How do you measure brand marketing?

Mar 13, 2024


Ever feel lost when you try to measure the impact of brand marketing? If so, you’re not alone. 

People think these campaigns are daunting to measure because they often work over long periods. How can you connect that TV ad from six months back to today's product purchase? Brand marketing also typically runs on channels that don’t generate clicks or touches, like TV or billboard ads, so real-time tracking seems challenging.

Here’s the truth: all marketing should be held accountable to the sales it drives. Said another way, if your “brand marketing” doesn’t drive sales on some time horizon, you probably should stop running it. Yes, some types of marketing are more straightforward to evaluate because they lead directly to sales. But the idea that “brand marketing” doesn’t fall in this bucket is just false. Also, teams can track long-term marketing with leading metrics and brand health tracking. Just think of these marketing types on a spectrum. 

Don’t wave off this type of marketing because it seems impossible to track (or worse, pay for brand campaigns without any reporting in place). In this article, we'll walk you through tactics for measuring the impact of your brand marketing on your business.

What do we mean by brand marketing?

Marketers typically use this term to refer to campaigns geared towards increasing brand awareness and strengthening a business’ reputation rather than increasing sales. We find this definition fuzzy since all campaigns should drive sales, whether directly or indirectly. But for clarity, we’ll refer to top-of-funnel, awareness-oriented campaigns as brand marketing throughout the post.

1. Track your brand health

According to marketing researcher Jenni Romaniuk, the goal of brand health tracking isn’t measuring a business’ health. It’s gauging how consumers feel and think about a brand. Once you’ve used health tracking over some time to determine your buyers’ baseline impression of your business, you can understand the impact of your brand marketing campaigns.

Say more buyers in your category report they remember your business when you’re running a brand campaign compared to when you aren’t. Assuming all other conditions are the same, this difference suggests your brand marketing is increasing your target audience’s familiarity with your company. We’ll talk more about assessing individual campaigns with survey data in the final section on experimentation. 

To track your brand health, Romaniuk recommends asking customers about your brand through online surveys and focus groups. For example, you might ask, “Are you familiar with [insert brand name]?” or “What is your opinion of [insert brand name]?” Romaniuk offers this free questionnaire template, and she recently wrote a book Better Brand Health to guide marketers through the process.

For small brands who don’t have the time or money needed to conduct customer surveys, Romaniuk suggests the workaround of using an omnibus survey—hiring a research agency to interview consumers in your target group about your brand. The Harris Poll and Tracksuit are two excellent vendors for conducting brand surveys. 

Companies can also use online information—such as customer social media posts or reviews—as a proxy for brand health tracking, but Romaniuk disagrees with this approach. 

“So much of our day is ordinary and mundane and still involves brands, but it’s not something that we share online,” said Romaniuk. “Even the vast majority of word of mouth is still offline; it’s between two people having a conversation.”

Her points are valid for some everyday products, like packing tape or toothpaste. However, online data can be helpful for gauging brand awareness around other products that consumers discuss on the internet, especially if your brand is small and can’t afford health tracking surveys yet. For these businesses, we recommend collecting this online information to track brand health: 

  • Share of traffic: The percentage of traffic your company’s website receives compared to the traffic of all the competitors in your category.

  • Share of search: The percentage of searches for your brand name compared to searches for all competitors. This metric is only helpful if your company has a distinct name; otherwise, you might count searches that aren’t directed at your company.

  • Social media mentions: Discussions about your brand on social media platforms in posts, comments, stories, hashtags, and captions. 

Keep in mind that strong online metrics don’t necessarily indicate positive brand awareness. A product recall, for example, will likely boost your share of search and social media mentions, but not for the right reasons. 

2. Choose brand campaign target metric(s) based on your sales cycle

Along with health tracking, measure how brand campaigns affect sales to gauge their effectiveness. The best target metric for measuring this depends on your business’s sales cycle length.  

