It's really hard to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Getting an objective measure of what you're good and bad at takes some serious honesty and self-reflection.
Not investing the time and effort to know yourself can have long-term impacts on your happiness and wellbeing.
But what if you're trying to measure a brand?
Just like the challenges associated with personal growth, few managers have the time to step back and objectively assess their brand’s particular strengths and weaknesses.
And since most weaknesses are by nature hard to spot they usually persist for months or years, slowly hurting a company's sales and margins.
Luckily, there is a way to quickly find and fix these silent killers...
The solution is to create a standardized way for managers to think about grading their brand’s performance.
In other words, you need to create a report card for your brand.
What is a brand report card?
The Brand Report Card was and article published by marketing professor Kevin Keller in the Harvard Business Review in 2000.
It identifies 10 characteristics shared by the world’s strongest brands and constructs a report to help managers to think about their brand’s performance.
"The report card can help you identify areas that need improvement, recognize areas in which your brand is strong, and learn more about how your particular brand is configured." - Kevin Keller
The characteristics outlined by Keller are the backbone of a successful brand strategy, and improving them should be every marketer's top priority.
Marketers who build strong brands use these report cards to clarify, implement, and communicate their marketing strategy in the boardroom.
Who should audit a brand, and why?
The brand report card can be used by new marketing consultants, agencies or managers when starting at a new company to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the brand.
Because they will lack experience with the company, the brand report card should also be filled out by all the current members of the marketing team. The resulting scores can be combined to give the new manager a good sense of the strengths and challenges of the brand.
The brand report card exercise can then be repeated once a year to measure the progress on improving areas of concern.
Brand report card examples
Many big name brands use the brand report card to track their brand equity, and measure their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some examples:
Brand report card template
I've created a one page template that you can use to create a simplified brand report card for your own brand.
How well do you score against the world's strongest brands?
Download a free printable version of the Brand Report Card and keep reading to find out.
Grade your brand
Follow the instructions below to score your brand's strengths and weaknesses.
If you work in a marketing team, have each team member fill in a separate sheet and compare your final scores at the end.
This is an exercise that requires brutal honesty - don't sugar coat anything, you need to be as honest as you can with the scores.
Enter a score between 1 and 7 for each question below, where 1 is “Strongly Disagree”, 4 is “Neutral”, and 7 is “Strongly Agree”.
Add up the scores and use the chart to get your final grade.
1 = Strongly Disagree
2 = Disagree
3 = Slightly Disagree
4 = Neutral
5 = Slightly Agree
6 = Agree
7 = Strongly Agree
Answer each question as honestly as you can using the 7 point Likert score ratings.
1. Delivers benefits consumers truly desire
You identify key desires in your market and create an engaging experience for consumers based on them.
2. Stays relevant
Elements of the brand, such as imagery or the type of person who uses it, and the perception of the brand as a whole, are modified to fit the times.
3. Is priced based on consumers’ perception of the brand’s value
The nature of the product in the customer’s mind (premium vs. household staple) influences the price.
4. Is consistent
Marketing communications don’t send conflicting or confusing messages over time.
5. Fits sensibly into your brand portfolio
Brands work logically together, with minimal conflict and overlap in market segments and consumers.
6. Has an integrated marketing strategy
All marketing activities and channels consistently communicate the same message about the brand.
7. Has meanings that managers understand
Managers know consumers’ different perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours associated with the brand.
8. Receives sustained support
You consistently invest to ensure consumers have the proper awareness and strong, favourable, and unique associations with the brand in their memory.
9. Is constantly monitored
You use a formal brand equity tracking system, such as in-depth brand audits and ongoing brand-tracking studies.
10. Is properly positioned
It clearly communicates its similarities and differences from competing brands.
Excellent work! You have a world-class brand.
Good job, solid effort. Focus on areas for improvement.
Room for improvement. Identify weaknesses and fix!
Needs work... Your brand is becoming a commodity.
Measure your brand strength
So... how did you do?
Full disclosure: I scored a 43 for my current company (phew), but there is definitely room for improvement.
If you got a C or below, you might want to take some time to re-think your marketing strategy and activities. Go back to the areas where you scored 5 or below and think about how you can improve.
If you love this idea and want to share it with others, please give this article a like on Twitter (and let me know what score you get!)