, Fact-Based Consulting, Training, Action Planning. Business impact analysis to demonstrate ROI.


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