Brand Tracking Guide: Methods, Benefits, and a Case Study
quantilope's Guide to Brand Tracking Research provides a framework for how to create an effective brand tracker and how to leverage automated tracking for real-time results.
Table of Contents:
- What is brand tracking?
- Benefits of brand tracking research
- Key brand tracking research metrics to measure
- Brand tracking methods
- How to conduct a brand tracking study
- Brand tracking research questions
- How frequently should you conduct brand tracking research?
- How to address challenges in brand tracking
- How brand tracking helps brands make key decisions
- Using quantilope to conduct a brand tracking study
- quantilope's Guide to Brand Tracking
- A quantilope tracking case study: Kraft Heinz
What is brand tracking?
Brand tracking research is research that is designed to track a brand’s performance in the market over time from consumers’ perspective. Brand tracking is achieved through the consistent monitoring of quantitative data to identify shifts in consumer sentiment over a dedicated period of time. For example, think of a retailer that wants to see how a new line of hair care products is performing after its product launch - and if/how the new product affects key brand health metrics. Brand health metrics are the data points brands capture in brand tracking studies - such as overall customer satisfaction, purchase frequency, brand loyalty, and more. Monitoring these key metrics related to their brand's health puts organizations in a better position to stay relevant based on changing category trends.
When compared to ad-hoc studies, brand tracking studies have the unique advantage that their insights long outlast point-in-time data. While brands can review each wave's data for a real-time pulse, it's the greater picture of that current data compared to historical benchmarks that provide actionable context - like seeing purchase intent rise after a new marketing campaign. Brands can come back to their tracking study at any time to remember how consumers reacted to certain campaigns or product launches. They can use this context to help guide new campaigns and strategies.
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Benefits of brand tracking research
Consumer behaviors, needs, and perceptions are constantly shifting - and will continue to do so. Established brands that don’t move along with changing consumer trends and industry shifts put their brand health at risk. Just the same, smaller brands that do cater to these shifting needs of consumers can grow their market share and begin to closely compete with the major players in their category.
As brands grow, they'll likely invest in new product innovations, marketing campaigns, and advertising materials. Similar to how brands might use a tracking study to refer back to old campaign metrics, brand tracking can inform brands of how their new initiatives are performing and if they're contributing to a strong ROI for the business. Brand tracking data gives brands the benefit of fundamental data points to base future business decisions around and to guide new business strategies.
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Key brand tracking research metrics to measure
When designing a brand tracker, you'll want to keep it lean and focused. Start with a key objective - maybe it's understanding brand performance relative to competitors, measuring customer loyalty, or quantifying value.
With your key business objective in mind, start with basic brand tracking metrics like brand awareness/brand recall, brand consideration, brand usage, brand satisfaction, customer loyalty, and brand associations. From there, you can start to add more specific questions that are relevant to your business objective; you might ask for more details on why customers remain loyal or what consumers think of a new product idea. Questions around detailed brand perceptions, brand purchase frequency, brand preference, brand sentiment, and brand promoter score (NPS) are a few examples that capture added details to basic brand tracking metrics.
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Brand tracking methods
Aside from key metrics, which are usually descriptive in nature, brands can also include advanced research methods in their brand tracker.
Advanced methods are what separate a basic brand tracking study from a higher-quality, highly-actionable one. Advanced methods are things like MaxDiff analysis (prioritizing long list items) or Key Driver Analysis (finding the drivers of consumer behaviors).
In brand tracking, advanced methods offer trended data beyond simple rating or ranking scales, or single/multi-select lists. Over time, brands can see if consumer influences are changing (KDA) or if consumer preferences are changing (MaxDiff). All these insights help brands create better products that are relevant to current-day consumers.
As an example, consider a shoe company that wants to track brand perception before and after a new shoe release (a high-end sports sneaker). Basic brand tracking metrics will capture trended data on awareness, consideration, and purchase of the sneaker, but the shoe brand wants to know more. They could either of the following brand tracking methods (or a combination of several - depending on the survey's LOI and complexity).
- MaxDiff: The shoe brand includes a MaxDiff analysis in its brand tracker to measure the importance of preferences in its sports shoe. They include preferences like shoe material (canvas, leather, etc.), shoe weight, and breathability to see if seasonality has an effect on shopper preferences over time.
- Key Driver Analysis: The shoe brand wants to measure what's driving consumer purchases before and after the new shoe launch to see if the desired impact of their new show was successful. Because the new shoe is a high-end sneaker built for sports, the brand wants to see if metrics like style, comfort, durability, and weight are driving purchases more/less than their existing sneaker lines.
