A discussion about evidence-based marketing with Richard Bambrick, founder of Bamboozled, a UK-based research agency. Richard shares the importance of testing distinctive brand assets and a four-stage process for doing so. He also explains his approach to measuring brand health and how it differs from traditional awareness tracking. Plus, we learn about Bamboozled’s focus on action-oriented insights and how they can help brands make better-informed marketing decisions.
Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:
Richard Bambrick: Why you get a consultant or an agency in the first place? It’s to challenge your thinking as a client. You want to be challenged. You want to be poked and prodded to help you understand whether the direction you’re going is right, otherwise, what incremental value are you adding?
Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. A couple of weeks ago, our guest was Jenni Romaniuk from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, the world’s largest center for research into marketing. Jenni discussed key ideas in her new book, Better Brand Health: Measures And Metrics For A ‘How Brands Grow’ World. She also explained some of the laws that underpin brand growth and the role that distinctive brand assets play in creating category buyer memories. Our guest this week has embraced the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s empirical data-backed principles for brand growth, distinctiveness, and category buyer memory tracking, and applied them to real-world marketing contexts, achieving exceptional outcomes for his clients’ brands in the process. Richard Bambrick is the founder of Bamboozled, a UK-based research agency focusing on brand health tracking and testing distinctive brand assets. Richard’s career includes agency and client-side marketing experience in consumer packaged goods, durables, and services. Richard is a strong advocate for and practitioner of evidence-based marketing, which aims to provide factual data for marketers to base their decisions on, reflected in what he calls an ‘action mindset.’ To discuss his career, the types of projects Bamboozled undertakes for its clients, and the insights evidence-based research can yield, Richard is joining us today from his office in Saundersfoot, near Tenby in Wales. Richard, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!
Richard Bambrick: Hi, Adrian. Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me on.
Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, you’ve worked in agencies and client-side. Could you tell us how you first found yourself in research?
Richard Bambrick: I suppose since the early days of secondary school, I always wanted to go into this thing called marketing and I never really knew what that was. But I kind of stumbled into market research. I was applying for lots of different marketing roles, and one of them turned up at Millwood Brown, which was a research agency, unbeknown to me. I turned up at the interview not really knowing what it was, and was fortunate enough to get the role and placed into a set of teams that were really fantastic people who taught me a huge amount about the technical side of research and the software client management side as well. So, very fortunate to have stumbled into not just the research industry, but a really good company. During my time there, I got to work on some really interesting and pretty big clients, such as Vodafone and Kellogg’s, and Heineken. And was lucky enough to be semi-involved, I would say, is the Foster’s Good Core campaign. Which was a personal highlight of mine. My work typically involved either doing pre-testing, which I’m sure ad agency folk amongst you will probably be booing right now, and post-testing, and doing a good amount of brand health tracking.
Adrian Tennant: After Millward Brown, you went client-side, joining Britvic Soft Drinks as a brand planner in consumer insights. Could you tell us more about that role at Britvic?
Richard Bambrick: Yeah, so I made the move from Millward Brown because I wanted to be more at the kind of forefront of decision-making. There was a certain level of frustration when you rock up to a debrief, and you give some implications, and then you don’t see them come through to manifest for a couple of years. So I wanted to have a crack at that. And, the brand planner role in Britvic was kind of this hybrid between what an insight manager traditionally does nowadays, and a brand manager. So, it was much more than just commissioning research. The team I got placed in was really strong, and we were at the forefront of developing brand strategy, facilitating workshops, bringing in external perspectives that often were quite challenging. We also liaised across different functions to try and get alignment and also worked with the agency side strategist or planner to try and get a rounded view of the world. I was fortunate enough to work on a number of quite iconic brands. Tango, which was probably one of my favorite brands growing up with some incredible advertising in the UK. J2O, Pepsi Max, because Pepsi is also a part of the distribution network with Britvic. And a few of the brands that are, I suppose are more emerging, so Purdey’s, Lipton Iced Tea, and Aqua Libra. I suppose the interesting thing about my time at Britvic was it wasn’t just an insight team, it was an insight and capability team. (A big shout out to Fiona Graham, hopefully, you’re listening!) We worked as a team to create, deliver, and implement Britvic’s first-ever marketing philosophy, which helped pave the way for what I would call a personal epiphany of discovering the world of how brands grow, and all the work from Byron, Jenni, Rachel from the team at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. So [I] did a lot of reading on all of that kind of stuff. Found it fascinating. And then, I was fortunate enough to work with Rachel on a media budgeting project and Jenni on a brand health tracking project, which to this day, I’m ever thankful for.
