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Tracking Research: Why It Doesn’t Need To Be “the same old, same old” Year After Year

For those of us who have been in the market research and consumer insights world for a long time, I think we can all agree that a Brand Health tracker brings tremendous benefit to brand managers and strategists. When done right, this kind of research provides an important longitudinal view of brand performance that can serve as a guiding hand in the development and evolution of product and marketing strategies. 

By focusing on trends and patterns in consumer behavior and preferences, and the competitive landscape in which a brand plays, data from tracking research can empower brand managers to make informed business decisions and to strategically adapt their marketing strategies to drive business growth, rather than leave it to chance, going with a gut feeling, or simply implementing the same marketing plan year after year.  

Sounds reasonably intuitive and worthy of investment, right? 

But all too often when we engage with a new client we hear about how their brand tracker (if they have one at all) just isn’t working for them, that they’re not deriving any benefit, it’s just the “same old data” year after year, that it has become a big weight on the marketing team’s resources and budget with little value add to show for it. 

As we dig in and learn more we invariably find that it’s not that the tool is completely broken, it’s just that it has gotten off course for any number of reasons that range from having lost sight of the original objectives and the strategic “why” behind it all, to adding questions whose purpose is not really well-understood, to (on the opposite end of the spectrum) being afraid to change or add anything for fear of “breaking the trend”, and many others. Invariably it is fixable. What it requires is bringing a renewed focus and targeted management to the tool.

So how do we rein it back in?  Here are some ways we think about tracking research and work with clients to best manage and attain optimal value and actionability from their tracking results:

  • Involve key brand stakeholders/decision makers from the start – if they are not involved and aligned to the objectives and process early on, it can lead to at best a misinterpretation of certain data and at worst mismanagement of results in ways for which they were never intended.  
  • Define (or re-define) a clear set of objectives – if the objectives of the brand tracker aren’t well-defined, you are at risk of collecting irrelevant data and measuring what may not truly matter. Laying out strategic growth objectives and brand KPIs, and then what data is needed to inform/guide those objectives, ensures the appropriate questions are incorporated into your tracking survey.  
  • Related to this, design your survey with some version of a marketing funnel or “hierarchy of effects” in mind:

 

Thinking about and taking into account the varied factors that can impact your brand/its performance will ensure you capture relevant metrics in your survey, enable you to better understand why something may have happened, and lead to more meaningful insights when determining “now, what do we do about it”.

  • Make sure Competitive Analysis is included – Brand trackers should not only focus on your brand but how it compares to competitors. Ignoring the competitive context leads to an incomplete view of the reality of the world “out there” which in turn leads to an incomplete data set and to missed opportunities. You can’t plan and strategize if you don’t know what you’re up against.
  • While consistency is highly important in a tracker, so, too, is flexibility – obviously having a consistent set of brand-related questions that can be trended is critical. They must be kept as consistent as possible to avoid unreliable data and to ensure ease of evaluating your brand performance over time. Then, too, failing to allow for evolving strategic objectives, market dynamics or trends by not updating the questionnaire on occasion leaves you with data that may be “behind the times” and inactionable as a result. It’s important to continuously monitor trends and adjust accordingly to ensure you’re getting the most value from your tracking research .
  • Lastly, as with many things, communication is the name of the game – failure to communicate the insights and implications of the brand tracker data effectively and in a digestible format within your organization (across cross-functional teams and up to senior leadership) can limit the impact of the research and hinder long-term brand decision-making. 

Tracking research doesn’t have to be an annual mindless regurgitation of the “same old data”. Rather, if approached and managed like any other kind of foundational research, it can generate ongoing valuable insights, serve as a continual linchpin in marketers’ decision making processes, and keep them driving toward brand growth and success.

About Brookmark Research:
Brookmark is a data driven consultancy focused on developing powerful marketing strategies to fuel the growth of our clients’ businesses. We leverage primary marketing research, 1st party, 3rd party and proprietary data sources along with proprietary tools and strategy frameworks to develop, test and evaluate marketing driven strategies that deliver exponential ROI.  Whether you are an early-stage growth company or a Fortune 1000 company, we help successful companies accelerate, and stagnant companies invigorate growth.