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The Future of Brand Tracking: Measure Brand Performance to Drive Business Results

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Brand tracking has long been a staple of market research. Companies invest significant budgets in ongoing studies to measure brand performance metrics over time. Every few months, they would take a pulse check. That used to work when the speed of life was slower. But now, with consumer behavior and opinions changing constantly, real-time tracking and reporting to the right people is more important than ever.

Giles PalmerAs Giles Palmer, CEO of Cint, said on an episode of Research Revolutionaries, “What actually happens to brand tracking data?”

Giles’ question is fair. In some organizations, brand trackers have become an “insurance policy” – something the CMO glances at once a quarter to confirm things are steady. In those cases, the data rarely falls into everyday decision-makers’ hands or connects with other business systems, Giles said.

But that’s not how brand tracking can drive results. If done correctly, brand tracking has enormous value.

So, how do we move forward from outdated brand tracking? And what does the future look like for better brand tracking? Let’s get tracking on the topic.

Connecting the Dots

Brand trackers were intended to provide ongoing intelligence into how marketing programs influence brand performance over time. But in some companies, a disconnect formed between the research and business action. What’s the point of measuring brand performance if it’s not connected to larger business decisions and goals?

Unless that data is connected to real-time decision-making—whether through systems or empowered people—it becomes latent. Budget can even disappear when the value of brand tracking isn’t demonstrated.

Giles suggests an even more fundamental divide: “We’re not connecting to the businesses and the business drivers. Market research outputs are too hard to use. They’re not tied into operational systems and decision-making systems within organizations.”

In some companies, brand tracking has become isolated as a marketer’s domain. But that’s not the key to success, and that’s why the process of measuring brand performance and the use of technology to do that needs to be integrated.

“We get hung up on our own bullshit about methodologies rather than connecting to business drivers,” Giles said.

Bridging the Gap

So, how do we bridge the gap and measure brand performance to drive results?

Essentially, insights teams are increasingly acting as in-house data science consultancies. They develop platforms and models to synthesize research with other data sources. And they strive to package the intelligence for easy access across the organization.

Technology creates impact when combined with deep integration of insights focused on business objectives. As Giles advises: “How can we help you get better? How can we help you improve your now what? And partner on that so we understand your motivations and success drivers.”

The partnership allows researchers to uncover exactly how insights need to be packaged and channeled to influence decisions. The goal is to make market research more “operational” within an organization.

Brand trackers of the future

Trackers of the future are not what brand trackers of bygone years are. Practices that made sense during the analog age no longer work. Things move too quickly.

If you end up with data that can only be looked at over six months or longer, you ultimately make that vehicle redundant and unresponsive to the outside world.

Luckily, always-on tracking is easier than ever.

Technology allows you to pay a fair price for good quality samples, design good surveys, and speed up getting that data into the right hands or systems.

Consumer insights teams are also getting more sophisticated at connecting signals across studies and sources.

“Unilever has outcompeted competitors over the last 10 years,” said Giles. “And it was the most operationally advanced in using consumer insight data within its organization.”

But the surveys themselves also need reimagining for the digital age. Rote brand metrics may matter less than fluid intelligence on ever-evolving consumer behaviors.

Asking consumers about very recent moments that matter – when they can accurately recall details like needs and motivations – gives far richer signals for predicting behaviors.

Giles takes this a step further in envisioning more conversational formats. “There are ways to ask people questions beyond just surveys, whether it’s chatbots, interactive storytelling tools, or other methods. The industry will adopt more of these tools for better respondent experiences and insights.”

Owning the Future: Committing to Evolution and Change

Studies risk becoming obsolete for brands and researchers that are unwilling to rethink outdated tracking approaches. But for those ready to drive evolution, brand tracking of the present and future offers great potential.

“A company’s brand is insanely important – the idea that understanding it is not important is ludicrous,” Giles affirms. “Brand management and story development should be among the most important functions.”

Evolving brand tracking requires change and a thirst for innovation. As Giles says, “If I’m still here in five years, Cint will look different. We will have taken risks and tried different ways of designing surveys and connecting data.”

All in all, understanding what’s happening in the now is more important than ever. And with that, the future remains bright for researchers who measure brand performance in the now and use that information quickly and for future decisions.

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