Editor’s note: Juan A. Tello is senior vice president, Americas, at marketing research firm SKIM, Costa Rica.

Most brands rely on a brand tracker to monitor brand health and competitors over time. While these trackers can lead to insights about how trends affect your brand and your competitors, they usually explain very little about causality: how and why a brand shifts positions over time. To better understand brand health, marketing researchers can turn to brand driver analysis to extract more strategic insight from tracking data that your company has already collected. This article will cover a framework marketing researchers can apply to better understand why and how a brand gains or loses ground in the marketplace; define what should be strategic points of difference and points of parity for your brand; and identify potential white-space brand identity opportunities in the market.

The brand driver framework includes six main steps:

The first step in this framework is to identify the brand equity attributes that collectively describe the dynamics of the category and the positioning of all brands in the market. To capture a broad spectrum of the market, a set of attributes that may number as high as 80 are tested in a brand tracker (more would be a burden for respondents). Ordinarily, many of these attributes are highly correlated and can be clustered into 15 to 25 consumer underlying dimensions, which can then be assembled into a hierarchical model. Constructs at the bottom level tend to include more functional performance-related variables such as reliability, portability, product quality, ease of use and fair price. These subsequently drive other constructs found at a higher level which are more emotional and/or holistic in nature, such as customer service, product performance and value for money.

The initial list should include functional and emotional items since both are involved in d...