By Patricia H. Chapman ~ President & Founder of Stone Soup Marketing

It hit me a few years ago: As soon as you define a brand's equity on paper, and try to etch it in stone … it's moved on to another place … started to shift and change from its corner of the world.

Being an incorrigible pun lover, I developed and trademarked the phrase "Brand Equitree". To me, Brand Equitree is a better way to talk about it than Brand equity. Tree implies growing, changing, evolving, branching out … something to build on from the roots of a brand, but not a formula that sets you on permutations of the same path again and again. "Ty" may tie you up - the last thing you want to do when looking to exploit and leverage the power of a brand.

Brand Equitree is a constant reminder that a brand's equity is always changing, because it is never separate from the world's perception of it. And if you are a new products person, the search for that next branch of a brand's tree, that's going to make it stronger, healthier, and more impressive, is what you're in it for in the first place.

Over the past twenty years, I've been lucky to work on some brands time and again, developing successful new product concepts which leverage their name and their equity., and build on where they are right now. It's given me a unique perspective .

From Gerber, to Dannon, to Motorola, to Coppertone, to Arm & Hammer… I've been able to take a conceptual measure of brand equities that have changed significantly from the time before. Even seen ideas that were ahead of the brand's time in earlier work, come into their own because the groundwork had been laid with new products in the interim.

Whether there's been two years between qualitative work for a brand, or very little time at all … what the brand can do has always changed, shifted, evolved. You can practically chart this change with concepts as a perceptual map, and learn the way to grow, if you know to look for it. It requires knowledge of the brand's equity today, but defies conversion to the brand's current definition for all its products of tomorrow.

New products seem to be the most fruitful for true growth and added brand value. Pro-active marketing people in charge of their brand's destiny seem to reap more fruit than reactive change from outside factors. Those new products that take that extra little leap from where the brand is today - seem to be a shortcut to the most exciting changes.

I don't quite have a formula for it, but I've honed my radar on it. I can set up a concept scenario to track it. I listen differently to the consumers in my focus groups because of it, in the constant quest for that branch on an Equitree that provides a whole new vision of where the brand can grow.

So, marketing types … leave "equity" to the finance department, and play with "Equitree" instead. It's where you want to grow today.

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