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Understanding Leading Indicators to Track Brand Building

Last updated: October 15, 2019

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With merchants around the globe undercutting each other in crowded online marketplaces, good branding offers marketers the chance to gain customer loyalty while enhancing the value of their offerings.

By taking the time to nurture a strong brand image, marketers can grow their influence and revenue over a long period of time without needing to rely solely on sales promotions for short-term growth.

Challenges with Tracking Brand Awareness 

Despite the importance of branding for a business’s continued success, brand measurement is far from a precise science. It’s difficult to measure accurately – and with upper level management demanding data-driven metrics to justify campaigns, a brand’s role in marketing strategy is often undervalued. Since brands build their reputation over long periods of time, it’s difficult to track brand growth as a result of a specific marketing initiative. Consequently, it’s hard to determine how much revenue is caused by certain brand marketing campaigns, as their true impact takes years to be fully realized.

This is why leading indicators are emerging as a way to measure brand growth. Leading indicators are a marketer’s “canary in the coal mine” - by analyzing these data points, marketers can predict the outcomes of campaigns before the campaign has concluded. In our Marketing Dictionary, we define leading indicators as: 

“Awareness, familiarity, consideration and purchase intent are leading indicators that gauge
immediate progress.”

By quantifying factors like awareness, familiarity, and purchase intent, marketers can use leading indicators predict how a brand’s perception will shift over an extended period of time.

Brand Marketing vs. Performance Marketing

Before we dive into how leading indicators effectively measure brand growth, it’s important to distinguish brand marketing from performance marketing. Both types of campaigns have distinct purposes, and intermingling the two into a single campaign often results in lackluster campaigns with suboptimal growth to both branding and revenue.

Performance marketing breaks marketing campaigns down in a scientific, mathematical way. By using marketing attribution and analytics, marketers are able to accurately determine how a campaign impacted short-term revenue. These campaigns are often executed by tracking information such as lead metrics, traffic volume, and conversion rates to receive concrete, numerical data. These campaigns are often carried out via sales-focused promotional campaigns such as direct mail, telemarketing, and paid search and social advertising.

Brand marketing is the more subjective, left-brained counterpart to performance marketing. These campaigns are designed to build customer relationships, create high quality traffic, and increase a brand’s value over time to promote long-term revenue. Since the progress attained by brand marketing campaigns is incremental and largely based on a customer’s perception, they’re difficult to quantify with hard metrics. Examples of brand marketing campaigns include loyalty programs, sponsored events, and content marketing.

Companies often overinvest in performance marketing campaigns because it’s easy to quantify and understand the successes and failures of these campaigns. However, study after study has shown that brand marketing is critical to building long-term, sustainable value to your business’s offerings – even though this growth comes at a slower pace. 

Since the effects of a branding campaign are felt long after the campaign concludes, lagging indicators - which are only available after a campaign ends - are not a dependable way to measure the success of these campaigns. Instead, brands must use leading indicators.

Why Use Leading Indicators for Brand Tracking?

As previously mentioned, brand marketing positively impacts long-term sales and builds value, even after a campaign is finished. Since these campaigns have no direct response, lagging indicators such as increased website traffic or increased sales are difficult to accurately attribute. Meanwhile, leading indicators allow organizations to predict the future impact of campaigns by picking up on cues that are correlated to a campaign’s success.

For example, consider how brand marketing builds customer loyalty. It’s often cited that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. This leads us to the logical conclusion that building customer loyalty will save brands money over time by keeping customers in their sales funnel. Then, the challenge is creating a quantifiable measurement of customer loyalty, and correlating that measurement with a projected increase in revenue or ROI. By making these associations, brand marketers can justify the continuation of their campaigns with numerical data, and determine which messages resonate the most with their target audience.

How to Use Leading Indicators for Brand Tracking

It’s challenging to turn qualitative, brand-related data into quantitative data – especially when many performance marketing campaigns rely on qualitative data by design. To accomplish this with a high degree of accuracy, marketers first must determine their short-term and long-term goals for a brand campaign, bearing in mind that short-term results are not the primary focus. These goals will ensure your campaign is being constantly monitored based on attainable KPIs – and promises upper management some short-term benefit.

Once a goal has been established, audit your current brand tracking initiatives and make sure they’re providing high quality data that correlates with the given goal and KPIs. For example, if your brand has a long-term goal of being perceived as luxurious, surveys should ask questions such as “How true is this statement: I would be proud to be seen with [your brand’s product],” as opposed to “I believe that [your brand’s product] is environmentally sustainable.” – otherwise, your analytics teams will struggle to measure the data in relation to the goal. Don’t forget to draw this data from multiple different sources – many marketers choose to utilize sentiment analyses or evaluate interactions on social media to further corroborate their findings.

Next, use marketing analytics to discern how the market’s perception of your brand is effecting your organization’s bottom line. For example, imagine that your business has launched a branded campaign that’s been active for two weeks. Since the campaign’s inception, new visitors have been spending 10 percent more time browsing your website. Your analytics team should then use an advanced marketing analytics platform to analyze how leading indicators such as increased session time are improving conversion rates – which can then be translated into an impact on your brand’s overall revenue.

Final Thoughts

Brand marketing is essential to creating and growing your brand’s value among customers. However, it’s exceedingly difficult to measure the true impact that brands have on a business’s bottom line without measuring and analyzing leading indicators to understand the long-term effects of these campaigns. By equipping a skilled marketing analytics team with the right technology and knowledge, your organization can create impactful, measurable brand marketing campaigns.

Written by Marketing Evolution