Brand Tracking: From bastard, to golden child

Brand Tracking: From bastard, to golden child teaser

Date published 10 Oct 2016

For some, brand trackers have become the bastard child of market research. Two hour long presentations and never ending reports that show “brand awareness and consideration have remained broadly stable since last quarter” have resulted in a lack of stakeholder excitement about brand tracking outcomes, and a lack of enthusiasm from agencies that work on them. Despite these issues, brand tracking often takes up most of the insights budget and agency’s time. Now we’re not suggesting to get rid of brand tracking altogether – but in most cases we think there is room for improvement.

When you boil it all down a brand tracker really only has to do 4 things: monitor what’s happening, flag when changes occur, diagnose why, then provide insights that inspire brand owners to take action. Unfortunately, most trackers today only make it to the second step (at best), with many only monitoring. Why? The answer is actually the question – if a brand tracker is unable to explain why changes occur, then how can they provide insights that inspire action?

With this in mind, here are four principles that tracking programs of today should adhere to in order to remain relevant and useful.

Monitor measures that matter

Trackers should only continuously monitor key performance indicators that are linked to growth. I’m not talking about overly complicated models comprising of multiple questions and secret algorithms. These questions should be simple and grounded in the latest thinking around decision making and brand growth. We know consumer needs trigger buying moments, and a key role for brand owners is to ensure their brands come to mind for, and are accessible in these moments. If a tracker can monitor these two areas versus the competition, and flag when changes occur the job is half done with very little effort (and minimal space on your questionnaire). This frees up valuable space and budget to diagnose why changes occur, which brings us to our second principle.

A dynamic modular approach

Brand owners of today operate in a highly dynamic, ever changing environment where set and forget tracking approaches no longer cut it. Just like mobile phones have evolved to become an eco-centre for apps that are used when they’re needed, outside of the core measures a brand tracking program should be an eco-centre for question modules that can be turned on and off when required. Some of these dynamic modules will be planned in advance, for example ad diagnostic changes can be planned around media schedules. Others will be turned on when issues or questions arise, or in reaction to flags raised through changes in key performance indicators. For example, if you notice that brand linkage is an issue for a particular campaign you may decide to turn on a brand assets module (See here for more on brand assets) to further explore ways to improve this. Trackers of today need to be flexible and agile – reacting to changes as and when they occur so we can diagnose and respond, then move on.

Connect external information sources

We’re living in the information age, where more so than ever we have access to a wealth of information that can and should be used to provide depth of insight and broader context to tracking data. Digital analytics, media information, transaction data, social listening etc. – these external sources shouldn’t be an afterthought. Information about promotions and distribution can add context to and explain changes in claimed purchase data. Media spend and share of voice should be looked at when reviewing campaign efficiency. The insights gleaned from these sources need to be integrated into tracking programs of today so they can be easily synthesised with the survey data to paint a complete picture.

Relevant Reporting

Tracking providers must recognise that they serve many stakeholders and must therefore cater to their different needs. An Insights Manager may need the detail, however a Marketing Director may only want the snapshot. Reporting shouldn’t take a one size fits all approach and dashboard technology is an easy way to accomplish this, giving stakeholders access to the information they require in a relevant format and timely manner. A little investment upfront removes the need for never ending reports, allowing presentations, workshops or any interaction for that matter to be issue focused, with clear outcomes and recommendations. This sounds simple but brand tracking needs to move away from reporting for the sake of reporting.

By adhering to these principles, a tracking study moves from an outdated tool that monitors everything we think might be relevant, to a powerful marketing resource that provides meaningful insights that actually drive brand growth. From a bastard child, to the golden child!

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