Adrian Tennant: Your next move took you from food and beverages to fashion. What was your role at Pentland?
Richard Bambrick: Yeah, so anybody that knows me knows I’m probably the least fashionable person, going. So it wasn’t the fashion side that really lured me in, it was the sports side of things. So Pentland Brands is a family-owned sports and fashion portfolio of brands. They have brands like Speedo, Ellesse, Berghaus, Endura, Canterbury, and Mitre. So they operate across quite a number of sports and active disciplines. So it was a very, very tough decision to leave Britvic, but it was definitely a passion-driven one and I really couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work on football and rugby day in, day out. It was a bit different to the world of Britvic. It was a smaller team, bit more of a classic insight role. And I spent five and a half years there through what we all know is a very tumultuous time during COVID, et cetera. And again, met some really incredible people across the globe working on Speedo in particular. It meant that you had relationships in Asia and in North America, which was fantastic and pretty new for me at that time. And the other thing, I was very lucky with, Pentland Brands were very flexible with me when I made it known I wanted to set up my own research agency. They gave me the foundations to be able to start what is Bamboozled now. And yeah, for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Adrian Tennant: You’re the founder of Bamboozled, an agency tracking brand health and testing distinctive assets. What prompted you to start a business focused on these two types of research specifically, and why the name Bamboozled?
Richard Bambrick: My outlook on things, having been nursery companies, was lots of stuff in the world has made things very bamboozling. Working client side for over a decade. It was a pretty good description of how many marketers I worked with felt; never-ending data, information, politics, and opinions and all these things act as barriers to action. So a big part of what I wanted to do was take away almost that feeling of bamboozlement, alleviate some of the noise, and therefore hopefully, create less friction to action. So that’s the kind of main reason. There’s another two side reasons for the name, one of which was, it has a hint of a link to my surname Bambrick. Which I thought was pretty distinctive, and distinctiveness is good. And, for any fans of Friends out there, which I was one back in the nineties, it’s also a game that Joey, I think it was Joey and Chandler, invented in a famous episode. So, it had some emotional warmth there as well. So that was the context. I guess as a client, the frustration was probably the driving force behind starting Bamboozled. Over the years, I’ve observed so many poor pieces of market research and none more so than with brand health tracking, and the reasons are numerous for why brand health tracking struggles to generate the action it should do. The first is, I feel like brand tracking has a bit of a crisis of credibility. None more so than now. Trust in sampling, skew models in the data over time, data that moves in the opposite direction to sales. All of these things I’ve experienced over time just make you question, ‘what are you actually working with?’ And as soon as you see a bit of a dent in the data, the whole thing comes falling down. So that first foundational level has definitely been a concern. The second is that what I see is a lot of companies using brand trackers to try and isolate the effect of their brand activity. So they track every week and every month in the hope that you can infer that the spike goes up and down. And the reality is it’s extremely hard to do, even for the largest spending brands. And, I question whether that’s something we should be doing and whether actually lower frequency once every year, maybe twice a year, would be a much better deployment of spend. The third, one of the biggest ones, is there’s a big brand bias. So, brand size bias exists in every survey, no matter how you ask questions. But, a lot of the ways that brand trackers ask questions currently are unintentionally exaggerating this effect. So all you end up, if you think about you’re already buying your market share, you end up buying your market share twice because it just follows the size of brands in the market. So to get to something more useful, you need to design survey questions and analyze for that in a way that kind of strips out the effect of brand size and looks at whether you’re performing well or not well compared to what you should be for your size. And the fourth, probably the biggest issue, is around actionability. The typical brand tracking report and presentation I see is generic passive impractical advice buried in a hundred pages of PowerPoint. Often written by pretty inexperienced researchers who have no empathy with what being a client-side brand manager is, and it is tough. And if you contrast that with why you get a consultant or an agency in the first place, it’s to challenge your thinking as a client. You want to be challenged. You want to be poked and prodded to help you understand whether the direction you’re going is right, otherwise, what incremental value are you adding? So there’s quite a number of issues with brand tracking that I’m hoping that we can address. Distinctive brand asset testing was actually slightly different in, where brand tracking is done pretty commonly, distinctive brand asset testing is done very infrequently. Very few companies measure them, but I’d argue they’re just as important to measure as brand health. So the job there is actually about broadening the penetration of the tool itself.
Adrian Tennant: In one of your decks, you say that “BMS is a holistic examination of the cues and situations that bring brands into consumer’s minds.” Could you just explain for us what “BMS” stands for?