- Single Implicit Association Test (SIAT): Let's say the shoe brand is curious about how their advertising campaign around their new sport sneaker is impacting overall brand metrics. If the brand starts its brand tracker before the new shoe is launched, it can see if associations around things like 'sporty', 'athletic', or 'tough' trend higher once the shoe campaign is live.
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How to conduct a brand tracking study
Below are the major steps involved in designing, sampling, analyzing, and reporting on a brand tracking study.
With your key metrics and advanced method selection in mind (see sections above), you'll start to design your brand tracking questionnaire.
All brand tracking studies should capture key demographic information (age, gender, region, etc.) so you can keep your sample consistent each time you run your study. Set quotas for each of these variables - either specific to your category or based on the general population, and ensure that these quotas remain consistent each wave. These demo groups are often key data points for your analysis as well.
Keep in mind that every question you include in your brand tracking study doesn't necessarily have to become a trended chart in your final report. There are some questions you might want to ask for added context, or that you might want to include for one particular wave and not the others. Once you've decided on all the questions you'd like to include, you can start to build your questionnaire with programming logic, routing instructions, screening criteria, and anything else that ensures your study runs smoothly and offers respondents a great participant experience. One way of ensuring the latter is to test-run your study using a testing link to see what the survey looks like from a participant's point of view (and to make sure you see only the relevant questions based on your logic).
Next, set up a sample panel with your target audience credentials, and monitor KPIs as respondents complete your survey. When choosing your target audience to sample for your brand tracking study, you'll want to include both current customer types and new prospective customer profiles. It's just as important to know how your current target audience is reacting to your business operations as it is to know what prospective consumers think of your brand. This is how you convert non-buyers into buyers - by understanding their hesitations, perceptions, and behaviors.
Upon launching your brand tracker (and if using a platform that offers real-time access to insights), begin to build charts that tell a story about your brand - and that will continue to tell a story over time. Ideally, brand trackers will automatically update new data each time you run a wave of your tracking study so you can quickly see where trends are significantly shifting. If you see significant changes, it's a good idea to monitor those metrics closely and decide how to best act on the insights; maybe you need to tweak an advertising campaign if brand perceptions are declining, or work with the product development team if brand consideration and usage is lower than expected.
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Brand tracking research questions
Using what we know above on key metrics and advanced methods let's walk through a few examples of good brand tracking research questions to include. These are taken from quantilope's Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Mattress Tracking study.
- Sample question 1: Thinking about the mattress category, which of these features are most important and which are least important in your purchase decision? [MaxDiff]
Using a MaxDiff to ask about feature preference informs the mattress brand of consumer trends over time (is there a rise in trend for organic mattresses, pillow tops, memory foam, adjustable beds, etc.)? This is helpful context for the mattress brand's R&D or product development team to work on new products that fit with current consumer preferences.
- Sample question 2: When was the last time you bought a mattress?
A question like this gives brands some context on when a consumer might be looking to purchase a new mattress. Say for example you see that each wave, 70% of Gen Z/Millennials are buying a new mattress (maybe because they're moving around frequently after college or moving apartments). Knowing this, they're a great audience to target with advertising. Or, let's say you notice that very few Gen X/Boomers have bought a mattress in the past 10-15 years. You can use this information to target these consumers with a campaign focused on 'replacing the old' or 'in with the new mattress'. The benefit of tracking this kind of data is to see if those advertising efforts actually worked to your desired effect (are the percentages of Boomers who recently bought a mattress rising in subsequent waves?).
- Sample question 3: For your next mattress purchase, how open would you be to buying a mattress online?
Tracking this kind of metric informs a brand of where they should be prioritizing their inventory, budget, and advertising. If 85% are open to buying a mattress online, the brand will want to invest heavily in online advertising, a user-friendly website, online chat support, and anything else that will help convert online surfers into shoppers. Over time, you might see that online purchase intent is dropping, signaling a shifted focus to the in-store experience. This metric was particularly useful during the pandemic when in-store shopping essentially ceased for months. As stores started to open back up, would mattress shoppers return or stick to online means of shopping?
- Sample question 4: Which of these mattress brands have you seen advertising for recently?
Any business investing in advertising will want to know how their campaign is performing over time. They can answer important questions like - Is it worth keeping the campaign live? Are consumers seeing our ads? Are consumers completing the CTAs? Tracking advertising metrics over time is key, as engagement and interest could significantly shift the longer an ad is live or depending on where consumers are seeing it. For example, a consumer who only commutes to work once a week might not initially see a billboard or subway ad. Without tracking this metric, the brand would have to rely on point-in-time metrics depending on who was commuting recently (or who listened to the radio recently, looked through a magazine, etc.).
Use these sample questions as a base for your own brand tracking study, and modify or customize as needed. These are intended as general ideas to get you started. For more inspiration, check out the DTC Mattress study linked above.
