How To Do Brand Tracking Studies

Brand tracking studies are an important tool in the day-to-day decisions brand managers make. They allow marketers to monitor a brand’s health and adjust marketing programs.

WHAT SHOULD BE TRACKED?

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.

  • Awareness: this is often tracked through measures of brand recall and recognition. A brand that it is easily recalled in certain situations is more likely to be considered for purchase than one that is only recognized when it is prompted to the consumer.
  • Usage: this can be measured 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.
  • Brand Attitudes and Perceptions:this is usually captured through questions related to brand image and associations that consumers develop based on their experience with the brand and exposure to its message through PR, advertising and promotional programs. Brand associations include beliefs about product- and non-product related attributes and benefits, as well as perceptions related to price and value. Some brand associations are stronger than others, are more easily recalled and are appealing enough that they become a driver in a consumer’s decision to buy a brand.Many times, attitudes towards a brand go beyond the product to include attitudes toward the company. We are all aware how Toyota’s image has been damaged, not only by the car recall due to defective accelerator pedals in several car models, but more so by how the company failed to promptly notify car owners.  A before-and-after-the-recall study conducted by Lightspeed and Ad Age, showed how the number of Toyota owners that consider the brand reliable has decreased significantly, indicating how fast a brand image can weaken when a company doesn’t react quickly enough.
  • Purchase intent: 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. These questions should be put in context regarding  specific product or brand, reason for the purchase, time, channel, price and other relevant factors to the purchase decision, so they can be predictive of actual purchase behavior.

WHEN AND WHO 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, which provide a more representative picture of how the brand stands and allow us to control for unusual marketing activities during the analysis. However, this type of brand tracking may not be feasible due to budget and resources constraints. Fortunately, tracking at specific time intervals (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) can be equally effective.

When determining  the frequency of data collection in brand tracking studies, we recommend clients to consider:

  • Frequency of product purchase: long purchase cycles can be tracked less frequently.
  • Marketing activity in the product category: product categories with a lot of marketing activity should be monitored more often.
  • 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 much over time, can be tracked less often.

Brand tracking studies are usually conducted with current customers, but monitoring non-users of the brand can prove to be invaluable to the development of acquisition and market penetration strategies.

HOW TO INTERPRET BRAND TRACKING MEASURES?

Although for comparison purposes brand tracking measures tend to stay the same over time, they should be revised from time to time to assess their reliability and sensibility, so they don’t become 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 specific metrics. Is a 70% level awareness good enough? It depends on the product category and the competitive environment. In low-involvement product categories and those with many competitors, it may be difficult to get very high levels of awareness and strong brand associations, so “good” levels for any metric differ across industries and product categories.

Finally, each brand tracking study should be customized to capture the brand associations that contribute the most to brand equity and the marketing activities supporting the brand . The goal is to identify key drivers that make a difference on consumers’ brand choice and purchase behavior and develop marketing tactics that lead to brand growth.

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