Building and maintaining a healthy brand has never been more difficult. New competitors are entering the market at lightning speed; customer demographics and behaviors quickly shift. A 24/7 online culture means a brand’s reputation can be made or sunk within hours. Improving a brand in this environment is possible, but it relies on consistent, ongoing tracking and measuring of brand performance.
Ongoing brand evaluation and tracking, once a nice-to-have, is now a vital tool for marketers to prove ROI and keep their finger on the pulse of a quickly changing market. The challenge for most organizations is understanding what key elements they should be measuring and how to conduct the tracking in a way that will provide reliable, measurable results.
This guide provides a primer on the basics of brand tracking and brand tracking surveys, answering common questions on the day-to-day applications of brand tracking and giving you the tools you need to begin monitoring and benchmarking your brand’s health.
What is brand tracking?
Brand tracking, the process of continuously measuring the health of a brand over time, is essential to measure the brand health metrics that matter, track brand health over time, and contextualize brand health strengths and weaknesses to adjust brand strategy. Brand tracking allows marketers to analyze and benchmark a variety of factors, such as how customers feel about the brand and what factors they would improve, helping marketers pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and adjust their brand strategy accordingly.
What kind of tools can I use to track my brand?
Organizations can use a variety of tools in their brand tracking: traditional and bulletin board focus groups, social listening, digital ethnographies, and platform analytics gather different types of buyer behavior data that paint a complete picture of buyer perception. Brand tracking surveys offer their own unique strengths to capturing brand perception: marketers can conveniently reach a wide audience, maintain low costs, and decrease respondent and administrator bias for more significant results.
What are the key questions to ask in a brand tracking survey?
Translate your brand tracking goals into survey questions that cover the six core metrics of brand health:
- Awareness (“who has heard of us?”),
- Perception (“what do buyers think of us?”),
- Prior usage (“who is and is not buying our product?”),
- Preference (“are we a preferred brand?”),
- Consideration (“do buyers who engage with our brand tend to purchase from us?”), and
- Net Promoter Score® (“who are our brand advocates?”).
It is vital to include survey questions that assess all aspects of brand health; failure to measure holistically results in a partial view of total brand health. Some questions may be open response or multiple choice; for example, to measure brand awareness, a furniture store may ask respondents to list which furniture stores they are familiar with or to choose familiar stores from a list. Other questions may be best measured by asking respondents to rate their answers on a 1-5 scale that measure qualitative results; for example, asking “How likely are you to purchase this product?”, asking respondents to answer between 1 (“Not at All Likely”) and 5 (‘Extremely Likely”).
Should I use a custom or standardized questionnaire?
While custom questionnaires can provide specific answers to organizations’ hardest-hitting questions, they do require investments of time, money, and an experienced survey designer to get the questions right. Custom brand tracking surveys can be used when segmenting an audience to pull specific information on one group’s perception of your brand; for example, a custom survey for 18- to 24-year-olds can ask questions that uncover how younger buyers interact with your brand. A standardized questionnaire is useful to conveniently reach a wide and varying audience, gathering multiple perspectives on your biggest brand health questions. However, generalized brand tracking surveys do not track elements specific to the niche of the brand and can miss valuable details.
Should I focus on a product brand or an overall brand?
Making the decision to focus on a product brand or overall brand depends on the specific information you seek to gather. Product brand tracking can help identify where budget dollars or resources are most effectively being used to promote the offering, narrowing in on the product brand’s unique strengths and areas that need to improve. Tracking your overall brand provides an opportunity to delve deeper into specific aspects of your organizational brand performance, such as awareness of the brand and customer insights on how the brand can be improved. It is also useful to study the overall brand after a rebrand or acquisition to study any changes in customer perception of the organization after the transition has occurred.
How do I get the right audience to take my surveys?
To determine the right participants to target for your brand tracking surveys, identify customers who are currently using your brand or product, those who did in the past but do not any longer, and potential customers who have never used the brand but could. Potential customers may interact with your brand on social media or use similar products or brands, making them valuable to target for insights into attracting new customers. If there is specific information you seek to gather, segment your audience accordingly; for example, if you want to evaluate the brand of a product you intend to market to Generation X users, consider limiting the survey to 35- to 50-year-olds for focused feedback. Once you have identified your audience, send an initial message to buyers asking for their participation, then send a follow-up reminder to encourage more feedback. You can also consider publicizing the survey through a press release to reach an even wider audience.
How often should I collect new survey data?
Determining how often to launch brand tracking surveys depends on what is being measured and how customer utilization or sentiment may change throughout the year. Weekly tracking may be most effective for measuring the deployment of an advertising campaign or other timed event to assess the baseline prior, during, and after the campaign. This frequent tracking measures the impact of the campaign’s effectiveness and can help identify adjustments that can be made to improve the rest of the initiative. Tracking changes in customer utilization or sentiment can be conducted annually if usage is steady across the year; if usage tends to spike at certain times of the year or the product tends to be used seasonally, quarterly or monthly tracking may deliver more compelling data.
What can I learn from brand tracker data?
Your brand tracking data can help determine the specific strengths and weaknesses of your brand, as well as how specific initiatives or activities have influenced your brand health. Determine which brand health metrics, like awareness and perception, performed the strongest and weakest; for example, your data may determine that buyers are very aware that your brand exists but have no intent to buy any products, resulting in low consideration. In addition, evaluate open-ended responses for salient themes, relevant relationships, and a unifying narrative to understand patterns influencing brand perception.
How can we make sure that we act on the data we are collecting?
Once you have received your brand tracking results, work with your team to establish a plan for addressing weak spots in your brand health. Identify any specific metrics, such as awareness or perception, that you would like to improve, and determine what changes you will make to improve its performance. Marketing campaigns, updated advertising, and other initiatives can help engage more buyers while improving weaker areas of brand health. When creating this plan, ensure that everyone on the team is aware of their part in the process and set deadlines to determine when your team will next collect and evaluate the results.
How can I report the results to my executive team?
After discussing the tracking results with your team and determining your brand’s strengths and weaknesses, share your findings with your executive team. Inform them of your current brand health status and call out trouble spots to address. Visualizations can be helpful for drawing attention to key points and summarizing large amounts of information. Come to the meeting with a plan developed by your team to improve brand health, and work with the executive team to incorporate meaningful ideas for future brand tracking. If you propose running a campaign or initiative that will require financial backing, be sure to make a strong case for how it will tie back into ROI to make the idea sound worthy of the expense. For example, if your brand tracking found that a social media campaign focused on awareness led more users to your site and resulted in increased sales, suggest running a similar campaign to improve another lower-performing metric.