Richard Bambrick: Yeah, it’s a brand memory snapshot. So the whole idea is to try and, at a point in time, capture what’s in people’s memories about what cues the brand when it comes to mind, and there’s two ways of doing that. One is through distinctive assets, the colors, and signs, and symbols. And then, the other is through the situations people encounter in everyday life. So I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, et cetera. It’s basically done to try and capture those memories at the point at which you’d be starting to think about: brand memory snapshot.
Adrian Tennant: Could you walk us through Bamboozled’s process for distinctive brand asset testing and give us a sense of what clients might learn?
Richard Bambrick: Okay, so to start with just a headline, what distinctive brand assets are. Their devices that sensorily cue the brand name in people’s minds. So think of things like logos, sounds, characters, celebrities, colors, those kinds of things. They’re built through consistent code presentation with a brand name. As Phil Barden says, who wrote Decoded, “What fires together, wires together.” You see the brand name alongside a character and it fuses the two together in people’s minds. And what I find fascinating about distinctive brand assets is that they’re the most valuable brand assets, most brands never measure. They literally probably should be on bordering KPIs. In terms of the process for testing, each client differs but typically involves a four-stage process. The first of which is an exploratory stage where you mine all of your internal records to try and unearth all of the potential elements that might have some memory in consumers’ minds. This would typically be done by auditing past documents and speaking to stakeholders. Second, we would then do, if we unearth a lot of elements, some big companies that have big brands that have lots of history, you’ll find you have 20, 30 elements that have been used over time. You might then use qual to understand what’s in the minds of consumers at a very high level, which will help narrow and adjust the number of elements you want to take into test in the quantitative stage. And, that’s the third stage. You test that quantitatively, and essentially you show each element on a kind of a rotated basis and debrand it, and ask them which brands come to mind. So you might show the color Reds and ask them which brands come to mind, and they type in all the brands that come to mind. You do the same for all the characters and packaging formats, whatever it might be. And what you’re looking to do then is identify A, how many people recognize each of those elements for your brand? And B, what proportion of those responses are unique to your brand? Red, for example. Typically you’ll find, people might recognize it for your brand, but it tends to be very hard to make distinct to a brand. Color generally does. So you get a two by two kind of matrix of recognition on one side and uniqueness on the other, and basically, you’re looking for things in the top right, which when people see it, they know it’s your brand and only your brand. Finally then, and importantly, it’s not just less as a research debrief, what I typically do is then a video debrief to walk people through the results in 30 minutes. And then we use the time in a workshop to discuss and debate the findings together, usually in the context of some existing marketing execution and usually involving your design agencies, creative agencies, media agencies, and even, to discuss what they think it means from an implication perspective across the marketing mix.
Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways can managers use the insights from distinctive brand asset testing to improve their brand’s awareness, consideration, or sales performance?
Richard Bambrick: If I think about the context in which distinctive brand asset testing is useful, there’s probably a group of three. One is, when you are considering making a change to a long-held asset, [it is] really useful to understand the risk involved before you’re doing that. Secondly is to try and set strategy for your brand identity or distinctive brand assets. Typically, you do that ahead of any kind of brand identity or redesign work or even, ahead of a merger or an acquisition. And then third is, if you are putting the brand in a new country or a new category, it’s good to see if there’s any kind of latent associations already in the market. Those are the context in which it’s useful and I guess why you would do this testing. The benefit you get out of it is all-around prioritization. Every brand has limited budgets. You don’t have an unvetted opportunity to build tens of distinctive brand assets across your marketing mix, and it’s much better to have one really strong one than four relatively average ones. So, what the results enable you to do is prioritize a small portfolio of assets to deploy consistently and cohesively over time across the marketing mix. [Be]cause ultimately what that will do is enhance your creative effectiveness and also purchase probability because it firstly, improves the speed and accuracy of branding. Secondly, it helps in some instances, gives a more engaging and attention grabbing way of delivering the brand name than just saying the brand name. Third, because you think about the senses that have been activated, if you have a palette of an audio asset as well as something that’s maybe visual and striking, you get a sense of neurological richness. More senses means the better encoding in memory. And the fourth is that it’s not just an advertising thing. It helps to facilitate purchase by making the brand easier to see and find when you’re in a purchase environment, be that online or offline.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be back after this message.
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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Richard Bambrick, the founder of Bamboozled, a UK-based research agency focused on brand health tracking and testing distinctive brand assets. The second type of research that Bamboozled focuses on is brand health. As Jenny Remick of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute was a guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS just a couple of weeks ago, discussing some of the ideas in her new book, Better Brand Health: Measures and Metrics for A ‘How Brands Grow’ World. Richard, you publicly credited Jenny’s influence on Bamboozled approach in a LinkedIn post entitled Awareness KPIs Leave you Toothless and Blind. One of the problems you highlight is that brand awareness key performance indicators are often overly simplistic. How so?
