Brand tracking refers to the marketing efforts used to quantify the effects of brand building campaigns on sales and conversions.

More and more, marketing teams are building campaigns that are focused on emphasizing unique brand attributes, rather than just products. The goal of these campaigns is to establish a relationship with the brand’s core audience and build associations between the brand and certain ideals.

What is Brand Tracking?

Proctor and Gamble is a strong example of a brand that leverages brand-building campaigns. As ongoing sponsors of the Olympics, they released the “Proud Sponsors of Moms” ad, which rather than emphasizing one specific product, tied the entire brand back to empowering moms. By creating a positive message associated with the brand, Proctor & Gamble was able to achieve a positive outlook from consumers. These ads built brand loyalty by differentiating a product by more than just price. In fact, in Proctor & Gamble’s 175 year history, this campaign is considered among the most successful, driving millions of dollars in revenue.

Brand ads contrast with performance ads, which ask the consumer to act, emphasizing a deal or product. Because there is no call to action with brand ads, it can be difficult to attribute conversions or sales to their success, even though brand perception certainly plays a role in moving consumers down the sales funnel.

Building a brand can lead to long term results. Customers want to buy from a brand whose core values align with their own. In his book, Start with Why, TED Speaker and best selling author, Simon Sinek argues that “people don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” Having clear values and a strong brand can be enough of a reason to drive conversions, even with the price is higher. When analyzing Apple, the brand aligns itself with innovators and disruptors. This focus on brand perception has allowed Apple to extend itself beyond desktop computers to smartphones and iPods. Apple users are loyal customers as well with 92% of users agreeing that they would likely purchase another iPhone as their next device.

The ultimate goal of brand tracking is to help marketers understand which brand efforts are working and how they have impacted sales, as well as identifying the efforts that are not, and how they can be optimized to perform better.  Learning what resonates with your customers can lead to long-term growth and continued customer loyalty. 

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What is A Brand Tracking Study?

To measure the efficacy of brand campaigns, many turn to brand tracking studies. Brand tracking studies aim to measure the success of brand building initiatives based on the impact they have on the consumer and the impact they have on the business.

Brand tracking studies that focus on business impact largely focus on financial metrics to determine the ROI of brand building initiatives. These metrics include:

  • Customer Retention
  • Sales / Profits
  • Market Share 
  • Price Premium

Brand tracking studies that focus on consumer impact typically examine how brand campaigns have affected consumer intentions. These examine metrics such as brand loyalty, brand perception and brand associations. To get this data, marketing teams typically use a combination of the following methods: 

  • Ongoing and Custom Panels
  • Survey-Based Brand Trackers
  • Consumer Research Surveys
  • Brand Impact Surveys
  • Sentiment Analysis

The most successful brand tracking studies will combine both business-focused KPIs and consumer-focused KPIs for a holistic view.

The Benefits of Brand Tracking

There are many business benefits to brand building and tracking.

Creating and aligning a brand message that your consumers can relate to at an emotional level increases consumer loyalty and reduces churn rates as markets fluctuate. Moreover, strong branding also means that organizations can charge a higher brand premium, as it acts as a differentiator from similar products other than price. Finally, investing in building a known brand will make it easier to introduce new products later on down the line.

Brand tracking benefits organizations by giving them firsthand insights into the behavior, interests and purchase patterns of their consumers.

Depending on how data on brand perception and associations is collected, organizations can hear direct feedback from those buying their products on what they liked or disliked about the product itself and the purchase experience.  For example, consumer panels, a popular method of brand tracking, allow marketers and other stakeholders to engage with and learn from their customers in person. Surveys similarly offer access to various segments of target audiences. These can be especially beneficial to understand how to better market to consumers in different locations.

In addition to assisting in enhancing consumer experiences, these brand tracking efforts can help marketing teams to get a sense of where they stand among the competition, as well as purchase trends that are not obvious through digital channels, and visualize them on a recurring timeline.

Furthermore, these brand tracking studies reveal what consumers like most about a product and what they would like to see more of. From there, product teams can design new products or release new iterations with improved features.

