Does Brand Sentiment Matter? Ask the British.

According to market-research company Millward Brown, “brand” accounts for more than 30% of the stock market value of companies in the S&P 500. With the index valued at just under $19 trillion, that equals roughly $5.7 trillion in brand value attributed to just these 500 companies.

This clearly makes the case for maintaining a strong and healthy brand, but how do you know where your brand stands in the mind of the consumer?

Brand sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis is still an evolving practice with diverse tools and varying approaches to consider.  Most include the use of technology, data and algorithms that are used to determine the emotional tone of words and phrases, which are then used to develop an understanding of the attitudes, opinions and emotions expressed about a brand in online mentions.

But it is also much debated; to say that analysis of human language is a perfect science would be a stretch. And since sentiment analysis is based on human language, there is subjectivity to take into account. Consider the many uses of slang, various dialects, diverse cultures and simple human error (e.g. misspellings) that affect the meaning of a word or phrase.

So the question is: does brand sentiment analysis work?

Do you know what consumers think of your brand? That’s where sentiment analysis comes in.

Test case: Brexit

On June 23, Britain voted on a referendum to determine whether the country should remain in the European Union. The result – a vote to leave the EU – shocked many across Britain and the world, and the shock waves continue as the country determines its path forward.

Curious about the impact of the referendum on our colleagues in the United Kingdom, we reached out to our MAGNET partners at Gravity London. The response we received was a powerful argument for the accuracy, insight and predictive capability provided by sentiment analysis.

“Our analysis showed a 53% vs 47% in favour of the ‘leave’ campaign,” they shared. “So we weren’t surprised.” The final result was 51.9% “leave” – within 1% of the sentiment analysis result, without conducting a single opinion poll.

Our colleagues at Gravity London went on to explain that the results hinged largely on British youth; only 36% of 18-24 year-olds cast a vote, but 75% of those voted to remain. They further suggested that a stronger focus on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, used predominantly by the younger generation, might have swung the vote toward “remain.”

That’s a powerful piece of information that in the hands of the “remain” campaign might have influenced strategy, shaped messaging and informed its communications mix.  In hindsight, I wonder if brand sentiment and theme analysis done in real time could (or would) have changed the outcome?

Applying sentiment analysis to your brand

In our increasingly digital society, understanding consumer sentiment is not only necessary, it’s achievable. And there are many applications in your marketing strategy.

Want to know how consumers are responding to your brand and message strategies? Sentiment analysis. Require a better understanding of how consumers feel about your brand compared to your competitors? Sentiment analysis. Need to get a handle on how your brand is affected by a crisis? Sentiment analysis. The list goes on and on.

I’d go as far as to say that if you are not using sentiment analysis, you’re marketing with one hand tied behind your back. The technology has advanced to the point where it is providing meaningful insights with practical applications for marketers. Now is the time to add a brand sentiment analysis tool to your marketing toolbox, if you haven’t already.

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