What we have to say on effective marketing.

Carol Avenant
The Maths of Branding

Being a marketer in an over-stimulated, attention-short, choice-flooded, multi-channel, social media driven world is hard work. We have to remind ourselves to stop what we're doing, take a deep breath and look at what's going on outside our own environment. It helps us to be aware of the next big trend, or even just a one-off innovation that's going to shake things up a bit.

In my personal quest to know what comes next, and to consider how prepared I am for the unknown, I stumbled across a course in astrology. I've not mastered the planets by any means, but I've developed a special interest in them.

A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with a well-known and respected astrologer. We discussed the impact that the ruling planet at the time, Mars, was having on my personal life. The skeptic in me wanted to know how she calculated the impact, time frames and potential consequences. She tried to explain, but after a few attempts (with me still not getting it), she shrugged her shoulders and said, "it's all relationships and maths". And it occurred to me that perhaps I need to understand the maths of marketing better in order to improve the relationship element.

Reading through the 2011 trend reports that are being published online, a few recurring implications for brands have caught my attention. Coupled with my newfound interest in maths, I noticed that there are some clear equations involved in creating sustainable and valued relationships between brands and consumers.

1.    Brand Value: *Value = Benefit / Cost

Let's not forget that value is how the consumer defines it. However, by understanding the equation of how you create value, you will give consumers a reason to consider purchasing your product. Consider how the equation is applied in the medical insurance industry. This is an industry where customers are anxious about the cost of cover and frustrated with the complexity of policies. In order to derive value customers want to feel they're in control; they need to understand what they're buying and at what cost. Therefore value = benefit of (control +simplicity) / cost of (premium + efforts). You can increase value by either increasing the benefit to consumers, or decreasing the cost.

2.    Trusted brand status: Trust = fn(Consistency + honesty + value + awareness)

Before the recession, consumers were willing to gamble on new products and services. Post-recession, consumers are going back to tried-and-tested brands. Coca-Cola time and again tops the surveys as most trusted and preferred brand. How do they do it? They consistently deliver a good quality product; you know what you're getting and it's available everywhere. Their efforts in uplifting the community and promoting awareness about green issues are adding to their credibility as an honest brand with real heart. Their marketing campaigns are memorable and engage consumers on an emotional level. All of this has helped them to become one of the most recognized and liked brands in the world. It doesn't always take mega-brand status to become a trusted brand - by applying the equation, Nioxin hair products is carving out their spot as a trustworthy brand, one hair at a time. They have a compelling and credible value proposition that they consistently communicate through expert channels and the product is priced fairly for the value you get.

3.    Consumer connections: Connections = (platform + experience +  relevance) x (advocates + time)

Brands of all shapes and sizes, from all industries are facing one big challenge; to build a strong emotional connection with their consumers. Without that personal relationship their names mean very little and business will suffer. Red Bull energy drink has identified passion points in their consumers' lives and built platforms around them that have opened the door for emotional connections to be formed. They offer experiences that strengthen the Red Bull philosophy of "Giving wings to people and ideas", and are converting many consumer voices into action. Remember, every interaction with a consumer could impact your brand's relationship with several people in their social network over time.

You don't need to be a maths wizard or an astrologer to know that consumer needs are constantly changing. If you have an understanding of the marketing equations involved in delivering on your brand objectives, you can constantly check to see how you're doing. Tailor the variables in your equations to your category, your consumers' needs and your brand deliverables. But armed with these equations, you're well on your way to sustainable success and a valued brand.

*Credit goes to Seth Godin for the brand value equation


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