Feel, Think and Act: Decomposing Brand Affinity

We’ve all struggled with defining brand affinity.  For example, the car industry itself can be confusing. Do we really drive a Mercedes because of its high-caliber engineering? Do we drive a Volvo because of its safety?

The answer to these questions is never really that clear. And, measuring brand affinity is equally as challenging.  Over the years I’ve seen a number of radar charts, which in theory defined brand equity – essentially they are slick-looking charts – but they offer little in terms of guidance for a brand strategy.

Thanks to experimental work we did with proprietary online communities, we’ve taken a slightly different approach to measuring brand affinity.  Our starting hypothesis was that a consumer (or B-2-B decision-maker) could be emotionally or rationally aligned with a brand.  Ideally, brands that were emotionally and rationally aligned with consumers would result in higher interest.

The early results were intriguing.  We found that in some cases brands could be rationally aligned or emotionally aligned – but not necessarily both – and still be successful.  For example, some consumers chose a cell phone provider simply because the coverage is good in the areas they need to use it.  Yet others chose a provider simply because they were the only ones in town to carry Apple.  Two very different motivations for the carrier selection – one very rational/functional and one very emotional.

Our early measurement models were bulky and hard to replicate as we were using too much data for a broad scale non-captive audience. So we began experimenting with directly measuring certain aspects of rational and emotional involvement with a brand.  For example, the concept of “I would miss” a brand versus “it meets my needs” was taken into account.  But we didn’t stop there.  We firmly believe that these constructs needed a third component, which is the actual behavior – i.e. purchase, active recommendation, etc.

This led us to three components that define brand affinity:  Feel (emotional), Think (rational), and Act (Behavioral).

Working within these constructs, we’ve been able to tease out (using advanced modeling techniques such as Partial Least Squares) distinct dimensions of brand alignment.  Our work has demonstrated that certain brands and or categories survive on emotional alignment – some on rational and some on both.  We’ve even identified different brand affinities within the same category.

Also, when thinking about actual behavior, one needs to keep in mind that product experiences impact both their Feeling and Thinking about your brands.  These constructs don’t occur in a vacuum.

And we don’t ignore the other inputs in those cumbersome radar charts.  It is best to view them as levers that impact how a consumer feels, thinks or acts about your brand.

So while we don’t usually use radar charts (unless you really want them), we do have a smarter approach to measuring brand alignment that will make teasing out your brand strategy easier for all involved.

If you would like to discuss how this approach to brand affinity could work for you – give us a call and we’ll share our processes further.



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