Better Brand Health with Jenni Romaniuk (Part 2)

Jenni Romaniuk is the International Associate Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. In the second part of our podcast interview about Jenni’s new book, Better Brand Health, we dive deeper into Category Entry Points (CEPs), the 7Ws Framework, and metrics, including mental market share, mental penetration, network size, and share of mind. Hear Jenni unpack key concepts for understanding and improving brand health.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Jenni Romaniuk: Just like you have distribution outlets to buy a brand, you can also have distribution outlets to think of a brand. Branding is essentially the anchor that puts the message in the right part of people’s memories. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re 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. This week you’ll hear the second part of my conversation with Jenni Romaniuk, International Associate Director and a Research Professor at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. Jenni is a pioneer in developing measures and metrics for distinctive brand assets, category entry points, and mental availability – all topics covered in Jenni’s latest book, Better Brand Health: Measures and Metrics for a ‘How Brands Grow’ World. In case you missed it, in last week’s episode, Jenni introduced us to the “Category Buyer Memory Tracker,” or CBM, which offers a new approach to measuring brand health. Jenni explained how consumers build brand memories through associative networks. Our memory retrieval depends on cues that lead us to the desired memory, and the strength and number of these cues influence the likelihood of retrieving a particular memory. We’ll rejoin our conversation as Jenni explains what Category Entry Points, or CEPs, are – and how they relate to brands in consumers’ associative memory networks.

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Jenni Romaniuk: CEPs are basically, those sorts of cues or doorways that buyers use when they’re about to buy from a category. I go out to dinner, I like going out to dinner, so I am a restaurant buyer, but I’m not right now because, well, it’s morning, so I’m not going out to dinner right now, but come six, seven o’clock tonight, I might be like, “Oh, let’s go out tonight.” And then start to think of things to have and based on a whole heap of factors, it might be and they can be how I’m feeling, the people I’m with, what the weather’s like. I’ll have different thoughts that sort of go into, define what sorts of restaurants are going to suit at this moment. And the thing about it is my brain does that for me. I don’t even have to ask it to, it will just pop into my mind given the sort of criteria, sensors, the ones that are most likely to suit it because our brains don’t like working too much. So if it can shortcut things for us, it will. 

Adrian Tennant: Okay. How do brands identify their CEPs?

Jenni Romaniuk: Well, there are different ways to, I mean, you can do it internally if you are experienced in a category. And I’ve developed a framework of the Ws to help people overcome their own internal biases. Because the thing about category entry points is they’re not deep, dark secrets and they’re not, if you are familiar with a category, you’ll recognize most of them, but there might be things you don’t often think about. For example, if you think about, you know, what is the most common category entry point for people who buy shampoo? Well, it’s because their hair’s dirty, and they just want it to be clean. But have a think about when’s the last time you saw an ad that actually just reminded people that was a common reason why they buy a shampoo. You know, so often as marketers, we kind of forget the everyday and go for the unusual and the special. and that’s counter to what category entry points are about. They’re about the everyday, normal reasons why people come into a category. So that means often you have to go to category buyers and ask them, but ask them in a way that reveals that every day. Another analogy or metaphor I like to use is, that category entry points are like highways. You usually choose a highway because it’s the quickest way to get to where you want to go. And when you’re on the highway, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, you just drive, you get there. So when we do category entry point research, we try to get people to remember that highway journey. You know, was there a McDonald’s on the side? Did you see a rest stop, you know, by this, um, what was, happening at this exit? Was there, this store here? And just getting people to relive that experience so that we can understand the cues and thoughts they had to get to whatever destination they were. 

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, what are the Ws in your framework?

Jenni Romaniuk: So the Ws are just, um, it was actually adapted, um, unconsciously, ’cause I didn’t realize this, as someone pointed out, from a basic philosophy. But they go through, the different areas that can influence your buying. So we have when which is timing. So that can be time of day, time of week, time of month, time of year. It could also be if something needs to be done quickly or taking time. We have while, which is other activities that you are doing at the same time. So it might be, I’m eating dinner and watching tv. There is the with what, which is other products or services you might be consuming at the same time. So I might be eating dinner, watching TV, having a glass of wine. There’s the with whom, with the for whom, and that’s the influence of other people. So I might be, in front of the tv, eating my dinner, having a glass of wine with a good friend. There’s the where which is the location. So, in this case, it would be in my house, or it might be at a friend’s house. Then we have the why, which is the benefits and motivations that come through. And finally, we have the how feeling, which is the emotions that you might have before, during, or after interacting with the category. 