All of this marketing intelligence allows organizations to create and optimize products and marketing campaigns for the best consumer experiences that elevate the brand.

Key Brand Tracking Metrics

When measuring the success of brand building initiatives, there are several key metrics to measure.

Brand Preference

This is one of the most important metrics to consider when measuring brand success. This metric refers to the number of consumers in a market that would elect to buy the branded product over the same product from a different brand.

Brand Loyalty

Loyalty measures how likely a consumer is to purchase from your brand again, or purchase other products from your brand.  

The Marketing Landscape is Omnichannel Brand Awareness

Brand awareness refers to how easily a consumer can recognize your brand. There are two types of brand awareness: Aided awarenessrefers to consumers recognizing the brand when prompted – for example, seeing a logo; Unaided awareness refers to the ability to recall the brand without being exposed to an aid.

Brand Recall

This refers to how well a consumer can recall your brand from memory.

Brand Experience and Associations

These refer to the emotions, experiences, and associations that consumers have with a brand.

  • Brand Associations: Measures what consumers associate with your brand.
  • Brand Warmth: Measures the emotional attachment consumers have to a brand.
  • Brand Momentum: Measures whether consumers think a brand is progressing in the marketplace or not.

Brand Usage

This measures how often consumers are using your product.

Brand Purchases

These track what consumers last purchased.

Custom Brand Tracking Versus Syndicated Trackers

A key decision in the brand tracking process is deciding whether to create a custom brand tracking program or use syndicated trackers.

Building a custom brand tracking program means creating a program tailored to the brand’s exact needs to determine their success in aligning with their message. Here, marketers are able to decide on the questions that are asked of consumers, which brands are included in the study and more. However, these custom studies are more costly in terms of capital and resources.

Syndicated brand tracking studies are conducted by third-party research firms according to each firm’s own guidelines. These are less expensive and resource intensive for the brands, but also mean that  brands cannot select which data is recorded and analyzed.

Many brands will elect to use a combination of these methods, tracking some brand building initiatives in-house and outsourcing others to third parties.

For example, a brand will often elect to outsource the media mix modeling and broad consumer surveys/panels, while monitoring its own consumer, social media and customer retention in-house.

The Steps to Tracking Your Brand

The steps to track the success of your brand building initiative are largely the same as they would be for any other study. Determine your goal, collect your data, analyze, optimize, repeat.

  • Establish a target segment and an agreed brand position: Before you can determine whether your brand is successfully building a strong reputation among consumers, you must first determine what you want your brand message and associations to be, and among which consumers.
  • Decide which brands to track: You will also need to determine which brands you want to be measured against.
  • Select the method and collect data: Next comes selecting the types of studies that will provide the data needed to obtain these metrics. Will online questionnaires and surveys work, or will a consumer panel need to be convened? Once the methods have been selected, you can begin collecting the data. 
  • Analyze the results: This is the most important step. Data analysis provides insight into brand trends, consumer behavior and brand perception. This data will indicate where to adjust and optimize to ensure the success of brand building tactics.
  • Adjust and Repeat: From here, adjust strategies and continue to track progress to further optimize marketing opportunities.

Brand Survey Sample Questions

Here are a few of the types of questions marketers may ask on brand surveys to determine key metrics:

  • Brand Loyalty: How likely are you to purchase X from us again?
  • Brand Awareness and Recall: When you think of X, what brands come to mind?
  • Brand Experience and Associations: What are some negative associations you have with these X? What are some positive associations?
  • Brand Usage - How often do you use X product?

How Often to Conduct a Brand Tracking Survey

Unlike promotional campaigns, the effects of brand advertising are demonstrated over years. While branding initiatives may have some short-term effects, no short-term model will be able to give a comprehensive understanding of the success of a brand campaign.

Therefore, it makes sense to conduct brand tracking and analysis once a year to understand the longer-term effects, or after large branding campaigns to glean short-term changes. Collecting this data year over year will allow marketers to detect trends in the brand growth and indicate which campaigns were successful.

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