Brand Monitoring for the C-Suite: Delivering Actionable Business Intelligence

What is a brand? On a literal level, a brand is a business’s product or service, distinguished from others in the market by branding elements, such as its name, logo and packaging. On a symbolic level, a brand is a business’s personality—the characteristics customers think of when they think of the business, such as “innovative” for Apple, “refreshing” for Coca-Cola or “family” for Disney. And on a business level, the brand is most companies’ single largest asset—one whose health must be monitored continually to protect that asset’s value.

Today, marketing and communications executives charged with brand monitoring face a deluge of data to sort through. This vast amount of information poses a challenge, but when approached with the proper tools, also provides opportunity. Now, more than ever, you have the ability to refine your brand monitoring strategies to extract the specific information internal stakeholders need to make critical business decisions.

Challenges and Opportunities

The growth of online and offline channels has exponentially increased the amount of data available about brands. To keep abreast of a brand’s performance, marketing and communications officers must address what have been dubbed the “four V’s” of data:

  1. Volume: the number of influence impressions put in front of customers

  2. Velocity: the speed of change to brand perceptions

  3. Visibility: the ease with which public opinion of brands can be widely distributed

  4. Volatility: the unpredictable impact of consumers’ opinion on brands Compiling and interpreting this data requires more sophisticated brand monitoring strategies than you may have previously relied on. While this may require more time and investment, the benefits far outweigh the opportunity cost.

Compiling and interpreting this data requires more sophisticated brand monitoring strategies than you may have previously relied on. While this may require more time and investment, the benefits far outweigh the opportunity cost.

Benefits of Brand Monitoring

Brand monitoring offers many benefits to large companies seeking to distill vast amounts of data from disparate platforms and sources into useful insights for the company’s internal stakeholders:

  1. It reveals how the public perceives the company and provides feedback on the state of your brand reputation— including how perceptions of the brand may differ from the direct feedback from customers. In other words, what is the public saying about your brand “behind your back”? Based on information such as Net Promoter Score and brand preference, what marketing and communications initiatives do you need to put in place in order to better position your company and shore up your reputation?

  2. It helps guide your content marketing and distribution strategy. When you know what types of information prospects care about, you can develop content that is relevant to their needs, interests and challenges. When you know where and when prospects most often consume and comment on content, you can determine the best times and channels to connect with them.

  3. It reveals opportunities for differentiation. Monitoring what the public says about your competitors’ brands, as well as your own, reveals which companies your prospects view as your competitors and how your company is positioned within that competitive set. This can help your company identify gaps in the market that represent opportunities for your business.

  4. It uncovers new business opportunities, such as identifying adjacent markets, potential partners or possible acquisitions. For example, if major problems with a competitor’s new software release are generating negative publicity, this could be a sales opportunity for your software company.

  5. It enables more accurate forecasting and effective scenario planning. Effective brand monitoring alerts key stakeholders on emerging business continuity issues that have the potential to develop into crises; this enables them to take action to either defuse the crisis or respond appropriately to minimize negative effects on the brand’s financial position, reputation, value and share price.

Meeting Stakeholder Needs

Each stakeholder within your company has a different dependency on the brand, and brand monitoring can supply information targeted to each of their needs.

THE CEO

Brand monitoring can provide the CEO with critical data, such as:

  • How the company’s brand is performing compared to the competition

  • The overall perception of the brand and reputation, such as favorability or unfavorability, as well as brand awareness (both aided and unaided)

  • Brand preference and the dimensions on which it is based, such as overall customer service, a robust product portfolio, price or perceived value

  • Potential reputational and financial risk to the brand, such as negative “buzz” that could adversely affect the company’s overall market position

  • External issues, such as changes to the political, financial and regulatory environment, and how these may create threats or opportunities for the brand

THE CFO

Brand monitoring can supply the CFO with information he or she needs for effective financial management, such as:

  • The value of the brand as an asset—including not only the corporate brand, but also the brands of specific products, services, divisions or business units within the company

  • The demographics or customer segments the brand(s) attract. Where is business coming from?

  • Marketing KPIs, such as return on investment and cost per customer. Which marketing investments drive immediate sales, and which build long-term brand equity?

  • Real-time events that could pose financial risk to the brand, such as adverse publicity that could hurt sales or share prices

  • Insights to guide long-term strategic decisions, such as coverage sentiment of acquisition targets

  • New growth opportunities that can increase revenues and create shareholder value. For example, brand monitoring can point a company that serves low-income and affluent customers toward untapped opportunity in the middle-income market.

