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Brand tracking: Everything you need to know

9 min read
Are you tracking the performance of your organization’s most valuable asset - its brand? You can measure brand tracking across many platforms, and we'll show you how below.


Brands are incredibly powerful

The most loved brands have better awareness and recognition than their competitors, can charge a price premium, and tend to have more loyal customers. According to Circle Research, 77% of marketing leaders say branding is critical to growth. And strong brands generate a higher EBIT margin than other brands according to McKinsey.

Consumer perceptions of your brand can be the difference between:

  • Instant trust or instant skepticism
  • Charging a premium or discounting your price
  • Attracting A-level employees or B-level employees
  • Hitting goals or missing goals

So how do you become a strong brand? The first step is to invest in brand tracking research. A recent report by Spencer Brenneman LLC found that 82% of customers who increased their brand investment saw tangible benefits, including more sales and new customers. In addition, companies that continually monitor their brands see stronger rates of inbound and outbound marketing impact as well as sales pipeline.

With so much at stake, it’s important to implement brand tracking.

What is brand tracking?

Brand tracking continuously measures your brand’s health, analyzing how your consumers buy and use your products, and what they think and feel about the brand itself. Good brand tracking will highlight which brand initiatives work well, impacting sales positively, as well as identifying those which don’t, so those can be targeted and improved.

What are the benefits of tracking your brand?

A brand is nothing without its customers. It’s essential to listen to them. Brand tracking gathers customer feedback, analyzes the data, and identifies what matters to them. This enables you to improve your product or service in line with customers’ needs and wants.

Brand tracking also helps you:

  • Measure and evaluate performance
  • Make comparisons
  • Test strategies
  • Uncover new opportunities
  • Keep an eye on competitors

By continuously tracking your brand, you will also be able to assess its performance over time – is it performing better or worse than before? A real-time tracking process can flag up issues before they become a problem, and highlight where things are doing well.

And with mobile devices, apps and social media, customer engagement with a brand now happens through a multitude of channels and touchpoints. These are a challenge to collate, but the right brand tracking metrics will be able to aggregate them for analysis.

By continuously collecting qualitative and quantitative data from your customers, you will be able to assess brand health constantly and adapt your marketing and brand strategies accordingly.

Brand tracking – key metrics to consider

Measuring your brand health with a brand tracking study allows you to not only understand the commercial value of your brand but also to record changes and optimize your strategy to get the most from it.

You need to measure your brand regularly. This allows you to track key metrics over time and learn what’s driving any improvements. Many companies run a brand tracking study quarterly, although if you’re running new advertising campaigns more regularly than this, it’s a good idea to increase the frequency so you can see how they’re contributing to your brand.

Key measures to track as part of your brand tracking studies include:

  • Net promoter score (NPS): The classic metric, NPS gets right to the point of what you need to know: On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [brand] to your family and friends?
  • Brand loyalty: This metric provides a view of how likely a customer is to continue to buy from, or interact with, your brand. It’s usually measured by purchase intent and serves as a good marker for how strong your brand is. If it’s strong, customers are much more likely to buy from you again in the future. Elicit feedback from existing customers with the question:
    How likely are you to purchase [product or service] from us again?
  • Brand awareness: This is made up of two measures – brand awareness and brand recall. Brand awareness is a measure of consumers’ ability to recognize your brand and can be measured as aided awareness (in response to a prompt such as showing a product or brand logo) and unaided awareness (with no prompt). Brand recall is the consumer’s ability to remember the brand, whether after using a product or seeing a piece of advertising. This is a good measure of how a piece of communication has contributed to awareness of the brand in general.
  • Brand associations: Over time, consumers develop perceptions about your brand, and it forms an image in their minds about who you are and what you stand for. By measuring brand association, you can see whether how you want to be seen matches how you’re actually perceived. Be careful to set achievable targets here – your brand tracker should measure what makes you unique. After all, what brand wouldn’t want to be seen as having good products and great customer service? Think about what makes your brand unique – you can look to your brand values if you have any – and try to draw that out in your research.A good way to measure brand associations is through open text feedback. These give consumers the opportunity to leave verbatim feedback without prompting so you can get an accurate view of how they really feel. With the right text analytics software you can analyze those comments and group them by topic to see which associations are the strongest. Use questions such as:
    • What negative associations do you have with [brand]?
    • What positive associations do you have with [brand]?
  • Brand preference is an easily-achievable metric that calculates the number of consumers who prefer to buy your branded product over the same product from a brand competitor. It can be simply measured with a list of tick boxes of other brands, and the question: Tick which brand of [product] you prefer to buy.
  • Brand usage will tell you how often consumers purchase your brand’s product or service. Using tick boxes with your and competing brands, ask the question: Please select which of the following brands you buy or use regularly.
  • Brand purchase will identify previous or existing customers, with the question: Have you purchased [product] from [our brand] before?
  • Brand perceived quality: customers will have a variety of experiences and perceptions about performance, reliability, appearance, and finish, and how the product matches up to its marketing. You can tailor questions to uncover these.

How to start your brand tracking

Traditional brand tracking studies can be overwhelming. However, once you know what to measure and how to reach your target audience, moving your research in-house or building it from scratch becomes more approachable.

Design your tracker

An effective brand tracker doesn’t need to be overly complex. At its core, your brand tracker should enable you to accomplish the following:

  1. Keep a pulse on your category and brand. This gives you an understanding of how your brand compares with your competitors, allowing you to gauge your overall brand health and see its performance over time. Use a combination of perception metrics such as awareness, recall, and associations, along with performance metrics like purchase, usage, and loyalty.
  2. Respond to special circumstances (product updates, promotions, etc.) Brand trackers are a great way to see the success of your marketing activities as well as understand if those activities impact overall brand awareness.
  3. Visualize trends with a recurring reporting system. Brand trackers are the most effective when you can action the data. When designing your system, be sure to set up recurring reports so you can share crucial time-series data with stakeholders instantly.

Choose your research platform

From designing the question set to distributing your survey and analyzing the results, you’ll need a research platform to do the heavy lifting.

Look for a platform that gives you the flexibility to change your questions and ask new ones without a lot of complicated work in the back-end system. Your platform should also make the analysis simple; the last thing you want is to have to export it all to a spreadsheet and spend weeks analyzing it yourself.

Who should you track in your brand study?

You’ll need consumers to answer your survey. Panels of respondents are prerequisites for any kind of market research. For a brand-tracking study, make sure you have a good mix of existing customers, prospectives, and a wide range of demographics. This allows you to see how your brand is performing with different target groups.

eBook: Designing a World-Class Brand Tracking Study