Reimagining Brand Tracking

ethnographic market research

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Brand tracking is seen by many marketers as a ‘rear-view mirror’ tool that is too retrospective and doesn’t provide useful insights in today’s fast-moving world.

If we are thinking about traditional brand trackers that put brand – rather than the customer – at the centre and consist of tedious 25-minute consumer surveys, this negative opinion of brand trackers is justified.

However, by reimagining tracking as a means of understanding the customer on a deeper level rather than simply measuring brand metrics, it reveals its value as an essential tool for today’s businesses.

In this article, we’re going to discuss why brand tracking needs to change its focus if it is to survive and propose Brandspeak’s own customer-first model as the solution.

What Is a Brand Tracker? (The Traditional View)

Many companies use brand trackers to measure brand health over an extended period of time. This is achieved by gathering responses from consumers and analysing how they think and feel about your brand. This data is collected largely using online surveys, and consumers are usually asked the same questions at different times throughout the year.

Although brand trackers can differ depending on the needs of the company, they are likely to include some of these brand metrics:

  • Spontaneous and prompted awareness of your brand
  • Awareness and relevance of the different elements of your brand’s offer
  • Brand values

Trackers may also look at product metrics like these:

  • Purchase criteria (e.g. ease of use, price, innovation, etc.)
  • Usage behaviour (when and why the product is used)
  • Frequency of use

By comparing consumer responses over time, brand owners hope to get an overview of brand performance and analyse the success of certain campaigns.

Depending on the requirements of the business, brand tracking reports are usually produced every quarter, every six months or annually.

What’s Wrong with Traditional Brand Tracking?

In today’s always-on world where huge volumes of data are available in real-time, brand tracking has come to be seen as a retrospective, rear-view mirror tool that does not help brand owners to evolve and move forward.

This is largely because the information that brand tracking provides is seen as outdated. With some trackers only interviewing as little as once a year, the data takes too long to generate.

By the time the team receives the report, they see the information as irrelevant because it doesn’t reflect current brand perceptions.

Businesses also have a dated view of brand trackers as long 25-minute surveys that consumers lose interest in and don’t fully engage with.

A Loss of Focus

However, the key reason for the failure of traditional brand trackers is their loss of focus. Many companies no longer find their brand trackers useful because over the years they have been reshaped into something else.

Often, lots of extra functions are added in, and many trackers are expected to do multiple jobs – from comms tracking to customer satisfaction tracking and more.

Although they may have been relevant when they were first implemented, over time trackers become less streamlined and are no longer fit for purpose. Think of it as an overgrown garden that is in desperate need of attention.

It’s no surprise that many businesses see their trackers as a relic from the past that has little remaining value.

To make matters worse, brand tracking reports often present numerical data that is difficult to make use of.

Although the tracker is able to tell you what happened in the last wave, it is unable to explain what it means or what to do next. This leaves brand managers feeling frustrated and struggling to see the relevance of their trackers.

With problems like these, brand tracking is in danger of extinction. So, what’s the solution?

Trackers Need to Be More Relevant

For trackers to survive, they need to be more relevant to the business. Most trackers treat  brand as the beginning and end of the question, without considering what role it plays in the wider context of the business.

However, it’s vital to remember that the overall purpose of any brand is to play a supporting role in selling more goods or services.

Although brand trackers are able to give a good indication of brand health, what this means for the business is often unclear.

For example, a brand tracker is able to tell us that brand awareness has increased, but not whether this has helped to gain new customers or retain existing ones.

Changing the Focus

For trackers to be useful, we need to think about them in a different way. Their goal is not simply to measure brand health. Instead, their aim should be to understand customer motivations and behaviour. Brand health is a diagnostic way of doing this, rather than the sole purpose of the tracker.

With this new focus on customer rather than brand, the tracker can evolve into a valuable tool that gives new insight into what drives and motivates buyers.

The Customer-First Model

Following this concept, Brandspeak has created a customer-first model to offer a more relevant approach to tracking. Unlike traditional trackers, it puts customer dynamics (rather than  brand) at the centre.

In the outer ring of the model is Marcomms, with a focus on how it drives brand beliefs and impacts customer behaviour and attitudes.

By seeking to understand the behaviour and attitudes of different customer groups (e.g., loyalists, new customers, potential customers), our model is able to measure the impact of the brand on customer behaviour.

.Reimagining Brand Tracking Brand Speak Market Research.

The model is also built on the conscious and subconscious consumer perceptions that drive behaviour – namely presence and preference. This includes considerations such as whether the brand comes to mind easily (mental availability), and whether the products are readily available to buy (physical availability).

We use our model to inform our tracking programme, and each of its measures points back to customer flow to help businesses understand their brand’s impact upon winning and retaining customers.

The Solution: A Flexible, Agile Tracker That Puts the Customer First

If trackers are to survive, they must focus on the customer rather than brand.

However, flexibility and agility are also key. At Brandspeak, we create flexible trackers that collect data from multiple sources rather than just a single survey.

In today’s multi-channel, always-on culture this is essential, and consumer surveys are fully optimised for mobile use.

Our agile trackers can also publish data directly onto online portals and dashboards that clients can access and cut themselves, allowing them to receive relevant, up-to-date information that can be used to understand customer motivations and drive growth

We know that understanding your customer is vital to the success of your brand. For more information on our unique, customer-focused tracking programme, contact or call us on +44 0203 8580052



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Brandspeak has been providing qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic and neuromarketing research to UK and global brands, marketing agencies, start-ups, public sector organisations and charities since 2004.