How frustrating is it that your tiresome annual Brand Health Tracker (BHT) stubbornly shows that no matter how hard you try, brand status quo prevails?

You just spent a fortune and a whole year telling your brand fans about your fabulous “organic, free range, high quality, ethically sourced products”. You jacked up your app, twiddled your algorithms, offered killer deals to lubricate the sales pipeline and got consultants on board to advise you, but your BHT scores barely shifted. In the end, your sales went up a bit, but only by a bit more than the overall market and just enough to cover the consultants’ fees.

If this sounds familiar, listen up – there is a good reason why this happened and it is not that your BHT is wrong.

Consumers judge brands on more than functionality

Consumers judge brands by more than their physical or functional characteristics just as they judge people by more than their physical characteristics. If the brand is a retailer, consumers expect their stores to be clean, their staff to be efficient, their merchandise to be well displayed as well as a raft of other fundamentally important (and kind of obvious) traits. These types of characteristics differ from one market to another and are the minimum expected requirements for brands to survive and compete. They are not the stuff of sustainable brand differentiation.

In any market, the big competing brands are all aware of these expected functional requirements and know that they have to do well on them just to survive. They all strive to achieve high standards on them and eventually this leads to brand parity on these measures. This is because functional characteristics are obvious and are quick and easy (though not necessarily cheap) to copy. There might be advantage here for a brand in the short term, but eventually, in order to survive, the other brands have to catch up, so they do.

Brands are human too

There is another side to differentiating brands and it has to do with anthropomorphic brand characteristics – the human like qualities of a brand that make people like or even love it. These qualities have their roots in how a brand ‘comes across’ or comports itself. If Mr. Coca-Cola were to walk into the room, what type of person would he be? What if Ms. Zara had to enter the room – what would she be like? What views would she hold?

Most brand managers either completely ignore this dimension or make perfunctory attempts to gauge their brand ‘personality’ and gain an understanding of what makes people like or love their brand. Their primary focus is on brand functionality, not brand comportment. These managers are missing an important trick.

So how do you go about measuring this important brand dimension? After 30 years of experience of conducting hundreds (if not thousands) of BHT’s we have seen a tendency towards functional attribute parity in all markets, yet some brands are stronger and have more credibility than others have. We decided to find out what drives brand credibility and embarked on a journey of discovery to unravel the mysteries of the non-functional, anthropomorphic brand dimension.

Via secondary data searches, depth interviews and internal debates, we identified a comprehensive set of anthropomorphic characteristics which we validated across 12 diverse markets using a large sample survey of 5 595 economically active South African respondents. From this, we were able to identify the drivers of brand credibility. We learned that some markets are more responsive to anthropomorphic drivers than others and that different drivers work better in some markets than they do in others.
Long-term brand differentiation is the only way to sustain brand growth. If you would like to find out more about this topic, invite us to visit you and formally present our brand new brandcred model to you and your marketing team.

Contact Megan (072 060 5241 or