Adrian Tennant: Identifying the category entry points enables marketers to reflect them within the category buyer memory tracker. In addition to all that practical advice that you pack into the book, you also provide a link to a sample questionnaire in Word and an Excel spreadsheet for analyzing the results. You write about four mental availability metrics, the primary one being mental market share, or MMS, which is the share of the brand’s links to category entry points relative to competitors. Jenny, could you talk to us a bit about how mental penetration, network size, and share of mind ladder up to MMS?

Jenni Romaniuk: Yeah, so mental market share came out of this appreciation that you can treat the associations in people’s memories as like a marketplace. Just like, you have distribution outlets to buy a brand, you can also have distribution outlets to think of a brand. And so mental market share treats it this way by going, “Let’s treat these different category entry points as important cues to access the brand as like stores in the brain. And then let’s see how brands perform on these.” And so those of you who are familiar with working with, like packaged goods, market share data, it’s a similar sort of thing of multiplying out how many people by how many times across the entire population, and then working out the share that one brand has of the total population is your mental market share. So underpinning that, we then have three metrics, and they speak to different dimensions of mental market share. So the first is mental penetration, and this is essentially a more sophisticated awareness measure because what it does is it says, “I am giving you maybe, you know, 20 different opportunities to link my brand to a category entry point that I know is relevant to the category. If after 20 opportunities you don’t link my brand at all, I think the chance of my brand coming to mind in buying situations is really, you know, pretty much nonexistent.” So mental penetration is the proportion of category buyers that link the brand to at least one category entry point. So that was what makes it a more sophisticated awareness measure because we are not just going in through the category cue. We’re actually going through 20 or so different contextual cues and still getting zero. Network size is about the breadth of associations, how many opportunities does someone have to think of the brand? And so we talk about when we are building mental availability as for wider, fresher networks. So that has two components, and that is how many people and how often. Mental penetration is how many people; network size is how often. And then the third component is share of mind, which is of those you have mental penetration, how much space am I occupying? And the reason that’s an important measure is that it tracks competitive impact amongst the people that are most influential for you. Because they already have you in their brains. And so you are seeing the impact of competitors’ activities on them. Because if a competitor impacts someone who doesn’t have you in their brain, your brand, in their brain, doesn’t really matter that much. Yeah, it’s a little bit harder for you to get them on side, but you’re not losing there. But if they’re nibbling away at people who do have you in their brain, then that potentially has an impact. And when we look at where these metrics have the most relevance, we see this playing out. So mental penetration amongst non-users is particularly relevant for small brands because they’re the ones that are really climbing that, of just getting anyone to think of them. Whereas share of mind amongst users is particularly relevant for big brands because when they’re declining, we see that this is where the erosion starts because it takes a lot for someone to totally forget a big brand, but it’s very easy to just, you know, have slightly fewer, just a bit more about competitors, a bit less about the brand. And network size is actually pretty ubiquitous. That seems to hold for all brands of all sizes.

Adrian Tennant: In Better Brand Health, you also advise readers against designing the flow of the questions around the purchase funnel. Jenni, I take it you are not a fan of funnels or inverted pyramids?

Jenni Romaniuk: No, I’m not. Well, I just don’t see the point of them. you know, I’ve heard the arguments. when I did my A to Z on brand health on LinkedIn, funnels was actually the second most popular post I had, which was my “F” post. And I did ask people, you know, “If you find them useful, can you explain to me why?” Can’t say I didt find any of the answers particularly compelling. They didn’t persuade me to change my mind. More, I’m concerned that it gives this impression of a very linear, rational process for buying and for going from, “I don’t know the brand,” to, “Oh my God, I love the brand.” And that we’re constantly basically pushing, cajoling, kicking people up this ladder or down this funnel, however or what, sideways, whatever shape you’re using. And we know when we look at the behavior over time, that’s not how it happens. So when something doesn’t represent anything useful visually, and the danger with the numbers, so when people create ratios, in it, they’re so artificial because they depend so much on the size of the base. So you can’t compare brands of different sizes, you can’t compare measures of different levels. So I just, I don’t understand the point of them. Yeah. And so when something doesn’t have a purpose and is potentially misleading, my instinct is, don’t do it.

Adrian Tennant: That’s fair. Well, if a brand has a palette of established brand assets but has not yet measured their distinctiveness relative to each other, are there any situations when they could reasonably be measured within the category buyer memory tracker?

