11 August 2007

The performance matrix: Coffee and Donuts/April 07/Amit Sutha, JWT Planning, Mumbai

The Performance Matrix

Performance edge has always been the foundation of brand strength. Many of the world’s most successful brands appreciated and understood the power of their technical product difference (however minute it may have been) and were able to convert it into a mental distance, thus increasing consumer bonding with the brand.

Unfortunately, the more product parity increases, the more brands are getting dependant on either the much abused ‘emotional’ to create any kind of differentiation; Or it’s about the other brand buzz word: SALIENCE - Say the same thing but say it louder than any other!

So, is there a more rigorous way, or a thumb rule, or a quick ready reckoner by which we can build ‘perceptual advantages’ for brands on ‘functional aspects’? Turning technical product difference into mental distance?

The five mental fields of performance
These five fields are to do with the five different ways in which a consumer evaluates the claim of any brand or product.
1.Can I measure delivery in any way?
2.How do I reassure myself that it works?
3.What does it have that tells me ‘it works’?
4.Is there anything I can judge it against?
5.How does it connect to ‘my’ life?
The brand's ability to answer at least one of these questions unequivocally, credibly and better than competition, improves its chances of impressing the consumer and convincing him/her of the performance claim.

The Quantification Lever: Can I measure the brand's delivery?
The brand’s claim to be quantifiably and substantially better than any other competition or as evaluated against a pre-set category norm.
Xx% more…
• Pepsodent - Fights 10 teeth problems against five of any other
• Surf - Removes 99 stains
• Ford Fiesta Diesel - 32kmpl, 1570 km on a full tank

The Credibility Lever: How do I reassure myself that it works?

• Nothing works better than ‘word of mouth’
• Hearing someone who knows better than me
• By experiencing performance - seeing is believing
3 communication styles used - user testimonial, expert recommendation or performance
• Dove - Candid real user testimonials
• Colgate, Lifebuoy - Doctor testimonials
• Servo (2T Bike oil) - Performance demonstration

The Attribute Lever: What does it have that tells me ‘it works’?

What’s true about the product/brand that implies truth of its performance claim. The stories most commonly used by brands today are of an ingredient, a formulation or a technology. This ‘truth’ could be real (contains Aloe Vera) or could be created/branded (Quattro technology).
• VIM Bar - Lemon Power
• Samsung - NeoMosel LCD TV
• LG - Golden Eye
• Bajaj Pulsar – DTSi

The Judgement Lever: Is there anything I can judge it against?
This is all about comparing performance of the brand against an established benchmark. The benchmark could come from anywhere - technological specification, desired ideal, an icon of superiority, a gold standard, or a torture test… just about anything that is relevant to the promise.
• Bru Instant Coffee - As good as filter coffee
• Castrol Engine Oil - Performs even at 110 degrees
• Onida AC - Cools even in 48˚C

The Emotional Lever: How does brand performance connect to my life?
It’s about a promise that fulfills a certain need in ones’ life, it’s about building reassurance, trust, confidence…
• ICICI Bank - Hum hain na
• LG - Life's Good
• Asian Paints - Har rang kuch kehta hai
• Surf Excel Hai na

The Big Question

When should a brand use which lever to create mental distance in the mind? Needless to say, that will depend on how consumers evaluate a brand's performance. And at a basic level, consumers evaluate brand performance on 2 levels.
1. Extent of Technical Product Advantage.

2. Extent of consumer skepticism in category performance claims.

Based on how a consumer evaluates the performance of brands within a category; the category itself can be plotted on different positions in the framework. This framework can be further imploded. So each entry (category /sub-category) and the brands therein can be further plotted into another such framework. With TECHNICAL PRODUCT ADVANTAGE Perceptible/Marginal/None on one axis and CONSUMER SKEPTICISM High/Moderate/Low on another

But to create the ‘right way’ for a brand to arrive at an effective ‘performance position’ it is important to plot the five performance levers into the grid.


• Define position on the Performance Matrix Framework.
• Define position with respect to category, sub category and/or in the competitive context
• Given the brand's position on the map, framework will automatically indicate which levers work.
• And then, it’s all up to the brand team's judgment and creativity.

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