Brand tracking helps businesses, charities and universities more effectively listen to their customers and consequentially make better decisions that support growth. In this article, we take a look at what precisely constitutes brand tracking, what the benefits are, who it’s suitable for and the impact it can have. We also delve into how to create a successful brand tracking campaign.
To find out more we spoke to some experts on the topic. Below you’ll find invaluable insight from Brand Consultant Matt Davies, David Harris, a Business Tutor from Arden University and Mark Brill, Senior Lecturer in Digital Communication and Future Media at NTI Birmingham.
What is brand tracking?
“Brand tracking is the name given to regularly gleaning information from your brand’s audience and taking stock of performance over time,” says Brand Consultant, Matt Davies. While it is used to gauge the overall health of a brand, brand tracking takes a look at the various facets that this is comprised of. “It takes into account a number of measures that includes awareness, loyalty and other consumer associations,” adds Mark Brill from NTI Birmingham.
But how exactly is that measured? “Via the collection of quantitative data obtained from usage and attitude studies in the form of survey questions, it permits the organisation to benchmark how the brand is performing in the market in terms of what the customers think about the brand and how they use it,” explains David Harris from Arden University.
What are the benefits?
“Brand tracking allows businesses and organisations to listen to the customer. It enables them to identify what is important to their audiences and collect data on these areas to make improvements directly related to customer feedback,” explains Matt. “Through brand tracking we can evaluate and measure performance and value, testing strategies, making comparisons, keeping an eye on our competitors and discovering new opportunities,” he adds.
And its importance is only set to grow as the range of ways in which customers can engage with a brand continues to grow. “Any organisation, whether it is business, third sector or universities stand or fall by the value of the brand. That comes from a range of elements. The challenge has come from the proliferation of channels, particularly the growth of mobile devices and social media, where customers can engage with a brand through a multitude of touch points. Brand tracking can be vital to aggregate these, and benchmark them,” says Mark.
One of the key benefits of brand tracking is being able to assess the performance of a brand over a period of time. Of course, in order to achieve this the tracking process has to be carried out on a regular basis. “If the tracking process is performed on a continued basis it can be seen how poorly or healthily an organisation’s brand(s) is/are performing relative to their past performance. Therefore, brand tracking is a vital tool for marketing and brand departments alike. The regular collection of rich quantitative data from their customers allows the organisation to continuously assess brand health and to adapt their marketing and brand strategy accordingly. This informs important decisions that may need to be made, ranging from the termination of costly support from an underperforming brand to the bolstering of financial support to raise brand awareness via a customised campaign,” explains David.
Is brand tracking always suitable?
“Everyone who has a brand – and anyone who is really looking to make a meaningful impact with an offering or purpose – can benefit from listening to the people they are seeking to serve. Brand tracking is an ideal tool for this,” explains Matt.
But brand tracking can prove to be an expensive process, in terms of both finance and time – so is it always a worthwhile, or indeed viable, endeavour? “For a new start-up organisation there may be a lack of available finance and/or resources. Also, the new product or service may not have any meaningful historical record to benchmark performance against,” says David.
For similar reasons, organisations with a multi-brand portfolio may find brand tracking is difficult to maintain as they may lack the resources required to track all brands effectively. “They may prefer to concentrate on their main ‘cash cow’ brands. However, even if the tracking is conducted in a rudimentary manner via basic data collection it may prove beneficial to even the smallest start-up organisation,” says David.
What results can a brand expect?
“The tracking in and of itself does not bring you any results at all – it’s what you do with the information you glean from the tracking that matters,” says Matt. “The data you collect becomes rear-view mirror. Just because you have scored highly against a metric one month does not mean you will score the same next month. The world we live in is disruptive: new competitors, new consumer needs, better technology etc. can all contribute to you slipping in your audience’s mind.”
As such, he advises brands use tracking coupled with working with your audience in a meaningful way. “You need to really step into their shoes, and continue to keep helping to solve their problems and prove to them that you really stand for what you (and they) believe in. This is where your rear-view mirror data becomes a forward-thinking endeavour. ‘How can we make our audience stronger tomorrow’ should continually be in our minds,” he adds.
How does brand tracking impact future decisions?
“Brand Tracking can benefit a number of activities from retention to uplift, to profit and market share. It allows brands to deliver a single message that connects emotionally to their audience. It brings a high level of market intelligence that can inform both future marketing campaigns but also the development of products or services,” says Mark.
And it’s that, the ability to accurately gauge audience perception and act accordingly, which makes it such a valuable and worthwhile tool. “Brand tracking is helpful to see if what you are doing is helping to enhance your audience’s size and perception of you. If you are doing something and it is having a negative impact on your audience perception you may need to stop it or do something else. Likewise, if you ran a particular initiative last quarter and saw your tracking results grow you might want to keep it up. Over time, if you are using the data you are collecting to good use, you will no doubt see a stronger, increased audience,” says Matt.
