Share of Voice as a Strategic Accelerator

What is Share of Voice?

Before the digital revolution, Share of Voice (SOV) was a standard metric to determine a brand’s share of the advertising space by simply calculating a brand’s spends on available media (print, radio, television), the total spends on the category of product and service, and the percent represented by the brand.

Your Brand Advertising
÷ Total Market Advertising

= Share of Voice

The purpose of early SOV exercises was simple enough: advertising brings product awareness to potential customers and, hopefully, influences them to purchase a product or service. A large Share of Voice was an opportunity to dominate consumers’ first thoughts at the supermarket, when considering an automotive purchase, or brand of jeans. In fact, brand leaders counted on their Share of Voice to work for them, to act as a dependable proxy of market share, and to do some of the work of advertising.

Since then, the available pool for voice has exploded in volume and variety, creating an opportunity for measuring Share of Voice in a variety of contexts for specific insights most relevant to brands, large or small, leaders and challengers. As the market spaces for brand visibility proliferated with multifaceted channels, both organic and paid, with brand messaging and consumer-generated content, these spaces created digital trails from the largest Share of Market (SOM) proxy calculation to the smallest channel-specific KPI. While early SOV was a quick estimate of SOM, today the data trails can be followed to calculate impact from minute changes in targeting to resulting new customer journey behavior. 

Getting Value from SOV 

The ability to measure different segments of SOV creates new sources of competitive, enabling information, data that is often captured but not aggregated or analyzed. The original SOV question– “Of all advertising spends for a brand’s product category, what percent did the brand spend?”–breaks into respective SOV components:

  • What percent of social media conversations were about the brand vs the total social media conversations for the product category?  
  • What was the SOV for brand conversations with positive sentiment? 
  • Of the leading industry publications, what was the SOV for brand category tracked over the 90-day period coinciding with the most recent product launch and campaign? 

For each SOV framing, a different question is answered, providing insights for different contexts, informing specific strategic and tactical decisions, influencing visibility, brand awareness, and ultimately, revenue. 

Yet, however meaningful measuring segments of SOV may be, the ability to quantify not only output but the individual drivers of visibility has created changes in the way business strategy itself is formulated, how assumptions are validated, and the way new and ongoing data streams guide strategy and tactics through the life of one initiative to the next.

  • What is the brand’s SOV for ranking keywords? 
  • What percent of available Search Engine Result Page (SERP) elements are implemented? 
  • What share of the available technology stack is in use by the brand compared to competitors? 
  • What share of non-category customers is the brand reaching by targeted channels?

A brand’s SOV can be measured across numerous marketing and awareness sub-domains, throughout different dimensions within domains, each relying on a different mix of external and internal data.

Ultimately, useful SOV is defined and measured by identifying the most critical competitive data set for each brand. As a result, the simplest way to define a Share of Voice recognizes that the most effective SOV is strategic and situational. 

Your Brand’s Measures
÷ Total Market Measures

= Share of Voice

With the broad definitions above, the purpose and value of SOV is varied, but impactful across multiple dimensions, both overall across a targeted market and in specific domains and dimensions.

Targeted SOV can help challenger brands break through the competitive noise. Today, brands compete with others more than ever to influence consumers in countless ways, across a crowded and versatile communication spectrum. They compete against brands within and outside their competitive categories, as brands across all industries for a sliver of consumer time. A strong Share of Voice is required to penetrate through an increasingly competitive market.

What SOV can tell us about competitors

In addition to the broader SOV measurement purposes, numerous specific measurements provide impactful insights focused on specific strategies and tactics:

  • Determine competitor advertising strategy based on ad channel SOV
  • Identify brand presence gaps based on analysis of social SOV across industry news sites, blogs
  • Determine critical keyword SOV against total monthly volume and compared with top competitors’ keyword SOV

All of these measures of SOV, from total addressable market to specific channels, are indicators of not only brand awareness–a first step in the consumer journey–but market share itself. 

