Why most brand trackers are not actually trackers at all 

Ben Leet, CEO

Brand tracking has been a key component of marketers’ analytics and reporting toolkit for a long time, and for a very good reason – knowing what your consumers think of your brand is crucial to informing both brand and advertising strategies for growth.  

But the information most marketers rely on isn’t true tracking. Far from it.  

What we know as “tracking” is a series of snapshots in time, taken at a cadence that works for internal reporting and analysis cycles, typically monthly or quarterly, rather than the external real-world views that consumers have on a daily basis. 

These snapshots (known as waves) may seem to show stable data (you may have heard “our brand health is stable”), but you cannot really tell if it is stable or if the methodology just is not responsive enough.  

 

The methodological problem with waves 

Waves are just that – a view of the world at a given point in time. But what if that point in time is not reflective of the month or quarter that it represents?  

A wide range of factors, including consumers’ mental availability and financial stability, category dynamics (currently, high inflation and supply chain availability), and of course brand activation all play a part in brand health measurement, and these factors are in constant flux. Society has come through the worst of COVID-19 but it is not fully behind us, a global recession is now looming, and there is a continuing war in Ukraine. So how can we be sure that our wave is an accurate view of the time period it represents in the data? 

The other problem with waves is that almost all surveys rely on semantic memory recall – the part of your memory that leans into your general world view rather than remembering specific events. No human can accurately remember how many TV ads they have seen in the past three months, which brands they have seen, how many drinks they have consumed. So, we estimate the number, based on our perceptions. Bigger brands naturally will be over-represented because they have latent brand equity, and smaller brands will be under-represented for the same reason.  

 

What a modern brand tracker should look like 

Modern survey technology, like our platform, Delineate Proximity®, leans on a big data approach. It delivers survey data like other real time data sources, such as social or search, built around a modern tech stack that enables surveying on a daily basis. 

By bringing a daily approach to surveying, with a modern survey design aligned to it, we tap into episodic memory recall structures, which rely on shorter time periods and our memory of specific events in our recent past. This approach addresses the challenge of semantic memory recall, producing survey data which is more closely aligned to other sources in the marketers’ toolkits.  

Daily data also balances out the bias of taking a snapshot in time. 31 daily surveys in July is a much better representation of July than a week of fieldwork at the end of the month. It can still be rolled and reported at the required cadence, with greater accuracy. But it can also be used for very short-term tactical decision making – something marketers are increasingly having to do.  

In a modern data world, it is time the market research industry put the tracking back into brand trackers.  

If you would like to know more about how Delineate is doing just that, then we would love to hear from you! 

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