Richard Bambrick: So this is a biggie and seemingly a contentious one, from having you posted that on LinkedIn. There are a number of issues with awareness metrics. The first is it only really tells you that a brand is a member of an industry-defined category. So if I’m launching a new brand of soft drink, for example, I probably want people to know more than it’s a brand of soft drink. So it’s questionable in its value, given it’s an industry-defined category in which we lead with. The second is that it primarily reflects how we marketers see the world. We’re not how consumers think, feel, and make decisions. So in very simple terms, we have different sets of brands we hold in our minds that come to mind in different situations. So again, if I’m buying a soft drink to give me a boost, I think of different brands than if I’m buying something for the kids or something to keep me hydrated. And awareness as a metric doesn’t reflect this really important nuance at all.
Adrian Tennant: So, is awareness binary?
Richard Bambrick: Awareness is very binary. It gives the implicit indication that once you have awareness, the battle has been won, and that you can move on typically to a consideration. But, the reality of how memory works is very different memories decay over time. So the concept of salience or mental availability, in comparison, highlights that constantly refreshing and building those mental links is important. It’s more reflective of reality and, as such, more reminiscent of, sorry to use the war analogy, but it’s more reminiscent of a war to be continuously fought, not a one-off battle to be won.
Adrian Tennant: As an agency, I’m not sure that awareness metrics are particularly helpful.
Richard Bambrick: I spoke to a lot of agencies when setting up Bamboozled and talked to them about KPIs, and one of the consistent themes I got back was about generic metrics and awareness was one of them. And underpinning that is that awareness gives no direction to design or a creative or immediate agency. In one sense, it gives them a completely unconstrained brief, which sounds like on one hand it’s a dream. But for many of the people that I speak to about creativity, they actually thrive in having a certain amount of, quite a lot of freedom, but within, predefined constraints. So if you can provide a little more direction on the occasions, on the needs you want your brand to come to mind in, for example, it’ll help sharpen the brief, first of all. And secondly, hopefully generate even more creative work. And that’s one of the reasons I really like Jenny’s category entry points framework because it gives you opportunities for freshness in your communications. The fifth is that this is very specific to unaided versions of awareness metrics. They’re extremely biased, so I mentioned big brand bias earlier and spontaneous awareness metrics, be they top of mind or total unaided awareness. Due to the nature of the question being more difficult for a respondent to answer, they bias their answers more towards the brands they use. And therefore, it unfairly penalizes small or unusual brands. So, an example here is, sub-brands. When I worked on Pepsi Max, if you ask people what brands of soft drink or what brands of fizzy drinking you think of, I’ll say Pepsi and Coke. Very few people will say Pepsi Max, even though Pepsi Max is bigger than Pepsi. So if you manage a small brand, it leaves you blind to your real performance and for larger brands, it leads to overconfidence. And the final thing is on the prompted awareness version of awareness. It’s the most basic brand association you can have, and by the time you see it starting to erode, just like two facets already too late.
Adrian Tennant: As you’ve made clear, Bamboozled approach reflects best practices developed by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute. What most commonly prompts brands or agencies to contact Bamboozled for health tracking?
Richard Bambrick: Typically when people have become frustrated with spending eye watering sums of money on brand trackers, which gathered us on a virtual shelf. That’s the typical inclination. They want action. I’ve also found that it’s typically when they’ve started a journey towards evidence-based marketing, or they’ve had some personal experience working with me in the past. And I’ll be honest, working with Bamboozled isn’t for everyone. It can definitely be challenging of your preconceptions. When I’m speaking to clients, I’m also doing and trying to take care to make sure that clients and their stakeholders have an open mindset when they go into it.
Adrian Tennant: But other large organizations also offer brand tracking. What’s different about Bamboozled’s approach?
Richard Bambrick: In terms of why they choose Bamboozled, I think there’s probably three things. One is our specialism, as you’ve mentioned. These are the two types of research that we do, and they’ve been a huge personal passion of mine for over 15 years. So, hopefully feel in safe hands. The second is a focus on action. I suppose having had a decade of experience working client-side and with agency partners, I know firsthand how difficult it is to make research actionable. So I put a lot of thought, time, and effort into ensuring the content, the design, the delivery too is all centered around enabling action. Within that, I also try and go further than most researchers typically feel comfortable. So I step past, yes, you get your observations, what does the data say, the implications at the headline level. But, I’m also happy to get into the thick of sharing [the] execution of case studies and ideas to bring to life the points that I might have raised in the debrief. They’re not always right, and the researcher’s bad starter ideas, but they hopefully help provoke stakeholder discussion from multiple angles. And the third is, it’s evidence-based. So, leaning on best-in-class evidence from Byron, Jenni, also Mark Ritson, and Phil Barden, Karen Nelson-Field. There’s many more, too many to mention. So the idea is hopefully no more wayward wooly waffle. Just focus on the stuff that’s proven to matter.
