You have to work hard manage your brand if you don’t want other people managing it for you. (And trust me, there are plenty of us out here doing our best to manage it for you… either for your benefit or for someone else’s.)  Your brand is the product of the set of experiential expectations that people have of you or, if you’re a corporation, your company.  To the degree that this set of experiential expectations is clear in the minds of customers, there is potential for them to look to you when their need matches your offer.   There are many other important factors at play in a model of demand, to be sure, but here we’re concerned with clarity of brand.  Below we’ll show you that brand clarity can be measured for the purpose of brand management at the corporate level.

What’s interesting is that the principles surrounding brand clarity apply equally well at both the corporate level and at the individual level.  Wholesalers, for instance, have a value proposition and they do their best to deliver against this value prop every time they meet with a customer.  They are trying to deliver a clear message.  If immediately after their meetings their client can say, I know exactly what value that wholesaler produced (or will produce) for me, then the wholesaler has achieved a degree of clarity.

Individual financial advisors are similar.  Does their client have a clear appreciation of the value that their advisor delivers?  Credo’s research shows that more than 20% of investors feel that they are getting only fair value from their advisor at best.  Only about 22% of investors indicate they feel they are getting great value from their advisor.  5% of investors actually question why they are paying their advisor; this demonstrates a clarity issue if ever there was one!

Clarity is a central dimension in any brand management exercise.  As a result, it’s a central dimension in Credo’s Brand Credibility model — a model that explains and predicts the demand for mutual fund companies’ offerings among financial advisors.  Without clarity:

  • a brand’s credibility is compromised dramatically
  • the perceived quality of what a company offers will be drawn into question
  • the level of comfort customers have in dealing with a company will also be drawn into question.

Brand clarity is related to a customer’s willingness to use a company’s products.  In Exhibit 1 below, you’ll see that our case-study company has, re-developed the clarity of its brand in order to improve its customers’ willingness to support its brand.  And it has worked for AGF.  Four years of work and the company has repositioned itself with its client base as a well-understood company with a relatively clear value proposition.

Exhibit 1: AGF’s position over time in advisors’ minds with respect to Clarity of Brand and Willingness to Support the brand.

Advisors’ willingness to support AGF over time is represented in the East-West dimension of this map.  The Clarity of the brand is represented North-South in the map.

Specifically how do we measure Clarity?

Credo measures the clarity of suppliers’ brands in advisors’ minds in a number of ways.  One of our methods involves using a number of marker statements and a simple agreement scale:

  • “I know what this company stands for”
  • “This company doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t”
  • “I have trouble figuring out what image this company is trying to create”*

(Note: The third of our three statements is marked with a star to remind us that its scale is reversed for data processing.)

Credo presents each of these statements to more than 1,000 financial advisors and we ask them to indicate their level of agreement with each statement.  The results enable us to assess the clarity of many competing brand relative to their competitors.

The analysis below is a case study.  It provides details and discusses the determinants of Credo’s Clarity construct (a combination of the quantified results from the research) for AGF Investments, one of Canada’s well-recognized investment fund companies.

(Note that each of the building blocks in Credo’s “Willingness to Support” Pyramid, is a separate construct and a key component of Credo’s brand health model.  These constructs are created by combining the results of financial advisors rating the suppliers they have elected to work with against a number of marker statements that are similar to those we have identified for Clarity, above.  An overview of the major constructs in the “Willingness to Support Pyramid” is available in our advisor assessment for this company.)

Credo’s overall measurements of clarity for AGF is presented in Exhibit 2 below.  The analysis shows that in Credo’s most recent annual measurement, AGF was in the 95th percentile relative to its competitors — an extremely strong position.  We can see that the overall trend for AGF has been positive since 2013.  AGF’s clarity in its advisor-clients’ minds has been improving since 2013.

Exhibit 2. Overall Clarity Construct for AGF: percentile ranking relative to competitors over time

The Clarity construct is underpinned by the statements that speak to the constructs’ theme and that were listed above.