HEAD OF SALES

Brand monitoring can uncover invaluable information to help the sales team, including:

  • Prospects’ and buyers’ biggest challenges and goals, and how well the brand is serving these goals

  • Topics to build competitive talking points around

  • How buyers perceive the brand and how they perceive the competition

  • Insights for successful brand positioning

  • Social selling opportunities, discovered by monitoring questions or comments about the brand, its competitors or its industry on social media

  • Immediate sales opportunities, such as the chance to reach out to prospects by responding to questions about the brand’s product lines or general questions about the space your brand lives in

  • Long-term sales opportunities, such as the announcement that a competitor’s brand is abandoning a geographic or demographic market, opening the playing field for your products

THE CMO

Brand monitoring can provide the CMO with essential data to guide the company’s marketing strategy, including:

  • Current “share of voice” on hot topics and trends

  • What type of content to produce for key segments and personas

  • How well the product or the service is meeting customers’ needs

  • Identifying net promoters and detractors, understanding overall reputation of the brand

  • The customer experience with the brand, product or service

  • Insights to help the marketing department surface new sales opportunities and develop more effective sales enablement materials

In addition to driving marketing strategy, the information gained via brand monitoring helps CMOs demonstrate the business value of what they do. Tying content marketing directly to revenue growth is a challenge for most CMOs. Brand monitoring can go beyond measures of reach or followers to determine more effective content and distribution strategies, and help extend the business impact that marketing has on lead generation, new business and revenues.

Consider the case of a publicist seeking exposure for a remote California town trying to build a reputation as a vacation destination. The publicist developed a communications strategy that included using PR Newswire to monitor and target travel and recreation feature writers. The town obtained media coverage including a multi-page, five-article spread in the Sunday travel section of The Los Angeles Times’ print edition, as well as smaller articles in the online edition.

The extensive press coverage with the potential reach of millions in print and online led to increased tourism traffic in the area.

Brand monitoring can help CMOs measure not only the reach and placement their marketing campaigns achieve, but also the tangible business outcomes of those campaigns. If this approach can work for a small town in California, imagine the potential impact to your business.

Recommendations

How can your business use brand monitoring to obtain the greatest possible benefit for stakeholders? Here are six recommendations:

  1. Measure more frequently. Monitoring the brand quarterly or annually brings valuable long-term insights, but these alone aren’t enough in today’s “four V” business environment. Brand monitoring in real time enhances sales effectiveness, enables more effective crisis management and allows your company to quickly take advantage of growth opportunities.

  2. Measure both online and offline channels. Social listening is important, but in order to maximize brand monitoring’s benefits, you must go beyond social media monitoring alone. To gain a 360-degree view of the media landscape, monitor the full range of media types that audiences consume and contribute to, including social media, blogs, print and online media; online ratings and reviews; television and radio broadcasting; and the effects of public relations outreach.

  3. Take both a short-term and long-term view. The valuable insights obtained by brand monitoring should not only inform your company’s outreach and crisis response in the short term, but also drive long-range strategic planning.

  4. Measure business impact. In addition to quantifying advertising reach or social media followers, brand monitoring should measure transactional business impact, quantifying the direct impact of brand health on business revenues.

  5. Make it fully operational. After aligning with your C-Suite stakeholders on what to monitor and measure, agree on the format (dashboard, report, presentation), delivery and frequency so that incorporating monitoring insights into decision-making is a consistent practice, rather than an ad hoc task.

  6. Refine brand monitoring to support dynamic business goals. Successful brand monitoring depends on refining the topics, keywords and channels you monitor. Work closely to ensure that brand monitoring collects the data needed to support your changing business goals. Once data is mined, present the results in a format that offers actionable insights.

Results

A company’s brand has real business value. Indeed, the percentage of a business’s value attributed to its brand can range from 10% to 60% or more.2 Carefully monitoring the brand enables each key stakeholder in a company to make short- and long-term strategic decisions that maximize brand value—and business results.

ABOUT THE EXPERT: KEN WINCKO

Ken Wincko is the SVP of Marketing at Cision and PR Newswire, where he manages the company's global marketing strategy. He is also a member of the Executive Management Committee. He has more than 20 years of marketing, product and business development experience in bringing innovative marketing programs and solutions to market for both B2B and B2C organizations.
 
Prior to Cision and PR Newswire, Ken held senior-level marketing and product leadership roles at Dun & Bradstreet, ADP, Citigroup, and IBM. Ken is an advisory board member of the CMO Council. He is a frequent speaker at major industry conferences and has been covered in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, TechTarget, Information Management, The Demand Gen Report, and MarketingSherpa
 

PR NEWSWIRE SOLUTIONS

PR Newswire’s portfolio of services and solutions helps communicators of all stripes achieve their communications goals—from building awareness with new audiences and gaining media pickup, to managing reputation and inspiring investor confidence—by sharing, targeting, tracking and enhancing your unique content to make the most of your content investment. Our offerings include:

• Media Targeting & Monitoring— Reach influential journalists with our list-building tools and multichannel distribution network, and monitor conversations about your brand across global media, with metrics to uncover actionable media intelligence.

• Professional Services— Leverage the expertise of our Professional Services team for your custom media research projects.

  • Configuration, implementation and roll-out of media monitoring solutions.

  • Ongoing monitoring and in-depth reporting on your brand and key topics.

  • On-demand research and analysis for campaigns, topics and issues.

Resources

1. Forrester, “Measure and Manage Brand Health” https://www.forrester.com/Measure+And+Manage+Brand+Health/fulltext/-/E-RES77182

2. David Aaker, “Why You Must Prove Your Brand Has Asset Value” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140421155642-2171492-why-you-must-prove-your-brand-has-asset-value