How to use implicit association to measure brand health

Posted by Sapien Team - 02 March, 2023

At its core, brand health is all about how people feel, but businesses aren’t accurately measuring these feelings. In fact, they are rarely measuring feelings at all.

Adobe. Nike. McDonalds. Gucci. By presenting you with these names, we are making you feel something. Is it positive? Is it negative? Simply by asking, we are changing your answer, forcing a filter of thought over the top of your feelings. The same thing happens with your customers.

Let’s take a look at melting that filter away and getting to the real core of your brand health through implicit association.

Sealord "Swims like a fish" thanks to Sapien Insights READ MORE


How does implicit association work?

Implicit association is a concept that addresses the unconscious drivers of consumer choice—thoughts and feelings that people aren’t even consciously aware they possess that push them towards one brand over another.

These associations, being imperceptible to the average person, are notoriously difficult to measure. You can’t glean this level of insight by asking someone a standard survey question: even if they were to answer accurately and truthfully, their implicit associations are hidden from their conscious mind and can’t be expressed in any direct way.

Thankfully, psychologists and behavioural researchers have developed a multitude of methods to measure these implicit associations. 

Sapien, for example, uses evaluative priming to get a better idea of what these associations are and the extent to which they affect how a consumer feels about a brand. The stronger and more positive the unconscious associations, the stronger and healthier your brand (which lives in the mind of the consumer) actually is.


What are the advantages of insights from implicit association research?

Knowing what associations your audience have with your brand is the first step to better understanding their purchasing behaviour and the first step to changing it towards the desired behaviour.

Implicit association should also be ideally tracked over a long period of time to observe shifts in consumer mindsets and feelings towards your brand. This is particularly useful in determining the impact and effectiveness of rebranding attempts and marketing campaigns. It goes beyond ‘rational’ metrics that often make up the bulk of KPIs in these arenas.


What can you measure specifically?

Findings from implicit association research in the context of brand health will be directed towards answering two questions:

  1. Are these associations aligned or misaligned with your desired brand image?
  2. How do these associations differ from your competitors?

Answers to these two questions provide the insights needed to both understand your position in the market as well as understand which of your brand assets are distinctive—and in what way.


Learn more about Sapien's unique approach to idea testing or read the case study about the implicit association testing our Sapien team has done with Sealord below!

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Topics: Brand Health