Knowing What this Company Stands For

Credo benchmarks advisor sentiment around their understanding of what their suppliers stand for by asking them to agree or disagree with the very plain statement, “I know what this company stands for.”  While every individual advisor’s experiences with a given brand will have differed, when applied across the industry, this simple statement helps us appreciate the degree to which advisors feel they understand what their suppliers bring to the table for them. Higher degrees of clarity are generally better than lower levels of clarity.  Perhaps the exception to this exists when advisors believe one thing when the company’s brand ideal (i.e., what it WANTS people to believe it stands for) is actually something else.  In such cases, brand managers have a great deal of work to do.

Against our marker statement, “I know what this company stands for,” AGF Investments currently stands in the 95th percentile.  The percent rank achieved this year is slightly higher than the rank achieved last year (92nd) and the overall trend for AGF is positive.  Further, the percent rank achieved this year is higher than AGF’s the average rank achieved over the seven-year period presented here;that was a 58th percentile ranking.

The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the average rank achieved over the measured period on all other companies (55th). The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the rank achieved in the same year average of all other companies (58th).  AGF’s percent rank achieved this year is also significantly higher than the rank achieved in the previous year average of all other companies (51st).

Exhibit 3: Percentile rank for AGF relative to the company’s competitors against Credo’s marker statement “I know what this company stands for”

Does not pretend to be something it is not

We ask advisors to react to the marker statement, “This company doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t,” in order to help assess clarity. For advisors to be able to agree with this statement, they must feel that they have a clear appreciation of what the company stands for – the supplier’s value proposition must be clear in their minds. At a secondary level, this item addresses advisors perceptions of their suppliers’ integrity, too. Finding that a supplier says it will do one thing and then finding that it does another is highly concerning for advisors; companies that do this find themselves marginalized – and off the advisor’s product shelf – in a hurry.

Does not pretend to be something it is not for AGF Investments is in the 92nd percentile.The percent rank achieved this year is higher than the average rank achieved over the measured period (60th). The percent rank achieved this year is slightly higher than the rank achieved in the previous year (92nd). The overall trend for AGF is up.

The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the average rank achieved over the measured period on all other companies (56th). The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the rank achieved in the previous year average of all other companies (54th). The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the rank achieved in the same year average of all other companies (55th).

Exhibit 4: Percentile rank for AGF relative to the company’s competitors against Credo’s marker statement “This company doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t

Trouble understanding image*

Asking advisors whether or not they feel that they have figured out what their suppliers are trying to bring to the table and how they are trying to portray themselves enables Credo to determine how clear in advisors minds competitors actually are. This is one of a number of negatively phrased statements where disagreement with the statement is the more desirable state. Advisors will not support a company if they haven’t figured out its value proposition… a key tenet of its image.

Trouble understanding image for AGF Investments is in the 95th percentile.The percent rank achieved this year is higher than the rank achieved in the previous year (68th). The overall trend for AGF is up. The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the average rank achieved over the measured period (53rd).

The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the average rank achieved over the measured period on all other companies (55th). The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the rank achieved in the same year average of all other companies (56th). The percent rank achieved this year is significantly higher than the rank achieved in the previous year average of all other companies (50th).

Exhibit 5: Percentile rank for AGF relative to the company’s competitors against Credo’s marker statement “I have trouble figuring out what image this company is trying to create”

 

So, that’s how we do it!

It’s systematic.  It’s conducted as consistently as possible year after year.  And because its measured, it can be managed.  Do these three marker statements make sense for you?  If they don’t, create your own marker statements… collect your data… validate that you’re measuring what you believe you’re measuring… and begin paying attention to whether or not your customers are clear on what you’re doing for them.  Complement this quantitative measurement with appropriate qualitative measurement.  A measurement of brand clarity that is based on such a simplified set of statements has to be supplemented with extensive discussions with customers.  These discussions provide the additional rich understanding of issues that must be used to tailor tactical efforts to manage the improvement of brand clarity.

If you ignore the measurement of the clarity that exists around your brand… you do so at your own peril. If you need help managing the clarity of your brand, call Credo!