Measure Brand Equity by Consumer Choice

People Will Pay More for Superior Service, Executives Say

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Employees a Critical Link to Brand Innovation

During the course of the discussion, Advertising Age Editor Jonah Bloom asked the executives whether they think it's possible to "crack the link between marketing and brand equity" -- and what difference that would make:

Roger Adams: I do think it can [be cracked], because it is done when you sell a business. If you think about it, if you're going to sell a business, and you say your assets are worth X, and here's your cash flow and here's how we value the cash flow, and I'm willing to pay X plus 35%. And the reason I'm willing to pay that is because the brand is worth something more than the assets itself, or there's a long-term growth that's possible because your brand means something. It's frustrating as a marketer to say that it's so common when you sell a business, but yet there's not an agreed-to metric for [an existing] business. Many of us are trying to define what that brand health and brand equity is for our existing business, but I don't think there is one common standard across the industry.

Bob Liodice: They have tried it, though, in Europe, by putting actually the brand value on the balance sheets. I believe England and Germany are two countries that do that. That's something that is going to become in increasing favor, because the value of the brand is something that's rising in importance to the CMO, CEO and shareholders overall.

Mr. Adams: If you go to a grocery store or department store, there are brands on the shelf that have fundamentally the same function and one is 20% more than the other one. But people are paying that because there's a belief in the brand or there's an experience with the brand that builds trust, or they know if there's a problem they can get service, that type of thing. And people do it every day. So it's just a matter of legitimizing that, but that's pretty much what brand marketing is about.

Tarang Amin: At the end of the day, consumers are voting every single day in terms of what brands they like and which ones they don't. And it's almost about taking a more expansive view: "Wait a minute, isn't equity everything that this thing stands for in a consumer's mind, including their behavior?" It's going to require that you actually take a look at not only equity scores, but other things that are very objective in terms of "Is this brand increasing share?"

Mr. Adams: [Consumers are] going to make one decision vs. another, even though [products] might be the same price in the market place.

Andrea Spiegel: Absolutely. Something we've been measuring is the value proposition. And we've found that value, just from a purely pricing standpoint, among the low-cost carriers, for instance, has been deteriorating. At the same time, we're seeing a great countertrend in that we're seeing JetBlue is now worth paying more for. So we're seeing that premium and that willingness to pay even a little bit more than what we're actually charging for this superior service, and we measure that on an ongoing basis.

Mr. Adams: It's an interesting trend -- you have discount carriers that are providing more services than the mainstream carriers. Which is an interesting concept in and of itself -- if you come in and you've got satellite television, for example, on the plane for the same price as a mainstream carrier that does not. Just as one service differentiator.

Ms. Spiegel: Our brand research tells us that all things being equal, absolutely, our customers will choose JetBlue. And we're starting to see that they will even be willing to pay more for that. And we are seeing this trend increase, which is great news for brands like JetBlue that are so about the experience.
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