Jenni Romaniuk: Possibly, but you’d have to do it carefully because you have to measure distinctive assets without prompting for the brand. So it really has to come in before there is any reference to the brand at all. so that means you have to do it at the start. I think, given the cost of research nowadays, and that you can quite easily get a good sample, short survey into the field, I just don’t see the value of cramming ’em all together. I think you’re better off setting your own agenda for when you’re measuring distinctive assets and just doing it as a standalone survey. Yeah. So I can understand that it might seem like it’s economies are scaled to include it in there, but my worry is you are compromising a lot in doing that. And I don’t know that that’s helpful.

Adrian Tennant: Well, Bigeye works with clients who manage portfolios of CPG brands, within which some are organic, and some are non-organic. What’s your advice to brand managers regarding organic variants? Should the competitive set included in the CBM tracker be limited to organics or a combination of organic and non-organic brands?

Jenni Romaniuk: You always have to represent the market. And so unless your market is only organic brands, and you can have evidence that your buyers in that market only buy organic brands, then I would have everyone in the market. so this is where you look at it from a category buyer perspective, not a brand perspective. 

Adrian Tennant: One of your mantras is design for the category, correct?

Jenni Romaniuk: Exactly. So that’s the first component of that. And you should have a tracker that any brand in your category would be happy to use. And that if you’re an organic brand, would be your non-organic brand. And if you have both, if you’re so portfolio, you want to have them together, and you want to be able to have a tracker that adapts to maybe the next variant that you might launch. 

Adrian Tennant: To what extent do you think brands, could use certifications or claims such as certified organic or cruelty-free to build mental associations? Can those certifications be as distinctive as a brand’s own original assets?

Jenni Romaniuk: No, by virtue of the fact that they’re a third-party certification, so you don’t own them, you can’t control them, so I wouldn’t waste my energy trying to build them. So if you think of any piece of communication, you can usually divide things into three key areas. So you have your attention-getting devices. So these are the things that are meant to sort of, grab your people’s attention. So creative devices like, puppies and babies and celebrities, all things that, even music that just, you know, grab us and make us go, “Where’s that coming from? What’s that happening? Oh, I want to see what’s going on there.” Then you have branding devices, and so this includes the brand name and your distinctive assets, and they’re things that the primary purpose is to trigger the brand. And then you have messaging devices, which are about building associations. And their primary purpose is to leave something behind in people’s brains. Now, You could argue that these certification things are actually messaging devices because their purpose is to say, “Hey, we are a brand that does this” or “has this quality.” The only reason you would upweight it and make it a really important part is if it was somehow linked to why people buy the category, and so a category entry point, or it was a core competency that if you didn’t have it, people wouldn’t buy you. So in some categories, some of these certifications basically become, table stakes to actually be in the category, and in which case, yes, you want to have it so that you can signal that. So these, that’s where I would put them. I would not put them as branding devices because I don’t believe you should ever have a branding device you can’t control.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jenni Romaniuk, Research Professor and International Associate Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. Do you have some examples of campaigns that have effectively built mental availability through the use of distinctive brand assets? 

Jenni Romaniuk: yeah, So the role of distinctive assets is branding. The role of category entry points is messaging. So you don’t have to use the distinctive brand assets to brand, you can use the brand name. So these two are not linked. they both serve different purposes, and it’s really important that they do. I know some people are out there saying that you should choose a distinctive asset because of a meaning that’s not the brand. And in doing that, what you do is you either limit the use of it to only where that meaning is relevant and/or you create an expiry date for that asset that if that meaning is no longer important in the category, then the asset becomes redundant. So your distinctive assets, their primary thing should be to communicate the brand, but you have a brand name that does that as well. And you should choose the tool, whether it be the brand name, a tagline, a color, or whatever distinctive asset you’ve got, that works best in the environment in which you want a brand. And there are campaigns that do very well in building distinctive brand assets and using them. And there are some campaigns that do very well in building up category entry points. To build mental availability you need both of those. Plus the reach that you’re reaching out to as many category buyers as possible. I just want to be careful that we make sure that these are two separate things, because the branding is essentially the anchor that puts the message in the right part of people’s memories. They’re not conduits for each other, but they do work together. So I think a good one I’ve seen recently is, Apple’s campaign with the woman juggling the phone and then it finally drops on the ground and then it, you know, says, oh, we are, you know, it’s unbreakable shield or whatever it is, but basically saying you can drop this and it’s not going to crack type of technology. Which is something, you know, a lot of people are concerned about with their phones and their durability and not going to break all the time, the screen’s not going to crack. But it’s done in a way that’s well-branded and fun to watch with some good music. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, I think I first reached out to you a little over a year ago, and at the time you told me you were hunkered down writing a book. Well, of course, now we know what that book was. So you’ve been traveling extensively, over the past few months to support its launch. What kind of reception is the new book getting?