Adrian Tennant: Richard, could you explain how your brand health tracking studies are structured?
Richard Bambrick: Yes, so our brand trackers are set up to help marketers understand when buyers think of their brand and how it fits into their lives, so it’s very much from a buyer’s perspective, not a brand perspective. I wouldn’t say it’s a complete revolution versus current trackers, but it’s a significant enough evolution. We’ll put it like that. For example, there’s some notable differences of things that aren’t in there. A standard won’t surprise you, that spontaneous awareness isn’t a metric that’s in there. Given what I’ve just said about awareness measures, consideration scales, purchase intense scales, Net Promoter Score, all those things are not in there as a standard for various reasons. In the detail, there’s also some substantial differences in the way questions are worded and the way responses are captured to encourage more responses from light brand buyers who are really important to growth, and hopefully this makes the data more sensitive to change over time. One of the big issues with most brand trackers is that they’re written from the perspective of the brand to measure their brand positioning. For example, you want to be known as the ‘French brand’ or the ‘sustainable brand’, or the ‘trustworthy brand’. So one of the big differences to that approach with Bamboozle brand tracking is we focus on understanding the situations or category entry points that evoke the brand in the first place. We don’t assume it’s already been brought to mind and consumers are just choosing between options A and B. And we typically identify these category entry points in a similar way to, similar process anyway, to distinctive brand assets I mentioned earlier. So we utilize the seven W’s framework that Jenny uses in better brand health. We speak to stakeholders, then consumers qualitatively, and then evaluate the strength of the brand links to those category entry points, through a quantitative research survey.
Adrian Tennant: Could you share one or two case studies where Bamboozled has made a significant impact on a client’s brand strategy?
Richard Bambrick: Yes, I’ll caveat this by saying the impact of many of our studies is still in flight. It takes a lot of time to get stuff through, as I know from working client-side myself. So we’re in the infancy, but the first feedback I’ve had has been very encouraging from the first crop of clients we’ve had. To give you a couple of examples, the first one, a distinctive brand asset study for an FMCG brand. We identified an element that this brand had, that had significant levels of recognition and uniqueness, but it was on the brink of being removed from the front of their pack in a brand identity project. The client was pretty unaware of its strength and they quickly moved to address the issue and it’s now still on pack and more prominent than it was previously. We also identified gaps in the portfolio, audio in particular, was an issue and it’s something they’re looking to address. And we also deprioritize some other assets such as slogans and colors, which didn’t have any traction. In a brand health tracking study for another client, we challenged this client’s focus on loyalty and existing bias and their ambition to be known as a really sustainable brand. In favor [for] a broader reach strategy that’ll hit more people and a more considered set of category entry points. So, completely changed their outlook to branding. Probably not just branding, but also to business. Which we’re pretty happy with, but we’ll see how that ends up.
Adrian Tennant: What are your future plans for Bamboozled? Are there any new services or innovations on the horizon?
Richard Bambrick: There’s such a big job to be done on educating around how brands grow and really refreshing brand tracking and broadening the use of distinctive brand asset testing that, from a research and innovation perspective, it’s hard to see past the next two years just flying the flag on that. Again, it doesn’t really sound that sexy, but like many brands, I guess what I’m worried about is chasing after the latest shining objects and missing the bigger picture. There’s a really fundamental set of tools here that aren’t delivering that could be getting a huge amount more value for many clients. So it’s a pretty big reset and validation. So if I’m looking at innovations, it’s more likely to come in the form of A) how messages from research debriefs and brand tracking is communicated more widely. And, secondly is potentially around validation of the approach over time with behavioral data. That’s the stuff I think that will be really interesting and really valuable.
Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to know more about you or Bamboozled services, what’s the best way to connect with you?
Richard Bambrick: Probably LinkedIn, it’s where I’m pretty active. So you can find me on there, I’m sure, in the show notes. Email: email@example.com. And, a little bit of Twitter as well to keep it interesting.
Adrian Tennant: And we’ll be sure to include links in the transcript for this episode. Richard, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Richard Bambrick: Thank you very much, Adrian. Really appreciate it.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Richard Bambrick, the founder of Bamboozled. You’ll find a transcript of this episode with links to the resources we discussed today on the unclear focus page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week. Goodbye.