Measuring Brand Health—Critical Data You Can’t Live Without

Meg Bluth

What is Brand Health and How is it Measured?

Brand Health research is a group of metrics that illustrates how your brand is performing in the market and how it is contributing to your brand’s objectives. These brand health metrics start with the basic brand funnel (brand awareness, brand purchase, and brand repeat intent, also known as loyalty). Each of these metrics is important and reveals vital aspects of your brand’s health. Additional metrics specific to your brand are also captured, such as meeting expectations, satisfaction on specific attributes (e.g. price, taste/smell, etc.), willingness to recommend the brand and brand associations.


Brightfield Group tracks brand health through quarterly surveys among category users. These surveys capture their category behavior, brand awareness, brand use and feelings about those brands they’re using. By comparing these metrics over time periods and versus other brands in the market, brands can learn exactly how their brand is performing in the market. 


At Brightfield Group, we currently track brand health for US cannabis, Canadian cannabis, and US CBD brands. We also track US dispensary brand health. For each study, we interview thousands of consumers each quarter. We’ve been researching the cannabis and CBD industries since 2018, so we know how challenging tracking performance is compared to other consumer packaged goods industries. 


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A note on the Cannabis Market vs. CPG

As the cannabis market matures, it is natural for people to want to compare it to other Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs). Unlike typical CPG brands, where most people have the same ability to access and have exposure to brands and marketing, an individual’s behaviors, shopping location, geography, experience level, product-type preference and openness to new experiences, all impact their knowledge and awareness of the cannabis marketplace.


While a few aspects of marketing cannabis are similar to CPGs, most elements of the marketing process differ in rather important ways. This difference impacts virtually all the “Seven P’s of Marketing”…think about each of these and how the cannabis experience differs:

  1. Product: Features, unique selling points and the overall quality of product
  2. Promotion: Methods used to promote the product across multiple channels
  3. Price: The long-term pricing strategy of the product in question
  4. Place: Where people find your product, learn about it and, ultimately, buy it
  5. People: The people who encounter your target customers (e.g. Budtenders)
  6. Process: Your methods for delivering the product to customers
  7. Physical evidence: Tangible items and experiences for customers

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Why do I need Brand Health tracking when I have access to sales data?

While sales data is paramount to understand your sales, brand health is the key to understanding your consumer and how their behavior and experience impacts their spending. Brand health data can be used to understand and dig into so many things about your brand. Here are a few key areas that brand health tracking can shed some light.  


The “What” vs. The “Why”

Sales data tell you what is happening at the shelf at any given time—Brand Health trackers can tell you why this is happening and what you may be seeing in the shelf in coming quarters.

Brand Health can answer key questions like…

  •   Who are you gaining/losing share from?

  •   How have your user groups changed or shifted?

  •   What habits do your users have that are driving these changes?


Competitive Benchmarking

Sales data can show you your volume in comparison to other brands in the market but not the overlap of buyers across the competitive landscape. Brand health shows you cross-purchase and helps you better understand the shelf dynamics that may be hidden behind pure sales data. Additionally, in the cannabis industry, POS information doesn’t often connect directly to the purchaser. Not knowing who exactly is purchasing your products lives a blank spot in your marketing and strategy plan.


Cannabis brand health can answer key questions like…

  • What other brands is my buyer purchasing?

  • Are my consumers the same as my competitor?

  • What brands are heavy cannabis users most likely to purchase?

  • Who is buying my brand?

  • What are their cannabis behaviors?

  • What can I figure out about them to help me better cater to their needs?

  • How can I innovate to better address the market?


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Watch those trends!

Sometimes trends are slow growing, while other times they explode on the scene. Brand health data can help you spot them either way they come at you. Keep an eye on brands or behavior switches that you might otherwise discount before it is too late to see they’ve taken a bite out of your sales.


Brand Health can answer key questions like…

  •  Are there any smaller brands making movements?

  •  What movements may I start seeing in sales volume soon?


SWOT Analysis

Are there some aspects of your brand that are starting to show weakness or vulnerability? You can catch them before they derail your strategy.

Brand Health can answer key questions like…

  •  What are my strengths in the Market, and how can I leverage them for increased penetration?

  • What areas do I need to be aware of that could potentially stall my growth?

  •  What’s happening in the category that I need to be aware of?


How Strong is my Brand Saliency?

Sometimes brand have strong sales but the measured brand awareness is weak. This dichotomy can be confusing to marketers, but it may mean you have a brand saliency issue. Consumers can’t recall your brand name when asked, meaning their overall connection to your brand is tenuous and easily broken by a competitor that can standout more.

Understanding your brand’s awareness with respect to the market is a vital piece to continuing the brand’s market growth.


Why does my POS data tell a different story than my Brand Health data?

Actually, these two sets of data often tell different stories, that’s why you need both! Think of them as two pieces of the same puzzle. Some thoughts on why POS and Brand Health are often different.


Lagging metrics: Brand perceptions shift slowly unless something catastrophic or epic has happened to your brand, especially brands that have been around awhile. They are often more predictive of where your brand is going vs. where it has been.


Big brands defy gravity: Large, well-known brand metrics fall much more slowly than smaller brands. Big brands will have strong metrics just from longevity, it will take longer for them to see negative sentiment even if their sales are falling. Mainly because the feelings about the brand aren’t always increasingly negative; consumers have just put their attention to other places for a change.  


People vs. Dollars: Sales metrics generally do not tie each individual purchase to an individual. Instead, it’s a record of the dollars spent on products by all consumers combined. Each consumer is then counted multiple times in sales data, so their impact is amplified. Thus, high-volume consumers are heavily weighted in this data. In Brand Health, each individual’s sentiment is counted once, regardless of how much or how often they purchase the brand or category. Thus they measure different things; Brand health is measuring people and POS is measuring $ spent.


Sentiment alone doesn’t move sales: Many forces beyond sentiment can cause sales to fluctuate-promotions, distribution, media impact, etc.—these tend to move short-term sales more than hearts and minds.


Awareness vs. Purchase: Consumers aren’t always aware of the brand name they purchased. This is particularly an issue within saturated markets, brands where there are similarly named brands, and/or where package design is key to awareness. Brand Health measures the awareness of the brand name in its first funnel metric. If consumers don’t remember what they purchased, they will not enter the purchase funnel.


The cannabis and CBD market is truly a living organism in a constant state of flux as the market matures. Competition will continue to morph, consumers will become more knowledgeable, and laws will change the landscape. As that landscape changes knowing how to assess your brand’s health in the market will be the key to continued success and keep you one step ahead of the competition.


About Meg Bluth

643f4e27e8ef2937a439d5b0_Meg Bluth - HeadshotMeg has over 20 years of experience in consumer insights and research in the CPG industry, leading insights for companies like Starcom, General Mills, Georgia Pacific and Coca-Cola. As Senior Director of Insights at Brightfield Group,  Meg is passionate about bringing CPG data and insights rigor to the Cannabis, CBD and Wellness spaces, but being mindful of those places where we must forge our own path to tame our own unique beasts. 


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Published: 5/12/23