Imagine a track star at the Summer Olympics getting ready for the 100-meter hurdles final. His life’s training has come down to ten seconds. Stretched, loose and ready, the runners are called to their marks. They are settled into their blocks and as the gun goes off, something unexpected happens. The first step of our star is a stumble! He tries to recover but crashes into the first hurdle, ending a dream and creating a disappointing memory that will last a lifetime. Everyone remembers the winner. Almost no one remembers who finished second, third, or last.

Painful stories like this happen regularly to advertisers. The ad gets Attention and the messaging strategy is on point. Yet in ensuring success on these two areas, sometimes the focus on who is sending the message falls short.

Much like our world-class hurdler needs to leap that first hurdle to build momentum, so too does your ad (and brand) need to vault over that Branding hurdle in order to build in-market sales momentum.

Branding is important regardless of its lifestage. For new brands, ensuring that there is enough focus on the brand name is critical to building brand equity. For a power brand, it is important to confirm that a new ad or campaign is not too disconnected from your brand’s persona. For established brands, many of them are not category leaders and Branding scores determine whether your ad is selling your brand or the category as a whole.

So how do we measure Branding at this highest level?
Ameritest uses an interested recall method to capture Top of Mind Brand Linkage. A survey respondent is exposed to a clutter reel featuring the test ad and four, non-competitive ads (for TV), and asked, “Which, if any, of the ads did you find interesting?” This allows us to not only capture whether the test ad is breaking through its clutter environment, but also if consumers are using the brand to reference an interesting ad. Is it an ad for a new car or is it a BMW ad?

But what is a satisfactory level of Brand Linkage to assure a brand is getting due credit for an ad while also allowing it to breakthrough and motivate to its full potential? This leads to the discussion of hurdle rates.

Ameritest mined its database of ads to determine how ads perform on Branding given various levels of Brand Linkage. Since Ameritest uses five different measures of Branding, we can gain a comprehensive look into how Branding metrics reflect ad performance. This allows us to then determine if an average or hurdle rate is a better measuring stick to use when assessing a Brand Linkage score.

Ads were first classified by lifestage (e.g. established brand, new brand, power brand). We then looked at the subset of only established brands to see how our diagnostic brand metrics performed for ads scoring at various levels, i.e. how ads with Brand Linkage at 90%+ fared vs. ads with Brand Linkage of 89% or lower. The results show that other diagnostic branding scores tend to hover around the same levels when 95%, 90% and 85% hurdle rates were applied. Differences between those that met the imposed hurdle rate and those that didn’t were not significant on a diagnostic level.

However, when the hurdle dropped down to 80%, we saw a noticeable dip in Branding metrics for those ads that failed to meet that hurdle rate. Ads that reached 80% performed significantly better than ads that failed to meet 80%. This analysis confirms that a Brand Linkage hurdle rate of 80% for established brands can serve as a solid measuring stick for an ad’s Branding performance.

In this research, we also discovered that a meaningful Brand Linkage hurdle has implications beyond Branding. The same 80% hurdle rate also reflects a statistically-significant difference in Top 2 Box Purchase Intent [Motivation}. This suggests that if your ad is not well branded, not only will you not get credit for the ad, but also your sales may actually suffer as a result of the weak performance.

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While breakthrough and persuasion are critical components to vault your ad’s performance to high levels, Branding can ultimately serve as either the first or final hurdle you must traverse to ensure maximum performance. Attention to this important detail can help you finish first, instead of second, third or last, creating a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Ameritest is all about understanding created memories and how they affect an ad’s performance. Visit our website at to learn more.

 Adam Page, Associate Research & Analytics Director and Abby Hollister, Director of Client Services at Ameritest