Imagine a D2C company with a short customer journey that releases subway ads to build brand awareness. It’s easy for consumers to buy the product after seeing the subway promotions, so the brand uses sales as its target metric.

On the other hand, consider a B2B software company that releases a billboard ad to boost awareness about their platform. The product is expensive, and its sales cycle typically takes 6 to 12 months, so the marketing team doesn’t expect the ad to drive sales directly. Instead, they’ll measure leading sales indicators that occur more quickly—such as traffic or inbound demo requests—as the campaign’s target metric. Discover how Maya Spivak, a prominent Brand Marketing Leader with experience across Wealthfront, Segment, Mux, and Gretel, immerses herself in the realm of billboards, dissecting the three essential variables pivotal for brand construction: Commitment, Coverage, and Stamina.

3. Estimate your brand marketing’s impact with MMM

With your target metric set, you can start measuring your brand campaigns with marketing mix modeling (MMM). The model uses statistical analysis to find the correlation between marketing channel activity and the target metric. For example, a MMM could show whether sales increase as the volume of video ad impressions increases. MMM then computes the costs and diminishing returns of that video ad campaign. 

To set up an MMM for measuring brand marketing, you’ll need an in-house data scientist or marketing analyst with statistical expertise. Or, you can partner with a platform like Paramark that can build and maintain your MMM for you. You’ll also need sufficient data for your model to create accurate estimations—at least a year’s worth of data for your target metric and marketing inputs, and your target metric should be at least in the hundreds weekly.

Consider the earlier example of a D2C company running a brand subway ad campaign. Its MMM would calculate the correlation between the promotion and sales generated during the time the ad runs. The model then compares this data to the business’ sales without the subway ads to show the cost-effectiveness of generating revenue with this channel

4. Verify your brand marketing’s impact with incrementality testing

MMM shows the correlations between your data, so it only estimates your brand marketing’s impact. You can confirm how your campaigns cause your target metric to change with incrementality testing. This experimentation involves showing your brand marketing to one group of consumers but not showing it to another group with all other conditions being the same. From there, your team would measure the difference in your target metric between the two groups to determine the impact of your brand marketing.

Some marketers question whether you can set up incrementality tests for brand campaigns that impact sales long-term. Take our earlier B2B software example with the six- to twelve-month sales cycle. The company could set up a six-month experiment to compare sales in an area with the software billboard to one that doesn’t have it. But with a time frame that long, who’s to say that the billboard is responsible for the difference in sales? There are likely other responsible factors, like the brand’s sales demo or pricing. 

The problem here is evaluating the campaign based on sales. Marketers can assess long-term brand marketing with incrementality testing by defining the experiment with appropriate leading metrics. In the case of this example, the software company could use awareness, traffic, or inbound demo requests as its target metric. 

Say they ask buyers, “Have you heard of [insert brand name] before today?” The business would set up an experiment where they run the same marketing and ask buyers the survey questions in two regions. The only difference is one region will have the billboard ad. At the end of the test, the company would measure the difference in “yes” responses between the two areas to see if the billboard increased familiarity. 

Experiments are invaluable in showing the causal relationships between brand marketing activities and business outcomes. However, incrementality tests require actual marketing spend, and ensuring accurate experiment results across marketing channels takes a lot of work. We recommend combining MMM and incrementality testing to understand your brand marketing’s performance fully.

Follow the data to improve your brand marketing

Measuring brand marketing can seem intimidating, but it’s nothing to be scared of. With the approach we’ve described—health tracking, MMM, and experimentation—you can discern how your brand campaigns impact your business, whether you have a long or short sales cycle. 

This brand marketing reporting is critical for maintaining relevance. We recommend every company, especially those in mature categories, invest in brand marketing and assess their campaigns to understand their customers’ perspective and differentiate from competitors. 

Need help measuring your brand marketing? Our solution Paramark uses both MMM and incrementality testing to evaluate campaigns for businesses. Schedule a demo to learn more today. 

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