Brand tracking studies allow marketers to monitor the health of the brand. They provide insights into the effectiveness of marketing programs implemented by the company.
What To Track
Each brand faces different issues, which often required customized tracking surveys. Nonetheless, at Relevant Insights, we always recommend our clients to include measurements of awareness, usage, brand attitudes, perceptions, and purchase intent in brand tracking studies.
You should start by collecting brand recall and recognition metrics. They are different indicators of the strength of the competition among brands in the minds of the consumers.
A brand that first comes to mind in certain situations is more likely to be considered than one that is only recognized.
We measure usage through recency, frequency of usage, and total spending in the brand, and product category.
These brand tracking measures tell us about consumer shopping behavior and preferences. They are also indicators of market share and “share of wallet.” The latter is the amount of consumer spending a brand is capturing and has a direct impact on a company’s revenues and profits.
Brand Attitudes and Perceptions
We usually capture brand attitudes and perceptions through questions related to brand associations that consumers develop through their brand experience and exposure to positioning messages from PR, advertising and promotional programs.
Many brand associations are often beliefs about product-related attributes and benefits. However, brand associations also include non-product-related and symbolic benefits.
Product and non-product associations, as well as those related to price and value, are important sources of brand equity and should be part of brand tracking studies.
Some brand associations are stronger than others, are more easily recalled and are enough appealing that they become an important factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a brand.
By the same token, brands may be perceived as unique, but without strong and favorable brand associations, uniqueness really doesn’t matter (Strategic Brand Management, Keller, 1998).
Many times, attitudes towards a brand go beyond the product to include attitudes toward the company. You may be aware of how allegations of harassment and a hostile work environment tarnished Uber’s image in 2015 – 2016. The bad reputation generated by these scandals ended up helping Lyft, which was almost defunct at that time. In 2019, Uber hasn’t recovered yet from the negative perceptions. Some analysts even blame them partially for Uber’s inability to make a profit, among other factors.
Measures of likelihood to buy a brand or switch to a competitor are also indicators of brand health and should be part of brand tracking studies.
However, we should put these questions in context regarding specific products or brands, reasons for the purchase, time, channel, price, and other relevant factors to the purchase decision. These variables may be predictive of actual purchase behavior.
When To Track
Brand tracking studies usually involve collecting quantitative data from consumers on a regular basis. One way to do it is to continuously collect information.
This would allow us to control for unusual marketing activities. Moreover, it would provide a more representative picture of how the brand stands in consumers’ minds and against competitors. However, this type of brand tracking may not be feasible due to budget and resource constraints.
If continuous tracking is not feasible for an organization, we can still collect data at certain points in time (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.). This approach may be equally effective, depending on how rapidly the industry is evolving
When determining the frequency of data collection in brand tracking studies, we recommend clients to consider:
- Frequency of product purchase: For example, durable goods with long purchase cycles can be tracked less frequently.
- Marketing activity in the product category: A category where brands are constantly launching marketing programs and promotions requires more frequent monitoring.
- Level of competition in product category: Highly competitive product categories, where new products and competitors are constantly trying to break in, should be tracked regularly.
- Stability of brand associations: Brands with an established image that don’t change quickly over time, can afford less frequent brand tracking.
Whom To Track
We often conduct brand tracking studies with current customers. However, monitoring the non-users of the brand can prove to be invaluable. It can support the development of acquisition and market penetration strategy in the search of business growth.
Including non-customers who are active in the category in your sample will also allow you to monitor your competition.
How to Interpret Brand Tracking Metrics
Given the comparative nature of brand tracking studies, brand tracking measures tend to stay the same over time. However, you should revise from time to time to assess their reliability and sensibility.
The metrics may show steady numbers over time and thus reflect the stability of brand associations. However, they can also be unable to capture important shifts in the market due to changes in sociodemographic trends, competitive landscape, and economic macrotrends.
Another issue with brand tracking measures is defining what constitutes the desirable level of a particular metric. Is a 50% level awareness good enough? It depends. It is all relative to the product category and the competitive environment.
In low involvement and competitive product categories, it may be difficult to get very high awareness and strong brand associations. Consequently, the benchmark for what it is a good level for a metric differs across industries and product categories.
Finally, we customize each brand tracking study to capture brand associations that contribute the most to brand equity, and the marketing activities that are effective at strengthening it.
The goal is to identify key drivers that impact consumers’ brand choice and purchase behavior. This knowledge will help develop marketing tactics that can lead to brand growth and sustainability.
If your company has a brand tracking program already in place, make sure to assess its quality at regular intervals. Check the article: Useful Questions To Assess Branding Research Quality for more information about how to do this.
(An earlier version of this article was originally published on April 15, 2010. The article was last updated and revised on September 1, 2019.)