If the headline caught your eye, then you are probably challenged by a declining brand. Am I right?

Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to give you an easy five-step solution to turn around that faltering brand. And I will chastise you for letting it get this far! But I will also give you some useful ideas to help you understand why your brand is declining – and what to do about it.

I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine recently who is frustrated by her boss – aren’t we all at times? She is working on a brand that is globally doing OK, but the brand image results are beginning to show some worrying signs. Its most important attributes are all trending in the wrong direction.

Her boss argues that since sales are good, there’s nothing to worry about! In fact, he went further by suggesting that they stop tracking the brand’s image as it has no issues. This is just madness; wouldn’t you agree?

Brand image is one of the best ways to follow brand healthif you are following the right attributes that is. By right I mean metrics that are relevant for the brand and the category.

I have heard marketers request to measure their advertising slogans in a brand image study! This is wrong, but it still comes up when I’m working with an inexperienced marketer. If you don’t know why, the reason is because slogans change, but the essence of a brand shouldn’t and that’s what you are trying to measure over time.

The three essentials of brand valueSo if you don’t measure its slogan, what should you measure? The three most important areas to cover are:

  • Rational, functional benefits
  • Emotional, subjective benefits
  • Relational, cultural benefits

Let me give some examples, so you understand better what each of them are:

  • Rational, Functional: removes stains, has a crunchy coating, offers 24-hour service. These are elements with which almost everyone would agree.
  • Emotional, subjective: trustworthy brand, high quality, makes me more attractive. These are elements which are from a more personal perspective.
  • Relational, cultural: a Swiss brand, trendy, traditional. These are elements which are impacted by society and the opinions of others.

In addition to these three image areas, I would suggest you also follow the brand’s personality and value perception. Both of these will impact its image and should provide you with additional clues to help explain any changes in it.

One further best practice I recommend to my clients is to also follow your main competitors so you have a good perspective of the whole category and its main selling points.

Sometimes declines in image are the result of a competitor emphasizing an attribute for which you were previously known. Therefore although your brand hasn’t changed anything, its association with the attribute can weaken due to the competitive actions. If this was your USP then you are in deep trouble and you need to attend to your brand urgently!

Coming back to my friend and her manager, she asked me what she could do to persuade her boss to continue measuring brand image. These are the five areas that I told her to discuss with him.


Review the attributes which show the largest changes. Can you agree on why these have happened? If not, perhaps you are measuring too frequently and they are just non-significant, statistical fluctuations.

Also, if there are unexplained changes, are you sure you’re measuring the right metrics that cover the whole category? Markets change and perhaps your attributes no longer reflect the latest sensitivities.

If you are missing important metrics, this might explain why the image is declining while sales are rising. The brand corresponds well to these new customer needs and desires, but you’re not measuring them. You might want to check that you are covering all three areas – if not all five – of a complete brand image mentioned above.

You should also check that you are covering all three areas – if not all five – of a complete brand image evaluation, as mentioned above.

Customer care discussions

What are customers calling in about? See if there are any comments that tie in with the image changes you have noticed. Or which might explain why sales are growing and provide clues as to the new attributes you should be measuring.

Customer connections, whether through your call centre or on social media, are a great way to identify market changes and new trends. The advantage of online discussions is that you can quickly ascertain whether a criticism is an opinion held by everyone or just a random comment from one customer. But more about that in a moment.

Customer persona

When was your customer persona last updated? Are you following changes in their preferences? Perhaps there is a new segment of customers you are now appealing to?

Often marketers will evaluate their brand’s image amongst a sub-group of category users to save money. By doing this you have missed the growing potential in another segment. For more information on how to complete a detailed persona description, check out “How well do you know your customers.”

Market dynamics

If you are following sales and not market share, you may be losing customers to other brands which are driving category growth. This might explain why sales are growing, but your image is declining.

And if this is the case then you will be pleased to learn that you aren’t the only company making this mistake. I have uncovered this basic error in even the largest multinationals, who should know better!

You need to have a foundation of information about the category of products in which you are competing, not just the sub-segment. If you’re a carbonated soft drink, you should at least have some usage data on all soft drinks, perhaps including juices and sports drinks too. If you sell shampoo, then you need to have information on haircare in general. You get the picture?

Social media discussions

Today we have the luxury of finding out what people really think about our brands from their numerous discussions on social media.

If your brand has a solid following or a respected customer base that shares their experience online, then this is a great way to know what is working and what is not. People tend to share negative experiences more than positive ones, so rather than taking offence, we should be thankful for getting this valuable information about our brand’s vulnerabilities for free.

These five areas will make for a lively discussion for my friend and her boss. They should also provide the necessary information for you to understand and hopefully reverse the negative sales trend of your brand. Of course, once you have the knowledge on what to do, you will need to take appropriate actions, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Any comments? If so I’d love for you to share them below. Thanks.

This post first appeared on C3Centricity.