2CVAntonia Cheese

The death of brand trackers and evolution into brand coaches

Brand trackers have been through a tough time in the past decade. At their peak, trackers provided the only window into consumer perceptions, market movements and exclusive data vital to guide decisions for brand and marketing teams. Welcome the 'digital age' and times of big data, they had to fight for their place at the insight table. Sales and behavioural data are aplenty, so is there still a need for brand trackers? In their original form, probably not, but evolve them into an approach that fits the digital age and you've got an insight driven brand coach in your corner.

The death of brand trackers and evolution into brand coaches

When you've been in the market research game for as many years as me (it's rude to ask a lady's age, but just over a decade if you're curious!), you'll have seen a lot of changes, some for the better others… we'll just not mention. Brand health and comms trackers are one of the areas we've seen a lot of change and in most cases, these are for the better. So, here's my three key things we can pretty much say goodbye to (phew!) and three top tips to help you maximise your tracker to guide your brand growth into the 2020's.

Gone are the days we researchers (and clients tbh) need to throw every brand health metric at the questionnaire to see what moves.

The times when we'd be asking consumers up to 50 questions, one after another, for 25 minutes trying to probe deep into their psyche and ultimately, never quite getting close enough to the real truth. Now, we have more informed approaches to measuring, monitoring and even predicting brand health as a result of marcomms activities. We have both the academic thinking behind successful brands and the actual practice, based in scientific rigour to inform our research design (we can thank the likes of Ehrenberg and Bass among others, for that).

Welcome the age of what I call: Metrics that matter.

We are now at the point we can cut the fat in existing trackers and focus on the lean, mean metrics that really matter, and clients can action. Key to making the most of this new (ish) age, is homing in on brand objectives; where do you want your brand to be? How will your marcomms activities get you there? Then, reflecting on the measures we know from marketing and scientific theory, practice and evidence, that actually matter to consumers and grow brands. Focus in on measuring those metrics, monitoring them over time and using them to not only inform decisions, but predict their impact on growing your brand.

Make your approach to tracking, tailored to your brand, your market and your consumer.

Don't worry about benchmarking yourself against other brands in the ways you did in the past when you had no other data to contextualise the market. How does it help your brand to grow, if you are not focussing on moving the dial for your brand, just focussing on keeping up with the competition? Now, by no means am I trying to say to brands: it's not important to keep an eye on your competition. Brands of course need to be aware of who is chasing at their heels or who could launch and disrupt the market. What I am saying is - by using the right metrics, the ones that drive growth, your brand will grow and you will see return on your investments. You'll see consumers warm to your brand, trial your brand, and eventually advocate for it too. You'll see the growth you crave by making your brand what your target market needs and wants, so much so they won't even look twice at the competition.  

Gone are the days of just using direct questions to consumers

You know the ones I'm talking about here; the questions consumers struggled to answer honestly and the ones researchers couldn't put their finger on the 'why' behind the movements. It's just a scientific fact that our brains don't work the way we asked those questions. We humans are complex and largely driven by our subconscious thoughts, feelings and associations. These in themselves are not easy to access with direct questions, that's why psychologists have worked for decades to find ways of tapping into the human mind (with and without invasive techniques). So, I for one am very thankful that the experimental questioning and techniques I was using at Cardiff University Psychology Department, all those years ago, have now become commonplace in market research. From eye tracking to implicit association testing (IAT to the initiated), response time testing to measuring heart rates through wearable devices, we have the tools at our disposal to measure the things that really matter.

Welcome to the days where we now have more data than we ever could believe was possible.

So, if you have access to data on sales, eyeballs seeing your ads, click through rates, online website behaviour and social listening data - use it and use it wisely. Blend and triangulate data to give you the full picture you need to make decisions and take the right actions to drive growth. You don't need to essentially re-ask questions in the tracker that you already have external data reads on. You need to think about using more subtle measures in your tracker that predict those hard sales metrics, so you can see the smaller shifts in the subconscious of the consumer that will show in sales data later down the line. You need to carefully use the right neuro and implicit tools that measure deep subconscious shifts that ultimately drive consumer choices and brand growth. That way, you are using your tracker to indicate the future and guide your brand to growth. There are times you do want the same questions in your tracker as you have external data for so you can match, calibrate and predict the sales impact from your tracker - but that's a whole other blog piece dedicated to predictive analytics and modelling we'll save for another time.