How frequently should you conduct brand tracking research?
After deciding on your overall brand tracking objectives, key metrics, advanced methods, and types of research questions to track, the next step is to decide how often you want to run your tracking study (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.).
Brands choose the frequency of their respective tracking studies based on what makes the most sense for their product or service - such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The frequency of your tracking study will largely depend on your product or service; a fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) like yogurt or potato chips might benefit from more frequent tracking while an automotive company or furniture company might want to track less often (as these goods aren't bought nearly as often). Tracking frequency should mirror what’s realistic to your market’s purchasing habits.
Regardless of frequency, tracking studies can be hugely advantageous to brands of any category or industry - just make sure you are consistent with it (i.e. always running a new wave in the first week of the month, mid-quarter, etc.).
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How to address challenges in brand tracking
As with any research study, you'll need to be mindful of some potential challenges that may arise with brand tracking studies if you don't prepare for them in advance.
No matter what kind of research study you're working on, you'll always need to check for potential survey biases - even qualitative!
Qualitative survey biases tend to relate to how a moderator phrases a question or the tone that they use when prompting focus group participants. Bias in quantitative research (and thus, quantitative brand tracking) can be anything from how you word a question (leading questions, unclear phrasing), to answer choices (again, leading or unclear phrasing), to the order of questions (with earlier questions influencing how respondents answer questions that follow).
With quantitative brand tracking research, make sure to have several sets of eyes review the study before it's sent to respondents. Often those workly most closely with a study will be least likely to catch biases. For more on what to look out for when creating your brand tracker, check out this blog post on 6 types of survey biases and how to avoid them.
Data quality will make or break your research study. If you have a ton of respondents but they provide illegitimate responses or poor-quality feedback, you're not basing your business decisions on true target audience perceptions. As a result, your brand health could suffer.
To ensure high-quality insights, it's best practice to check your data collection mid-wave and at the end of each wave (even if you haven't changed anything in your survey between tracking waves). Check that respondents are seeing the appropriate questions based on routing logic, and especially spend time reviewing open-ended responses to catch things like unrelated responses or gibberish answers; if you ask an open-ended question about which airlines a respondent has recently traveled and they write 'French Fries' - that's not a respondent that's taking your survey seriously. You'll want to keep a list of any respondents that provide this kind of feedback and 'clean' them out of your survey by removing their participant IDs from your final data set.
When working with a sample provider, most pride themselves on high-quality participants and if you're not getting what you agreed upon, you won't be charged for the respondents you end up needing to clean out. That being said, always discuss sample quality expectations with your sample provider upfront and agree on metrics like incidence rate and cost per interview. Read more on data/sample quality here.
One of the most important factors of brand tracking research is a consistent cadence for each wave. If you run your survey quarterly but are capturing data at the beginning of the first quarter, the end of the second, and again at the beginning of the third quarter - that's not true quarterly tracking and could impact your results. This is because consumers are constantly changing, so you need to keep some level of consistency in your research in order to make fair claims about trended metrics.
Keep yourself on track by setting incremental reminders on your calendar, putting new wave launch dates on a shared team calendar, or any other form of reminder that will keep your brand tracking running in consistent intervals. To the same effect, you'll always want to keep a consistent fielding window (i.e. if one wave closes fieldwork in one week, aim for the same timeframe in each wave that follows).
With brand tracking, it can be easy to think of more and more questions you'd like to ask your audience - especially when setting it up initially for fear that you won't be able to add to the tracker in the future; this is a misconception about traditional tracking. While it's of course important to keep metrics consistent for fair trend comparison, it's not necessarily true that you can never add or remove tracking questions later on.
If you find a metric isn't providing value, you should absolutely swap it out for one that does or remove it overall. Even though you won't have historic data from waves previously run, you'll be able to start tracking it for future comparison. Keep this in mind when creating your survey. Keep it at short and lean as possible so that your respondents don't get tired of answering questions and either quit the survey altogether or speed through it providing illegitimate answers just to wrap it up - these situations describe what's known as survey fatigue and it could severely impact your final data set if you don't account for it.
Your final data is only as helpful as it is easily understood. If your stakeholders receive a 100+ report presentation with endless bar charts, they're not going to walk away with any clear actions to take.
Compare that to a live, interactive, customizable dashboard where you can show a highlight reel of the most important data points. Something like this is much more digestible for even those with no research background. Keep your charts simple, clear, and concise. Think of your final report/dashboard like a story - only include charts that are interesting (you don't need to show every possible data cut in your final dashboard). Explore more on data visualization here.
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How brand tracking helps brands make key decisions
Brand tracking sets brands up for success in a number of ways. If your research budget allows for it, don't delay in launching your brand tracking study to keep a real-time pulse on consumer trends, measure the competitive landscape, make the best use of marketing dollars, and launch successful new products.