Capturing Market Share with SOV 

As Share of Voice has served as a substitute for market share, marketing experts and academics have studied the relationship between Share of Voice (SOV) and corresponding Share of Market (SOM) for the latter half of the 20th century, identifying trends that remain observable and relevant today.

The Advertising Intensiveness Curve

In the late 1980s, John Philip Jones charted the typical advertising spend (SOV) of companies at both ends of the market share spectrum, identifying the Advertising Intensiveness Curve: brands with a large share of market funded a lower Share of Voice (SOV) than their Share of Market (SOM). Conversely, brands with a low SOM, funded a much higher SOV. In other words, large brands were less advertising intensive.

Curve comparing Share of Voice (SOV) with Share of Market (SOM)

Moreover, a lower SOV can sustain a large brand (within a slightly varying underspend threshold), but the same low investment in a challenger brand would lead to a decline. Likewise, a challenger brand would need to significantly overspend to gain market share. 

Excess Share of Voice

Share of Voice and Share of Market naturally trend to an equilibrium, e.g., a brand with 15% SOV will generally have around 15% SOM. Brands that set their SOV higher than their SOM tend to grow (all factors being equal), and brands that set SOV lower than their SOM tend to shrink. Brands that overspend on SOV create excess Share of Voice (eSOV).

The general metric for return on this overspend: for every 10% eSOV, brands can expect average market share growth of .5% annually. While outliers to the formula exist, repeated studies have borne out the metric for return on eSOV, applying to B2C and B2B. Unsurprisingly, challenger brands generally overspend on SOV compared to SOM. 

Defining the Addressable Markets

Understanding the addressable market is a prerequisite to strategically gaining market share. Whether launching a new company, new product, or evaluating the market for an existing offering, measuring the addressable market is a core requirement in setting goals, strategy, and tactics for gaining market share. 

Total Addressable Market, Serviceable Available Market, Serviceable Obtainable Market Visual

A brand’s value proposition describes the value created for target customers. Without a clear understanding of the addressable market (potential target customers), attempts to effectively create value will likely be misaligned. Ideally, the path to gain market share should begin with an evaluation of the Total Addressable Market (TAM), the largest market demand for an offering, then narrow down to what is realistic for the company resources and the realities of the addressable market.

The Total Addressable Market (TAM) can be calculated in 3 ways: 

  • Top Down with existing market data of a known population, 
  • Bottom Up using original research and internal customer data, and 
  • Value Theory which estimates customer perception of value.

After the TAM is calculated, this largest addressable market is limited to geographical and logistical reach, creating the Serviceable Available Market (SAM), the segment it is possible to capture with the brand’s business model. Finally, the SAM is further narrowed to the segment most realistic to acquire, creating the Serviceable Obtainable Market, the reasonable initial target for the new offering. 

However, in practice companies use a combination of approaches when defining target segments, and the approach from TAM to SOM may not be completely linear. Companies obtain segment data from a variety of sources: the company CRM/CDP platforms, existing market research, custom analytics combining 1st party “direct” data from owned systems, 2nd party “direct” data from another business’s systems, and even resold 3rd party data; or finally, specific research aimed at such a market analysis (see QMA).  

With both the SAM and SOM calculated, the brand can accurately gauge the percent of target market captured, as well as potential revenue available. Knowing the possible range within which the total return falls (between SOM and SAM), the brand can plan market growth based on realistic gains of quantitatively and qualitatively defined market segments. 

Balancing Brand Building and Sales Activation

With a defined target market, brands can create the accompanying strategy and tactics for growth over time. However, to balance immediate needs and long-term growth plans, the use of eSOV to gain market share through long-term brand-building must be coupled with targeted efforts to increase SOV at the platform, channel, and component level for two reasons:

  • To activate sales while brand-building continues 
  • To ensure quality of SOV with the highest return

Building brand awareness while activating sales can simultaneously drive the success of both. By focusing on brand-building tactics at the micro-level, the brand can build relevance and authority while optimizing elements of multiple customer journeys that drive near-term sales. The resource investment in Share of Voice is focused, aimed at those elements that are strategically aligned, have the greatest potential for disequilibrium favoring the brand, and are both sales-focused and brand-building. 

