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The Essence of Brand Equity

Andy Gibson
Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Learning outcomes

  • How companies should use the ‘core equity’ of the brand to tell stories
  • How Heinz revived the essence of the brand by focusing back on tomatoes

Executive Bio

Andy Gibson

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Andy began his career at Diageo in 1999 where he was primed in the Diageo Way of Brand Building and led various different spirit brands across different continents. In 2011, he joined Carlton United Breweries, the leading beer company in Australia, as Chief Marketing Officer where he led the revival of the VB brand. In 2013, Andy joined Bacardi as CMO where he managed the global brand portfolio including Bacardi, Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire generating revenue of over $4bn. In 2015, Andy joined Walgreens Boots Alliance, the $26bn revenue global pharmacy, where he led the Global Brands Portfolio.Read more

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Interview Transcript

That’s almost the essence of brand equity. That emotional layer, on top of the functional layer, which gets that premium, which gets that place in the consumer’s mind.

100%. Let me give you another example here, of brands losing their functional ability to believe. Going back a couple of years, Heinz ketchup started to be criticized because sugar was the first ingredient on the label. People started to criticize the brand; people started to emotionally move away from the brand. You saw Heinz re-recipe, go back to advertising that was just tomatoes in a bottle. Because when I buy tomato sauce, I just want a big tomato flavor. I’m after that big tomato flavor. They went back to advertising just bunches of tomatoes in a bottle.

Then you saw them start to introduce lower sugar, organic, to start to take back their place as the unrivalled owner of big, natural tomato taste. I’d argue that they did a pretty good job. Now, they can start talking about the role of Heinz ketchup in your family meal and how it makes your family meal a much more enjoyable experience, because your kids will eat the food and everyone is happy and that’s what we want, happy families.

Yes, it is part of your core equity. Generally speaking, as brands drift, they might need to go back to the start and start to underpin again, those reasons to believe. That’s what I call them, reasons to believe; functional reasons that I buy into this, before they can start laddering again, to emotional benefit.

How do you measure brand equity?

There’s many different ways to do it. I think the first thing you’ve got to do, is understand what are the equities that you want to measure. One of the mistakes that I see made by young brand managers – well, old brand managers as well, actually – is trying to measure everything.

So first of all understanding, what is it that consumers, in the category you play in, care about. For instance, tomato ketchup, I want a big tomato flavor, would be one of the first things they care about. So you’d better not lose your ownership of that. Understand what they care about and that will be a combination of functional and emotional core attributes. Things like, big tomato flavor; things like, tastes fresh; things like, I can always find it. There will be a bunch of functional and then there will be the emotional. It’s a brand I trust, it’s a brand for me. In Grey Goose’s case, it’s a brand that inspires me to go beyond.

So understanding what your core equities are, that will deliver performance, have your consumers engage, be on brand; first thing to do. Then the next thing is really a discipline of mechanics. Do you have a tracking study, in the market, that’s continuous? Do you do, what I call, dipstick equity tracking, where you just come in every quarter, test your equities? Have you got social listening set up in a way that you’re listening to what’s happening from your consumer’s point of view and what are they saying about you? Have you got social heat being measured? If you’re a spirits brand and you’re Captain Morgan, you need to be really hot amongst 21-year-olds. How hot is your brand and are you measuring your social heat, right now? Because if you’re not hot, you’re not recruiting.

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