Better Brand Health Tracking Series: Mental Advantage Analysis

better brand health tracking series mental advantage analysis

Previously in our Better Brand Health Tracking series we've talked about everything from the basics of a BBHT approach to specific aspects of the solution such as Category Entry Points (CEPs) and Mental Availability. In this series post, we discuss another key type of BBHT analysis - Mental Advantage. 


In her book, Better Brand Health, Research Professor Jenni Romaniuk (of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute) highlights how Mental Advantage accounts for two very important factors among category buyers: past brand buying/brand size and prototypical brand buying. 


  • Past brand buying/brand size: 
    When a consumer buys from a brand, they are far more likely to associate that brand with any given attribute than a consumer who has never purchased from that brand before. Because of that, the big-name, global companies within a category are going to get more attributions than smaller ones (potentially inflating the true results). 
  • Prototypical brand buying
    Prototypical brand buying refers to the more obvious relationships an attribute or CEP has to its given category. Some attributes are more obviously related to a category, like 'anti-bacterial' for bandages or 'good battery life' for smartphones; these 'prototypical', or, common relationships will come out the strongest, making other attributes/CEPs appear less important for brands to consider (when in reality, they may be areas of great potential for the brand). 


Brands need a way to account for the above factors in their strategy and ensure they have a true understanding of where to focus their attention and efforts. Enter: Mental Advantage Analysis.

A 'Mental Advantage' occurs when a brand scores higher than expected on a given attribute/CEP, given its brand size and how common those attributes/CEPs are to the category. To calculate where you have Mental Advantage for your brand, you first need to calculate the 'expected score' for all tested brand attributes. This is done by multiplying the following: (the sum of category buyers for one given attribute across all brands) by (the sum of category buyers for just your brand across all tested attributes) and dividing that by: (the total number of associations); this is your expected score. To find the attributes for which you have a so-called Mental Advantage, you'd subtract the expected score from your actual attribute score; if the difference is +5pp positive, you have Mental Advantage for that attribute/CEP! The opposite is also true; if the difference is -5pp or more, you have a Mental Disadvantage for that attribute/CEP.  


If the above explanation of calculations lost you, let's jump into some hypothetical data for say, a shoe brand. You're a shoe brand running a BBHT study that includes 4 other major shoe companies. Your brand attribute question includes elements like 'comfortable', 'lightweight', 'stylish', 'cross-functional', and 'easy to clean'. You're running your study among a total of n=1000 respondents, and the data for your brand attribute question turns out as follows (where each value represents the number of category buyers who associate a brand with that given attribute). 


  Brand 1 (you) Brand 2 Brand 3 Brand 4 Brand 5 Total
Comfortable 446 192 463 121 232 1454
Lightweight 452 364 478 303 341 1938
Stylish 396 562 407 328 235 1928
Cross-functional 459 470 474 286 274 1963
Easy to clean 445 343 446 325 305 1864
Total 2198 1931 2268 1363 1387 9147

Numbers bolded in table are simply to guide readers through below explanation. 


To convert the above actual data into expected scores, let's use the value for 'comfortable' among Brand 1 (n=446). This is the number of consumers who associate your brand as 'comfortable' in your data set. Now, we're going to account for brand size and prototypical association. 


Using the calculation explained above, we'll start by summarizing the number of category buyers across all brands for the attribute 'comfortable' (n=1454). We'll multiply that by the total for all associations for our brand only (n=2198) and divide that by the total number of associations (n=9147), to give us an expected score of 349 (see in table below).  


Below is a calculation of all the expected scores for each brand and attribute: 


  Brand 1 (you) Brand 2 Brand 3 Brand 4 Brand 5
Comfortable 349 307 361 217 220
Lightweight 466 409 481 289 294
Stylish 463 407 478 287 292
Cross-functional 472 414 487 293 298
Easy to clean 448 394 462 278 283

Numbers bolded in table are simply to guide readers through below explanation. 


To turn these into Mental Advantage values, we simply subtract the expected score from the actual score for each brand-attribute relationship, divide by total sample, and multiply by 100. For example, if we look at 'comfortable' for brand 1 (your shoe brand), we take (446-349= 97); divide by total sample (97/1000 = .097), and multiply by 100 (.097*100 = 9.7; which rounds up to 10). 


  Brand 1 (you) Brand 2 Brand 3 Brand 4 Brand 5
Comfortable 10 -11 10 -10 1
Lightweight -1 -5 0 1 5
Stylish -7 15 -7 4 -6
Cross-functional -1 6 -1 -1 -2
Easy to clean 0 -5 -2 5 2


As reflected above, any value +5 or higher is said to have 'Mental Advantage'. So, as Brand 1, we have Mental Advantage in the shoe category for 'comfortable' (as does brand 3). We could try to improve 'stylish' associations, but since Brand 2 has a very high Mental Advantage for that already (+15), we'd be better off competing with Brands 4 and 5 for attributes like 'easy to clean' or 'lightweight' - respectively. Meanwhile, because Brand 2 is the only brand to have Mental Advantage for 'stylish', (and the Mental Advantage value is so high at +15), it's time for that brand to start focusing on building new attribute links and widening its network size.  

Overall, there are three different actions a brand can take depending on their Mental Advantage scores: 

  • Defend: your brand over-performs (+5 or higher) for a given attribute/CEP 
  • Build: your brand performs below expectations, with room to grow (-5 or lower) 
  • Maintain/Monitor: your brand is in line with expectations 


Mental Advantage is an extremely valuable metric for brands to really understand where they currently win and where they might want to shift focus. Despite the complex calculations explained above, quantilope does all of this automatically and presents the final Mental Advantage values in an intuitive, color-coded table so even those who have no experience with the analysis can easily understand the key takeaways. 


Ready to get started on your Better Brand Health Tracking journey to see where you and competitors have Mental Advantages? Get in touch below! 

Get in touch to learn more about Better Brand Health Tracking with quantilope!


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