Monitor consumer trends
Brand tracking is an essential tool for monitoring consumer behavior within target audiences. Through ongoing research and data analysis, businesses can track how consumer preferences, needs, and perceptions change over time. This helps brands adapt their marketing strategies to align with evolving consumer trends and demands, ensuring they stay relevant and engaging to their audience. Understanding consumer behavior also allows businesses to tailor their messaging and products to meet specific needs, increasing the chances of customer loyalty and advocacy.
Gain competitive intelligence
Brand tracking studies not only provide valuable context about your own brand health, it includes competitive intelligence as well. In comparing your own data to that of competitors in your category, you'll have a strong understanding of your brand's position and performance in the market, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
Tracking key metrics such as brand awareness, consideration, usage, satisfaction, and brand loyalty in comparison to competitors allows businesses to identify areas where they excel and areas that need improvement. These competitive insights can help brands craft effective strategies that differentiate themselves from others in their industry.
Optimize marketing budget
With real-time, data-driven insights directly from your target audience at periodic intervals, you're setting yourself up to make the best use of your market budget possible. By continuously monitoring consumer responses over time (to things like ad campaigns and messaging), marketers can interpret which of their efforts or approaches generate the highest impact so they can prioritize spending on those areas. Aside from the actual marketing content, brand tracking also informs brands of which channels are most effective at communicating their message - and if those channels fluctuate over time.
Launch successful new products
Brand tracking is instrumental in helping businesses successfully launch new products and services by identifying gaps in the market. By understanding consumer needs and preferences (and how they're changing over time), brands can justifiably predict which types of products or services will be successful and work with the product development team to bring them to life.
Once the product is live, brand tracking continues to provide value in the way of post-launch data - letting the brand know if the new product or service lived up to consumer expectations or if there are opportunities for adjustment. This iterative approach to product launch allows brands to minimize risks and increase the chances of success in a competitive marketplace.
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Using quantilope to conduct a brand tracking study
quantilope leverages automation for brand tracking - meaning each step of the brand tracking process from survey design, panel setup, charting, and reporting is automated so you can minimize the manual work required to capture brand tracking data. Start with an automated brand tracking questionnaire template or drag & drop your choice of questions and advanced methods into your survey from the pre-programmed, drop-down library. With one single end-to-end platform, there are no version control issues or back-and-forth emails of the survey. Simply share the URL or tag team members into comments within the survey to collaborate simultaneously.
Each quantilope study, whether run in a DIY fashion or with the help of quantilope's classically-trained research consultant team, is accessible in real time so you don't have to wait for each wave of your tracking study to complete fieldwork before diving into the results. With each new wave, new data is automatically populated into existing charts and your live dashboard. Dive into the reporting tab right within the platform to make as many data cuts with as many custom variables as you choose - no need to wait on a data processing team to generate a crosstab file for you.
In summary, quantilope's automated brand tracking is:
- Simple to set up and launch new waves
- Accessible in real time, any time
- Customizable (build from scratch or start with a template)
- Equipped with automated significance testing and data analysis
- Optimized for data visualizations in a single, shareable dashboard
- Available in 'DIY' fashion or with the help from quantilope's classically-trained research team
quantilope's Guide to Brand Tracking
quantilope supports a variety of tracking efforts - from advertising/campaign tracking, crisis tracking, customer satisfaction tracking, and of course, brand health tracking. For more on quantilope's automated approach, download the Guide to Brand Tracking below.
In this guide, brands will have a step-by-step guide on why tracking research is so important, how to efficiently design an effective brand tracking study, metrics to consider when setting a brand tracker up, and how to automate the set-up for seamless ongoing capture of consumer data.
Specifically, quantilope's Guide to Brand Tracking expands on the topics discussed in this blog in greater detail:
- The basics of brand tracking
- Why is brand tracking important?
- How to effectively design a brand tracking study
- Metrics to consider when setting up a brand tracking study
- Setting up a tracker
- Automating your brand tracker
- Brand tracking with quantilope
A quantilope tracking case study: Kraft Heinz
As a final takeaway to this Brand Tracking Guide, what better way to learn about quantilope's tracking capabilities than to explore them from a real client case?
In this Kraft Heinz case study, learn how the Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand leveraged quantilope's Consumer Intelligence Platform to track cream cheese insights for real-world strategy. In tracking cream cheese consumption and behavioral patterns, the team noticed an emerging trend in their data set around the concept of mini foods. With this in mind, they launched a Philadelphia mini cheesecakes campaign just in time for the Easter holiday - a major success.
Still eager for more on brand tracking with quantilope? Download the complete Guide to Brand Tracking below!