For some, brand tracking has fallen out of fashion. In a time where marketeers are inundated with data and performance metrics, the thought of another report and the investment required for ongoing primary research in your market can be too much. Bad memories of being burned from past brand tracking studies that didn’t engage internal stakeholders and simply didn’t garner insights linger long in the mind.

So why even do brand tracking in the first place?

Because brand tracking isn’t just ‘tracking’. To be honest, brand tracking needs a rebrand. Brand tracking is the voice of your customer and more importantly a pulse on the market. It’s the only way to measure long term impact on brand perception in a competitive context. It’s also likely the only attitudinal datapoint you will have in your stack of behavioral data, sales data and media performance metrics.

Learn more: Humanizing your brand: A guidebook

Brand tracking is the only unbiased way to measure how people experience your brand in the context of their lives and whether marketing activity is changing what they really think and feel about you.

So brand tracking has its purpose. The problem is there are a lot of bad brand tracking solutions out there. How do you design brand tracking to make sure you are maximizing its impact and getting beneath the surface to know how people really feel about your brand?

    1. Go beyond the brand funnel and lean into behavioral science

The brand funnel is of course important to track. Aided and unaided awareness (the latter in particular being a good proxy for mental availability), consideration, usage, preference and recommendation. While the funnel helps you quickly ascertain the penetration of your brand or ‘breadth’ of your brand in market, it doesn’t measure the ‘depth’ of your relationship or explain why you are the brand of choice. Ensure you are measuring brand leveraging a framework that has been validated/proven to drive behavior and grounded in the latest social science. Too often brand measurement is over simplified and tracking and doesn’t capture how humans truly experience brand through all of their senses.

Monigle’s Humanizing Brand Experience framework guides our brand tracking approach

    1. Evaluate your brand in a context that is real and unbiased

Another common mistake with tracking is to bias the data by only surveying a select audience and not getting a read on the entire market. Simply surveying your customers is not surveying your market. Use online panels to get a truly representative view of your brand beyond your biggest advocates. Make sure your screener isn’t too narrow either otherwise you will lose that broader market view. Avoid weighting and complex logic. The more you artificialize the data and filter question responses the less real it becomes. And most importantly keep the study blinded right up until the end. All questions should be asked in a competitive context that is reflective of how people really make decisions within the category.

    1. Select a cadence of tracking that works for you. And stick to it

A research purist will tell you that you need to track continuously, all year round. But that isn’t always realistic with tightening budgets and competing investment priorities. The reality is a lot of trackers die because they simply become too expensive to keep running. Select a cadence of tracking that works for you. Quarterly tracking (4 waves a year) is ideal as it is budget conscious and frequent enough to measure campaign effectiveness and adapt to market changes. Collecting quarterly data over time also allows for effective trending that can be fused to other datasets down the road and more sophisticated modeling. Twice yearly or once yearly are also options (the latter should be considered the bare minimum) but ultimately select a cadence that works for you and stick to it. Field periods should remain fixed once you start to prevent seasonality and other external factors impacting trending.

Learn more: Enabling consistent brand experiences

    1. Inspire action with pithy deliverables and focused insights

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your brand tracking research is if it is too hard for folks to digest. Budget may be one reason trackers die, another is typically unwieldly deliverables that no one wants to read. To inspire action, humanize your outputs so people can quickly answer these questions ‘how is the brand doing’ and ‘what do I need to do as a result’. Consider three outputs to each wave of tracking that are tailored to three audiences. 1) Data appendix. This in-depth data ‘book’ should only be for the tracker owner(s) to hold on to as a reference should they need to dig into that one number by that one subgroup. This should instantly be archived and only for the most insights/data centric audiences 2) The executive summary. A pithy and visually impactful report that focuses of the key insights, evidence and recommendations. This should be a heavily filtered version of the data appendix that only includes KPIs and insight-rich data (think 15-20 slides). This deliverable should be for the core team/marketing only 3) The one pager or dashboard summary. Think something you can paste in the body of an email. This should be a focused selection of KPIs that can be socialized to executive leadership (and really anyone in the business). Keep the format consistent wave-to-wave so the less initiated audiences know what to expect and how to interpret the key takeaways.

    1. Humanize the data with video

The big problem with brand trackers is that it’s easy for people to forget that behind every data point is person. And each person has unique thoughts, feelings and experiences with your brand and competitors. As a result, the humanity can be lost in the data and for internal stakeholders they can be left uninspired and often unwilling to make the changes necessary to put the consumer first. A great way to humanize brand tracking data is to add video open ends to the tracking to capture real footage of people talking about your brand. Adding an edited video reel to the tracking report is a great way to engage internal audiences and capture more qualitative, emotional responses. Over time these can be catalogued and coded in a media library for future use.

Brand tracking research is an essential tool for understanding how consumers are experiencing your brand and improving your brand marketing strategy. In this blog, we explored ways to humanize your brand tracking research, such as using a framework that captures how humans experience brand through all of their senses or incorporating storytelling and empathy into your research methods. By doing so, you gain deeper insights into the emotional connections consumers have with your brand and can create more meaningful relationships with your audience.

To learn more about how we can help you humanize your brand tracking research and drive greater success for your brand, reach out to us.

Grant Mason
March 30, 2023 By Grant Mason