Strategic SOV: Channel, Platform, KPI

As Share of Voice expanded from share of advertising expenditures to share of total available visibility (after all, brand awareness was an original goal), the elements that comprised the SOV expanded to include not only specific channels and platforms, but many of the associated KPIs as well. For example, as the market impact of social media platforms grew, the medium was seen as a clear component of a brand’s SOV. Indicators of SOV started as volume (of social media ads, of brand mentions), but evolved to include brand + keyword/context mention, and then sentiment analysis.

Some additional metrics are not direct measures of SOV necessarily, but they are precursors and drivers of SOV. In this way, these elements are the price of admission to compete in the digital marketplace. If users do not engage with a brand’s presence—page load delay, position on SERP overshadowed by competitors’ structured data objects, landing page misaligned with ranking keywords—it doesn’t matter how often the brand appears in a contextual search. 

Below is a sampling of key channels, platforms, and other components and their KPIs that represent or influence Share of Voice, and equally important, the quality of voice.

Organic Search Engine SOV

Organic Search Engine SOV includes elements of organic search engines results, including the brand’s share of ranking keywords, share of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate elements, and even the share of referring domains each month. 

Keyword SOV

One of the most important organic comparisons of Share of Voice is a brand’s share of ranking keywords. By measuring the high-ranking keywords (those most likely to generate clicks on the first page of a SERP), a brand can identify total share in search volume for individual keywords, or sets of keywords. By capturing the rankings for each keyword, multiplying by the position-based CTR, and again by the average monthly search volume, the brand can identify SOV for critical keywords, individually, as a set, and the keyword SOV for the competitor. 

Analysis of competitor domains can reveal ranking keywords that are poorly optimized, allowing for a brand to outrank by adding aligned optimized content. Additionally, brands can look for high-volume keywords with little PPC competition. 


For each SERP generated, a number of impactful real estate elements are possible, including rich snippets, featured snippets, branded knowledge panels. These visual information objects and unique content chunks capture user attention and drive clicks. Analysis of brand and competitor SERP features can reveal gaps that are easily closed using structured data, targeted question and answer content, local content, etc. Challenger brands should target competitors’ underutilized or missing SERP features, and aim for parity for competitors’ features that are well represented. 

Referring Domains SOV

As a share of the total number of domain referrals for an offering category, referring domains SOV contributes to a brand’s search visibility through the authority of high-rated domains. This SOV analysis can uncover competitors’ referrals, the page types most often linked, as well as the types of sites that are linking to competitor sites. Prioritizing referring domain gaps by site type, authority level, and volume, brands can seek referring domains with an accessible profile–typically mid-level authority–and pursue a link-building strategy that closes gaps and exceeds competitors to gain monthly referring domain share and resulting authority. 

Paid SOV

As paid Share of Voice was the original object of SOV, measurement, and analysis of paid advertising should be a key measure identifying online paid campaign efficacy, as well as defining competitors’ advertising strategies and tactics. Paid SOV is often defined as Impression Share, while the share of purchased ranking keywords can be assessed just as organic search keywords.

Impression Share

At one time, Google defined impression share as a way for advertisers to see how big a slice of the “advertising pie” they owned at any given time. Impression Share (IS) is relevant as an indicator of PPC performance, as well as a measurement of lost opportunity. Google defines Impression Share as:

the percentage of impressions that your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could get.”

Impression Share is a Share of Voice within the boundaries of each brand’s online advertising configuration–targeting (temporal, demographic, geographic), bid strategy, and actual ads and campaign settings. However, Impression Share is not as strong as a competitive comparison as analysis of the share of (purchased) ranking keywords.

Purchased Ranking Keywords

A more aligned approach follows keyword ranking share of voice as used to measure organic share of voice. In addition, brands can evaluate competitors’ related performance data and compare their results and techniques to close gaps in cost-per-click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), and cost per acquisition (CPA). 