Jenni Romaniuk: Yeah, really good. I mean it’s one of those books that I went, “Oh well we’re interesting to see how this is received,” because I did have people telling me, “I don’t why you’re writing this, very few people are going to be interested in it. you know, there’s only be a few people, who design questionnaires and I was oh, I’m not so sure about that. Because I know I’ve had this conversation with a wide group of people, in different areas of marketing because the thing about brand health tracking is it does touch a lot of parts of the organization, even to the sort of, sometimes these metrics are reported to boards. so that means we really need to be confident in them.” But I also was trying to do two things with this, mindful of that feedback. I wanted something that was, that spoke to the strategy of why are we doing this so that someone who’s not, you know, designing their own questionnaires, but maybe, relying on it or wondering why they’re paying for it, can understand how to do it well. As well as the fact that a lot of the things that were going wrong with trackers were changes that were made with the best of intent, but had bad consequences. So that we actually got into the nitty gritty, very tactical aspects of question wording and response styles, et cetera. And so when you try to do two things, there’s always a danger you do neither well. So that meant it was a little bit, you know, how are people going to respond to this? But so far the feedback has been very positive. Of course I always put a caveat on that because perhaps the people who don’t like it aren’t reaching out to me to tell me they don’t like it. So, um, I can’t, I can’t claim to have had an unbiased representative sample giving me feedback. But I have been really pleasantly surprised with how well people have responded to the book.

Adrian Tennant: If, after reading Better Brand Health, a brand manager wants to start using the category buyer memory tracker, what would your advice be for managing the transition from a legacy brand tracker? How would you recommend opening up a discussion with colleagues or managers?

Jenni Romaniuk: So, the first thing to say is that the book doesn’t suddenly go, “Let’s throw everything out from the past and start with totally new, measures and metrics that no one ever has heard about and are totally unfamiliar.” Because you know, quite frankly a lot of the very basics are still important. You know, they were developed for a reason and maybe we’ve shifted a little bit or know more about things to refine them. And the things I’m recommending changing to are not so far from where we are that you would have to, you know, totally reeducate people. But there are some things you do need to wean people off and understand why. Now, if your focused currently on other metrics, my suggestion would be revisited and start reporting on the things that matter, and then maybe start upweighting those over time if you are not the type of organization that just wants to rip the Band-Aid off and start from scratch. And then there’s things like, well, looking at what you’ve got and what you can adapt as well as what needs to be added new. So, so often, for example, there are attributes within brand health trackers that could be category entry points if their wording was changed. And that could be better if their wording was changed. And so working out, tweaking those. But I hear a lot of angst with people because they hear the word tracking and go, “so that means I won’t have the tracking part of it anymore.” And the answer to that is, yes, you won’t have the tracking bit anymore, but quite frankly, if what you’re tracking before is not helpful, how is keeping it even more helpful?

Adrian Tennant: Jenny, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to download the CBM survey questionnaire and spreadsheet that accompanies Better Brand Health, can they find them?

Jenni Romaniuk: If you go to the Ehrenberg-Bass website, which is MarketingScience.Info, there, you’ll find there’s the book page on there. And then the questionnaire is embedded in that. I have a feeling it’s also on my own web page as well, But I don’t know which of those is easier to spell. I think, either way, maybe the institute website might be more useful because you might see a few other things that you might find useful there as well. And that’s where we post, different things that are happening too.

Adrian Tennant: And if folks would like to learn more about the work you’re doing at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, or contribute data for your studies, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Jenni Romaniuk: LinkedIn or email. my email’s pretty well available. I work for a university. we don’t tend to hide our contact details, but also LinkedIn. that’s the platform I’m most active on. 

Adrian Tennant: Jenni, thank you very much indeed for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jenni Romaniuk: It was a pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jenni Romaniuk from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, and the author of Better Brand Health: Measures and Metrics for a ‘How Brands Grow’ World. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thanks again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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