Brand equity may provide a clear, single-number measure of how brands are doing, but it is situational equity that often holds the key to helping them do better.

If brand equity is the marketing equivalent of Robert Brown’s famous pollen grain, then situation equity is the thousands of tiny movements in water molecules that cause the grain to move. It represents the drivers of brands’ ‘Brownian’ motion and holds the key to understanding what is really going on in any particular market context.

In the brains of individual consumers, brand equity is never constant. It fluctuates wildly according to context and different experiences: time of day, seasons of the year, types of occasion, or good or bad incidences of customer service. These big swings in equity in different situations tend to be averaged out in the aggregate view, which shows brand equity moving slowly if at all. Yet it is these situational fluctuations that often hold the real opportunity. Take the example of a Starbucks coffee drinker who always buys an Americano in the morning but never visits the outlet for a lunchtime sandwich, or the whisky drinker who adores a particular single malt scotch and always has a bottle at home – but only ever drinks gin and tonic when on a night out. Understanding how equity fluctuates across different scenarios enables us to pinpoint where improving situational equity can unlock growth opportunities. And it provides the granular insight required to make this happen.

To build an accurate model of situational equity, we need to get closer to the moment when brand interactions take place, and capture consumers’ response to them in context. Short, smart mobile surveys that are delivered to relevant consumers more frequently and in more relevant situations, allow us to do so – and to do so at scale.

Key action points for marketers:

  • Base your view of growth opportunities on situational equity, looking at the variations in your brand’s power across different scenarios, and the opportunity to improve it
  • Talk to TNS about using shorter, smarter mobile surveys to model situational equity effectively and at scale
  • Use a view of your baseline situational equity to provide early warning of significant equity fluctuations – and their likely impact
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