Debunking three myths about brand health

by Nigel Hollis | March 01, 2017

I admit that ‘brand health’ is one of those concepts used in marketing that is often ill-defined. Maybe that is why there are so many conflicting beliefs about it. So in this post I thought I would address three of the most frequent myths that I have heard concerning brand health.


I would define brand health as the degree to which brand associations predispose people to buy a brand and pay the price asked relative to its size and competition, now and into the future. Once in purchasing mode people’s predisposition toward a brand will determine whether they notice the brand, how they respond to incentives and price offers and so on. The ‘relative to its size and competition’ statement is important, because a big brand is not necessarily a healthy brand and in most product categories second best means no sale. And, a really healthy brand does not predispose people to buy a brand now; it encourages them to repeat purchase.

So here are three things I have heard said about brand health that I think are myths:

Brand health and sales should move in parallel

If we accept that brand health is the predisposition toward the brand – something that influences the outcome of each purchase occasion rather than dictating it – then there is no reason why the health and sales should move in lock step. Your brand may be healthy but sales promotion on behalf of a competitor could divert potential customers from buying it. That competitor may have weak brand health but is shoring up sales volume by discounting its price and for some people the discount offered is simply too large to ignore. While some might see a contradiction, I see an opportunity for learning when two different data sets tell us different things.

Brand health only applies to long-term, base sales

No way. Brand associations influence every purchase decision, even if the association is an intuitive ‘that’s the one I bought last time and it was OK’. Even when it is clearly an external variable like the weather that triggers a sale, I am willing to bet that it was the strength and relevance of the brand associations that closed the deal. For more on this check out this post.

Changes in brand health should lead changes in sales

Now this is a tricky one, because in some cases changes in brand health will anticipate changes in sales; particularly for longer-purchase interval product categories or where people are locked into a fixed contract, where a change in predisposition cannot be activated immediately. In other cases, sales may lead to a change in attitudes. For instance, someone might suggest you try a beer you have never heard of before and you discover you like it. Rather than making arbitrary assumptions about which leads or lags, you can either test your hypothesis or simply accept that behavior and attitudes form a virtuous and self-reinforcing circle. Positive attitudes encourage people to buy; positive product experiences lead people to have positive attitudes and so on.

So what do you think about the definition and value of brand health? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Praveen, March 07, 2017
    Driving sales (trial) through discounts or even sampling will help building the predisposition through building the brand association on functional images if functional plays a key role on the category (beer example) 
  2. Justice, March 06, 2017

    Having power in the mind of customers may be good and well and is likely lead to an increase in preference for a particular brand, but I believe the are many other variables that play an important role in driving sales. 

    For example most people would love to own rhe coveted German automobiles, though they could afford to purchase one... Service fees could well them an individual to opt for a Japanese or Chinese model  because they are more cost effective over and above the initial purchase.

    Another thing I noticed is that there is this bread I like, it really tastes good and is affordable as the cherry on top. But the only place I could easily find it is supermarkets. At the spaza shops and convenience stores where I frequently go, it was a rare sight. I had to buy the more expensive bread without the greattase I like. 

    Moral of the story...  For me, a healthy brand is one that not only has power in the mind but one that engages customers across different touch points and enables access to products and services at any given point of interaction sp customers  do not miss out on the opportunity to make a sale.

  3. Sean, March 02, 2017
    Agree 100%. Measuring brand health cannot tell you what will happen, but it can tell you what is possible. There is tremendous value in that. Having a sense of what my brand's innate potential is to either grow or decline means that I can take action to leverage/mitigate for the future. 

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