By Jeremy Braune
The Case for the Brand Tracker
Is it possible that this marketing stalwart is suffering from age-related image problem?
Regular brand tracking remains essential for monitoring and managing brand health over time, yet the tracker is often compared unfavourably to the plethora of ‘always on’ research and social media tools that are available to marketers today.
In this article we take another look at the brand tracker – what it is and what it isn’t.
Defining the Tracker’s Role
Lets start with what it isn’t.
The tracker’s role isn’t to measure the impact of individual marketing events immediately after they have occurred – a quick, tailored survey will do that job much better.
Rather, it’s a highly cost-effective way of evaluating and comparing brand health and performance over a period of time, whilst also enabling the organisation to scrutinise the:
- Effectiveness of its underlying brand strategy
- Relevance of supposed brand performance drivers
- Performance of the individuals responsible for brand stewardship
But it’s Not Just About Measuring Marketing Effectiveness
A tracker’s ultimate purpose isn’t just to measure the impact of the annual marketing plan.
There are many events outside the control of the Marketing Department that can influence brand performance – including economic downturn and the activity of competitors.
Indeed, 60 seconds on Google is enough to identify numerous examples of brands that went in to a nose dive as a result of events not of the Marketing Department’s making.
Consider the catastrophic damage to BP’s brand as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Or the negative impact on Ryanair in 2017, when the organisation had to cancel some 2000 flights due to issues relating to its pilots’ holiday roster.
Of course, these are extreme examples and neither company needed tracking to tell them their brands were in a tailspin. However, they both certainly needed ongoing tracking data to help them identify and implement the strategies required to repair the reputational damage caused.
Implementing a Tracker
The idea of implementing a tracker can be daunting.
The good news is that if the company already has clarity regarding the component parts of the brand (e.g. target customers, proposition, features, values, and competitive set) and the strategy designed to underpin its growth, then it can be relatively straightforward to identify the most useful KPIs and devise a tracker to monitor them.
Broadly, there are 2 ways to go when it comes to deciding on the questions to ask within your tracker.
The first is to build a bespoke tracker around metrics that may common currency within your business already, potentially including:
- Spontaneous awareness of your brand versus those of key competitors
- Prompted awareness of your brand versus those of key competitors
- Awareness and relevance of the different elements of your brand’s offer
- Relevance of your brand’s values versus those of key competitors
- Purchase criteria (e.g. ease of use, price) for brands in your space
- Usage behaviour (when and why the brand is used)
- Frequency of use
The other way is to buy in to a tracker designed around your research agency’s view of the drivers of brand performance. This can be a route to competitive advantage if it provides your organisation with a view of the world that others do not have.
Frequency and Timing
Frequency and timing depend mainly upon when the company usually conducts its planning and budget round. Most companies will do this annually, meaning that the tracker needs to be reported annually too.
Ideally, reporting will happen some 4-6 weeks before this review occurs, so that there is enough time to consider the implications of the results, set new brand performance targets and identify the specific sales and marketing actions to get there.
However, larger brands may hold interim brand review sessions on a bi-annual or even quarterly basis, to review brand performance against targets so that they can nudge marketing plans for the next period accordingly.
A few key tips:
- Don’t even think about commissioning a brand tracker until you are sure the organisation has real clarity with regard to the component parts of the brand and the key metrics required to manage it. If that clarity is lacking, use an insight agency partner to help you identify them first
- Don’t launch your tracker until all parts of the business are on board, enthused and up to speed. Otherwise, those who are left behind can become voices of dissent
- Don’t keep adding to the tracker and turn it in to something that it isn’t. It dilutes its clarity and perceived usefulness
- Don’t internalise results – tailor the information for different parts of the business but ensure everyone gets regular feedback on the brand they represent
Jeremy Braune, Managing Director, Brandspeak