Gone are the days of a death by PowerPoint tracking debrief

The type of debriefs even the most accomplished of research presenters dreaded. The ones where you had to fight the fear of simply not being able to hold all the hundreds of stats in your head as you race through 100+ slides in the most minute of detail with client teams. This one, I'm particularly thankful for, I'm sure I'm not alone in facing a debrief experience where a client becomes fixated on the movement, or lack of movement on one metric. A metric, that at the end of the day, isn't key for the client brand to focus on. A metric they don't have the ability to move in their comms strategy or execution and doesn't actually impact the bottom line. I'm even more thankful that now we have the flexibility to show key figures from such trackers that are important for clients to focus on in a range of different outputs that can land data, the ultimate insight and what to do about it, in ways, even the most skilled presenter couldn't. Not because, they were not fantastic at their craft, but because for some clients, figures and charts just don't compute the way infographics, dashboards and video content do. I'm also glad the whole research process and business world is much faster in pace. We can now give clients the figures they need in days, not weeks. We can email results or provide online access to data in real time so clients can use it that very day.

Finally, embrace agile and creative insights.

This final tip goes the whole way across your tracking programme. You'll need to measure the right metrics (see above), at the right time, with the right types of questions or data (also see above!) and report these back to the business in ways that inspire action. Think about who is using the tracking data - what teams need the data, in what form, how and when they will take action from it. Are they analytical teams and want all the detail of Excel tables? Are they marketing teams who want to know what is and isn't working? Are they the CFO who wants to know there's a ROI on marketing spend? How can you meet this wide range of needs and uses? How can you make sure the data they need comes when they need it and when they can actually action it? At the end of the day, isn't that why we invented trackers anyway? Not to monitor past performance, but to see how marcomms are performing now, how they can be tweaked and optimised to drive even more growth and ROI in real time? (or as close to real time as we can get, anyway!). In which case, a dynamic dashboarding portal showing live data in a variety of forms, tables to charts and recommendation decks could be the tool for you. If you have teams that just need to know key figures and what to do about them, a graphics video of key insights and recommendations wrapped up in under five minutes, might be better. Whatever the team and need, make sure you can give the data you need, when you need it, to make the right decisions - that's where the value of trackers really come to the fore.

And that's a wrap from me, at least for today at any rate. I could go on all day about how to make your trackers work for you and your brand, complete with a hundred horror stories of large unwieldly trackers that missed the measurement of key metrics and just didn't work hard enough to be useful to brands I've seen in my time (none that I designed obviously!). I want to leave you with a few final thoughts to make sure you get the most out of your tracker, because for many brands, these are large investments, which when they are designed and executed well, deliver real value and growth, something even more important in our current times. Do take the time to consider the right metrics for you and your brand, focus on those that drive growth (and you can impact as a brand), measure, monitor and predict from these. Do blend, fuse and triangulate data, get a full view of the marketplace, consumers thoughts, feelings and actions, don't waste time and money with data sources that all measure the same thing in a different way. Do get the data you need, in the form you need to actually use it - trackers take a lot of time, money and energy in planning and execution from the research agency and client teams. The last thing any agency wants is for all that effort not to actually help the client brand make the right decision in a timely way - that's kinda why we got into this business in the first place, to turn data to insights and the right actions. Not 100+ slide PowerPoint decks that have the keys to unlock growth buried somewhere between a million bar charts, or worse saved on file systems that no one sees, let alone uses! Your tracker should be the life blood of your brand and marketing teams, it has the potential to guide and drive growth. Make it work as hard for your brand as you do. See it and use it like a professional, insight brand coach, giving you everything you need to succeed.

For help to optimise your tracker get in touch: 

Antonia.Cheese@2cv.com

Global Business Development Director