Brand-Centric Transformation

Balancing Art and Data

By Dylan BoldenRohan SajdehGaby BarriosErin GeorgeKeith MelkerDeran Taskiran, and Antonella Mei-Pochtler

Google, Apple, Nike, Louis Vuitton…just a few of the names on any list of top global brands. These companies demonstrate without question that a brand can drive tangible financial impact and increase value for employees, customers, and shareholders. Of course, the inverse is also true: poorly crafted brand-building efforts can waste precious dollars from marketing budgets already stretched thin.

With so much at stake, brand-building cannot be left to chance—or to creative advertising alone. The critical strategic-investment decisions required to shape and strengthen the brand must be tackled as such: debated by the most senior executives, grounded in data-driven insights, and embedded throughout the organization. Too often, however, brand transformation efforts falter because they lack the rigor and discipline that are applied to other business initiatives.

On the basis of our experience with companies in a variety of consumer-facing industries, we recommend a different approach to brand-building. Our approach starts with in-depth consumer insight and then continues through implementation and performance measurement. Along the way, company executives must combine sophisticated market research with economics-based thinking and business strategy. They must rigorously quantify every tradeoff and decision in terms of value to the business. In the end, of course, no brand proposition is “real” until it is reflected in everything the customer experiences: from the five senses to the emotions; from expectations to the affirmation of the brand promise.

In developing their branding strategy, companies must move beyond qualitative research, such as consumer interviews and focus groups. These techniques can provide rich insight and emotional depth, but they are not conclusive. A more robust approach synthesizes a variety of insight sources—including quantitative market research, internal financial information, and competitive landscaping—in a more holistic process.