Is your brand fit for the future?

By combining global scale and local expertise with innovative digital solutions and award-winning research design, Toluna’s Regional Director Stephen Walker explains how his company is helping brands explore tomorrow, now.


A healthy brand is one of the most important assets of a company and is crucial for driving higher levels of buyer consideration, recommendation and trust. Yet, brand health models and tracking programmes haven’t been keeping up with the pace of change. Many focus on current and past successes rather than if a brand has momentum moving forward.

The measures of awareness, familiarity, consideration and usage assume a linear framework which worked perfectly in an age where messages were pushed through mass media, and communication was one way.

There have been major changes in digital and social interaction, and how consumers engage with brands including greater personalisation. We now see 74 percent of Kiwi’s considering themselves as active social media users, with 61 percent stating that social media helps them better understand brands (Toluna ‘Global Barometer Study’, September 2021). Today, cocreation is the norm and customers are more in control and continue to have higher demands and expectations of brands.

Technology disruption has led to the blurring of boundaries and highly competitive markets, which are more fragmented, with several new entrants and challenger brands trying to engage differently with consumers.

Consumer mindsets and behaviours have also changed rapidly, with the global pandemic acting as a catalyst. For example, New Zealanders have become more socially conscious since the pandemic, with 48 percent stating that they would switch to a brand who was actively supporting issues that were important to them (Toluna ‘Global Barometer Study’, September 2021).

Stephen Walker.

Consumers are also trying and evaluating new products for the first time, with 27 percent globally having tried new products, and 16 percent continuing to buy new brands or products that they tried during lockdown (Toluna ‘Global Barometer Study’, May 2021), creating a threat for established brands and a great way for challenger brands to gain increased exposure.

As consumer’s sentiments are constantly changing, brands need to build a community. Creating an environment where consumers are encouraged to suggest how it can improve, and where brands work with consumers to find solutions. 

Lego Ideas is a great reference, empowering members to submit their ideas for new products that can ultimately make it to market, with the original designer receiving a percentage of the royalties.

All this impacts how brands are perceived, how they perform and how they need to be measured. 

Marketing and insights leaders of today need to opt for a more agile and future-looking approach to brand health measurement, to enable more timely and impactful decisions, keeping their brands ahead of the competition.  

Toluna, alongside sister company Harris Interactive in the UK, worked with Aston Business School to develop a uniquely holistic and agile approach to brand health. This approach encompasses both the existing brand equity and knowledge, while also looking at projected future relevance and brand vitality, to ensure a brand is fit for the future and to fight competitive threats. Ultimately, better reflecting the modern way of marketing and brand/consumer engagement in a digital and social era by addressing key questions:

  • Is the brand sustainable and able to grow with consumer needs?
  • Is it relevant for the future?
  • Is the brand creating excitement/connectivity?
  • Is it creating a two-way relationship with consumers through community engagement?

In a recent study, using Toluna’s new automated brand health methodology, 778 Kiwis were interviewed about 12 brands across the spirits category in New Zealand. 

If we look at Kiwi artisan gin brand Scapegrace, the positioning suggests that it is a progressive brand set for the future.

We see very high vitality and future relevance scores, and whilst knowledge could be stronger, equity is high, which means that it is a prominent brand in terms of stature and reputation. Scapegrace is well-placed to disrupt the status quo, without the history of a brand which has been around for as long as some of its competition. 

The data and positioning for Scapegrace suggest that it has built a strong foothold in the market and has resonance for consumers as time goes by, making it both a compelling and challenging spirit brand for Kiwis.

In summary

Brands most likely to thrive are the ones that have interactive conversations with their target audiences. Traditional measures should be enhanced to enable brands to grow while considering the whole relationship.

Such a measure considers the complexities of the way brands and consumers now engage, how rational and emotional consumer experiences deepen brand knowledge, influencing preference and purchase.

To survive today and into the future, brands need to be more than just a strong brand – they need to be healthy, sustainable and compelling. Which means ensuring the brand isn’t looking backwards at previous success but building and measuring its relevance and vitality for the future, alongside its equity and knowledge.  


Toluna delivers real-time consumer insights at the speed of the on-demand economy. With a commitment to leading by technology innovation, Toluna revolutionises market research and empowers clients with the agility to instantly conduct quantitative and qualitative research. Get in touch with NZ-based Stephen via [email protected]

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