Brand value is what a brand means to its stakeholders – to consumers, retailers and other partners, and investors. Semiotics come into play – that is, the mechanisms a brand uses to convey identity – but really it's ability to deliver on brand promise that's brand value central. Under-deliver and your reputation will tank. Delight and you're golden.
FleishmanHillard is a public relations and marketing agency, part of the Omnicom group, that (in my view) lives and breathes brand value. That's why I was thrilled that Ryan Smith, VP insights and analytics, proposed a talk at an upcoming conference I organise, the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, and that's why I was pleased he agreed to an interview about his work, in essence....
How to measure brand value: The FleishmanHillard view
Seth Grimes. You describe your work at FleishmanHillard as building teams that guide and inform the stories brands tell about themselves. What role do data and analytics play in FleishmanHillard's work?
Ryan Smith. Data and analytics are central to how we make most of our decisions. We use it to inform what campaigns should be from the outset, to measure the impact of those campaigns, and all throughout those campaigns to optimise what content or messaging or influencers we should be working with. It is central, part of everything, and a guide. It is something that enhances creativity not a limit to it. The cliché of art and science is true. My favorite thing about FleishmanHillard is that our most creative people want data the most. Our executive creative director in our Dallas office is a huge fan of data driven creativity. She doesn't just tolerate analysts; she craves their involvement in creative projects.
SG. A basic question: What's your definition of brand value and why does brand value matter?
RS. People used to say that reputation is what other people say about you and brand is what you say about yourself. That just isn't true anymore. Your brand is how people feel about you. It is a mixture of people trusting you to do the right thing, to handle doing the wrong thing honestly, to create a product that lives up to expectations, and to align with who you say you are. Every person has their own set of criteria for what's important to you. Brands that match those criteria are more emotionally rewarding to buy from and easier to forgive.
People used to say that reputation is what other people say about you and brand is what you say about yourself. That just isn't true anymore.
SG. Customer experience informs consumers' brand perceptions, but it is a very broad concept. CX is shaped by brand/product interactions that extend from initial awareness, often formed by advertising and word of mouth, to post-sale customer service. Of course, the product itself, and its packaging, market positioning, and price also affect perceptions. So how do you sort out what elements contribute most to brand value?
RS. That is a loaded question. The one of those that your brand does worst is what contributes the most.
We lean to the pieces that affect or are created by the current users and owners to be the most important. Awareness can get cluttered by people that aren't going to be important to your brand. Word of mouth and customer service are integral to building lasting relationships with your core audience.
SG. And the data sources and measurement strategy you use, for the brand value elements that matter most? Could you provide an industry example or two and describe how you go about measuring brand value and its impact?
RS. I am very focused on social media so most of our sources are some sort of social data. The challenge is finding ways to measure just the people that matter to your brand and to interpret what they say. You have to be able to apply frameworks to these conversation so you can measure changes. Changes in overall volume aren't near as meaningful as just conversations that express trust, love, or some slice of conversation specific to your brand pillars.
While my work focuses on social our best work typically combines data sets from multiple channels and areas. When we have access to sales, customer service, social, search, web analytics, media coverage and primary research we can develop the strongest insights. We believe that social is a critical component because it is the only place we can get such a volume of data that is so close to getting into people hearts and minds. So we start there and add additional sources to that as our core.
SG. What's in your tech toolkit?
RS. We have a strong stance as being tool-agnostic. There are so many tools that are great at a lot of things so we always try to use them for the right use case. We also get many questions from clients about which tools are right so we take very seriously staying current with all social channels. It is a very dynamic landscape and your opinion of a tool shouldn't last more than a few months.
Zignal is a favorite of mine because of how it combines broadcast, social, media coverage in one interface with really high quality data. We use successfully and happily many others like Crimson Hexagon, NetBase, Synthesio, Sysomos, etc. As a communications firm we also find some of the emerging media coverage based tools like Trendkite and AirPR.
We believe that social is a critical component because it is the only place we can get such a volume of data that is so close to getting into people hearts and minds.
SG. Charvi Ganatra from YouTube, a FleishmanHillard client, will join you and Larry Cohen from Mediabrands Society on a brand value panel discussion at the June Sentiment Analysis Symposium in New York. YouTube has a great brand but in a complex landscape. Can you talk about some of how you navigate that landscape?
RS. One of the really unique thing about understanding conversations about YouTube is that often YouTube is mentioned as a place people saw or consumed content but the conversation isn't really about YouTube as a brand. So making sure we are listening to conversations that are truly relevant to our brand and not the creator is critical.
Another is that the creators that actually produce so much of the content that is important to YouTube as a company they are a key audience group. We need to understand what they say on social vs the general user. Those creators care about different things or have different opinions sometimes than users. YouTube really cares about those creators and wants them to have a great experience so puts appropriate effort into understanding their feelings and states of mind.
SG. Does YouTube do "second screen" analytics, studying Twitter and Facebook and other social shares that include YouTube videos? Do and your clients get into cross-channel modeling and study of social networks?
RS. YouTube really understands how important data from all social channels is. So for them and all our clients we are looking at data from across social channels and other channels when it makes sense. We often see really interesting relationships between search and social. We often find ourselves examining how a message or emotion tracks from one channel to another. Sometimes it is even from one group to another.
SG. Thanks Ryan! I'm looking forward to continuing our conversation.