Social Media SOV

Social media Share of Voice is sometimes described by proponents as the “true” SOV, as it is a measure of actual customer voices, their conversations about the brand, in their actual words. As such, social media SOV provides a wealth of information for active brands. Brands can measure their SOV based on percent of brand mentions of the total volume of brands competing for a specific product category. By filtering for “brand+keyword,” the SOV becomes relevant to specific contexts most valuable for a brand. Finally, sentiment analysis of brand mentions provides a meaningful contextual layer. 

Brand Mentions Volume SOV

The general share of brand mentions of overall category brands provides a high-level brand awareness value, and when segmented by specific social media platforms can reveal a brand’s strongest platform on which to build.

Brand, Product, and Campaign SOV

Analysis of mentions that require brand and specific contextual and product keywords provide a more specific indicator of brand strength based on product and value recognition. Listening analysis can generate the most common terms associated with the brand, providing insights on how well positioning and messaging are working. Overlay brand and keyword analysis over the life of a campaign to assess campaign impact at different stages. 

Segmentation and Sentiment SOV

Building on brand and priority keyword mentions, brands can segment demographics, mention type, and page type to drive targeting campaign targeting decisions. 

Determining the share of positive sentiment as an overlay to the volume of mentions provides a much more insightful value to social media SOV. Sentiment associated with specific products and features is actionable information for future product enhancements and new offerings.

Extended Social SOV

Social media can be more broadly defined to include all consumer-generated content, not merely those branded platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, that occupy a large space in the public conversation. Instead, the term can include websites for user reviews, consumer targeted blogs, industry news blogs, and other public websites. These conversations can also be mined to add to the SOV, and further segmented by type, reach, and quality. Using the same social listening tools applicable to Twitter can uncover important elements of influencers among industry blogs, product category news sites, and product review websites.

Customer Journeys

Mapping the competitive digital customer journey measures the relative strength of page-level elements for the brand and competitors, capturing current customer behavior, and the Information Architecture (IA) that counters the path to conversion.

Customer Behavior Mapping

On-page behavior can be observed through captured click maps and scroll heat maps, revealing most popular buttons, page sections receiving the most attention, as well as key sections that are underused, or ignored. The number of clicks required between the menu and transaction is recorded, and the most popular content is identified (e.g., “Where to Buy”). Analysis of customer navigation identifies structural gaps contributing to consumer failure to complete a transaction. Additionally, popular content can be optimized for ease of access.

Information Architecture (IA) Analysis

The customer behavior analysis creates clear actions to address obstacles identified in the click and heat mapping; however, analysis of the IA of brand and competitor reveals gaps and corrections to increase the share of customers completing the journey with the desired transaction.

Landing pages are checked for location of key content, such as brand positioning statement, value proposition, “Where to Buy” link, clear Call To Action (CTA) prominently placed, Hero Images, and effective and proportional use of space. Architectural and layout changes remove obstacles in the conversion path, providing the brand with a competitive advantage.

Moving Forward with SOV Measurement

Today’s marketers have tremendous data access. Brands can compare competitors across domains and dimensions, measuring specific shares of voice across channels, customer segments, and precursors and drivers of voice and market dominance. Even marketers who are unable to aggregate and assess the voluminous data–from resource constraints, lack of data science skills, etc.– are mostly aware that these practices are foundational to the brand’s strategic and tactical planning

Contemporary advantages in marketing data science have made SOV measurement technically accessible for nearly any brand. Improved data access, data mining, and analytic toolsets–all combine to facilitate the rapid creation of datasets that aggregate disparate data points for unique insights.

The challenge is no longer primarily technical, but one of conceptual modeling and strategic discipline. Using data-driven insights demands an understanding of the data elements and the formulae that build and shape the aggregate dataset. Only when a clear line can be drawn from the activity that creates the data, the math that creates the datasets, and the insight gleaned, can brands become confident in enhanced decision making.

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