Ultimately, over time, and if reliable methods are used, it will result in a significant competitive advantage. “If a consistent, valid and reliable methodology is employed, brand tracking can be a vital tool for enabling a competitive advantage to be gained. This demonstrates the value of the strategic decision to monitor brand positioning, usage and delivery. It also informs an organisation as to when the continued brand support should be withdrawn on economic or other grounds. However, if the methodology used produces unreliable results, the consequences for a brand and the organisation can be disastrous,” says David.
Examples of successful brand tracking
“Nearly all popular consumer brands do some form of brand tracking and make incremental improvements to their services, products and communications accordingly,” says Matt. Keen to find out more? David shares with us a list of high-quality case studies that demonstrate the value of brand tracking:
- “Suzuki, with the design of a more effective and targeted rewards-based after-sales care programme.”
- “Channel 4’s investigation into the more efficient use of subscription-based services.”
- “Sky Sports and their five-segment demographic approach into understanding viewer requirements.”
- “Sunderland City Council’s enquiry into the current state of resident’s health.”
- “Toyota and the brand health of their Corolla model in international markets.”
“Each of the above brand tracking enquiries revealed potential competitive advantages and enabled the establishment of key performance indicators aid the formulation of future strategic direction,” he adds.
How to devise and implement a brand tracking campaign
Consider your resources
Before deciding whether to outsource or keep your brand tracking in-house, it’s important to analyse your available resources including both finances, time and expertise. “The implementation of a brand tracking campaign would depend upon the level of available finance and resources. For better-equipped organisations the process could be kept in-house, using the existing expertise of their marketing departments. For organisations with limited budgets and resources it may be preferable to contract-out the development of a brand tracking campaign in order to receive expert professional guidance throughout the process,” says David.
Ask the right questions
Mark advises that before a brand leaps enthusiastically into the world of brand tracking, they carefully consider the questions they choose to ask. “Brand tracking relies on surveys and customer feedback. Thus, clearly targeting the right audience segment and brand position is essential. The key is to ask the right questions and not too many (nor too few). Most recommend around 25 questions. Ultimately, though, brands should be aiming to understand the ‘why’ of their brand rather than simply the ‘what’. There are many companies that offer Brand Tracking, but before approaching them, any business or organisations needs to have a clear sense of these objectives,” he explains.
“You need to focus to have a meaningful brand tracking campaign. You can fall into the trap of comparing your brand with similar brands and commodities. The trick is to focus and become more meaningful to a specific ‘tribe’ of people. To do this you really need strategic alignment around some really key points,” says Matt. Below, he kindly shares with us his top key points you should consider and get clear on before launching a brand tracking campaign.
- Align: “Ensure your leadership are aligned around why the brand exists beyond making money (e.g. it has a clear purpose or vision it wants to accomplish for the world).”
- Define: “Think about and define who your audience is. Who is your tribe? Who do you exist to serve? Why should they care? Think about how you are trying to make their lives better. How could you measure this? Think about their value system and beliefs and how you can prove to them you also value the same things. What could you ask them to see if they believe you?”
- Data: “Make sure that wherever you are getting your data from is asking people from your predetermined audience. For example, if your brand exists to serve single working mothers with children under the age of 3 who have a household income of under £20k per year it’s important that your tracking is being done with a sample of that audience.”
- Test: “As you develop the questions you think you would like to ask your audience to track your brand performance, I always advise testing them. Get out there and ask these questions to your target market and see if the results are going to be helpful to you or not. Refine accordingly. Do this before you set your brand tracking campaign off into the big bad world because once it’s out there it’s hard to add/amend questions without ruining the ‘tracking’ of past questions.”
- Frequency: “Consider how frequently you will want this data collated. The more regularly you receive it the quicker you can (in theory) respond to it. Most brands check in on their brand health once a month or once a quarter. In reality though most businesses are not really set up to action findings within these time frames so it can be sensible to do it once per year. However, as time goes on I think we’ll see this speed up and maybe even go ‘real time’ collating findings from the digital world into our tracking reporting”
- Speed: “It’s so important to consider timelines. For example, if I receive a brand tracking report today, I always like to know what the window of time is that it had been gleaned from. Has it been being gathered for the last 8 weeks? That might mean some of the data is 8 weeks old. Is that meaningful to me? If, however it was all gathered yesterday within 24 hours it becomes more meaningful to inform me on how activities the brand was doing last week have been received.”
Brand tracking helps business, charities and universities better understand, and consequently serve, their audience. A regular check of the brands health is vital for evaluating and measuring performance; with this information brands can make informed decisions that underpin their goals going forward.
While it’s a useful tool for most businesses, it might prove too expensive for start-ups or companies with multi-brand portfolios. There is the option to conduct this research in-house, but it requires dedicated resources and expertise to be carried out effectively.
We’ll give the final word to Matt who sums it up perfectly “A strong brand strategy coupled with brand tracking is the most powerful and insightful way of getting to know how your brand is performing. Get customers in focus groups and get them talking naturally about your brand, what it stands for and the meaning it has for them. Do this once a quarter with a small focus group and you may discover some insights you can meaningfully act on. Do this coupled with brand tracking and you will fly!”
Here’s to flying in 2020!
View Red Brick’s brand tracker case study video now – you can drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to commission a brand tracker for your business.