Brand and communications tracking is by definition a linear process where we look for whether things have changed, accelerated or declined.
It is time-sensitive, of course – what ads have been running, what the competition was doing – but by the time we know what happened, we’ve moved on. These days being timely is everything - and you could argue it was always so. So, what’s changed?
We reached out to thirty CEOs and marketers to find out their challenges in the brand tracking space. We wanted to know one thing: how could brand tracking add more value? Their responses were uniform – it was backwards-looking, the data was nearly always presented without context, and for most brands, it's too expensive.
We asked the question before COVID arrived on the scene and slowed time down for us all. But we used that period as a springboard to find solutions to the challenges because we knew that when the country started moving again there would be a will to do things differently. Marketers in New Zealand were keen to see what a Plan B might look like and the rear-view mirror was even less interesting than it had been. Time had moved on, and with this change came a new sense of what was valued and what wasn’t.
1. Turning From Rear-View To The Front Windscreen
The biggest issue with brand tracking is that it gives a weeks-old report of what happened, not insight into what brand owners should do next. That means marketers don’t get enough real-time feedback to look at truly game-changing approaches – it lacked value. Up for the challenge, we’ve made extensive use of technologies like serverless computers, Software as a Service (SaaS) survey platforms and APIs to reinvent tracking as a near-real-time tool. These tools make it possible to get updated data as every new response comes in. We’re looking at today’s insight, not yesterday’s.
Importantly, that real-time data is converted into useful, readable reporting. It means that any time marketers need answers, they know they’re looking at useful insights from data that are hours old, not months.
2. Adding Context To Information
As part of our Plan B review, we saw that brand tracking gave too narrow a snapshot, with analysis including only survey data. If something wasn’t asked in the survey, it wouldn’t be factored into the results. So, what happens if suddenly there’s, say, a global pandemic? It’s very unlikely that you’d have thought to factor that into your brand-tracking programme. That means marketers can spend disproportionate time trying to understand statistically insignificant movements, while also missing the wider picture.
That’s why we overlay brand-tracking data with category and culture insights. We do that by monitoring news in real-time for category intelligence and conversations to tap into cultural trends. Seeing these charted alongside brand-tracking data can often reveal remarkable insights that dramatically shift understanding about what’s really going on.
AI plays a big part in this. It helps give meaning to unstructured data points and determines which metrics are going to be most impactful to track. It can distinguish meaningful topic words, track sentiment and distil hundreds of thousands of data points onto snackable daily insights.
3. Developing a tracking solution for SMEs
Without brand tracking via market research, companies don’t know who uses them, how many people are aware of them, and how competitors perform. Brand tracking answers these questions, but a full brand tracking programme is out of reach for small to medium sized (SME) businesses, who must rely on ‘guess work’, despite investing heavily in brand building – they’re essentially operating blind.
By taking a page out of the SaaS playbook and leveraging tech innovations to automate previously human elements of the process, we can address these cost issues, and with our partners at Previously Unavailable, we’ve built an automated platform, Tracksuit. This delivers simple and elegant functionality efficiently and cost-effectively.
Unlike enterprise brand tracking solutions, which involve individual customised, surveys and people to analyse data and deliver insights, Tracksuit uses a single, syndicated survey, comprised of five questions, and an automated app for data delivery. This solution offers brand-tracking at a level of complexity that’s suitable for smaller brands.
This democratisation of brand tracking could have some positive knock-on effects, supporting a shift away from short-term, fast-response activities, and back towards investing in the brand. Because when you can afford to measure the progress of your brand, its value becomes quantifiable rather than just an intangible asset.
Bringing brand tracking into the future
Brand tracking has always been a big demand on the budget, and not really insightful enough to be anything but a grudge purchase – but it does not have to be that way. With automation, AI and real-time data gathered into readable, easily accessible reports, businesses no longer have to work from hindsight. Better still, the data comes with cultural and category context for a deeper understanding of the insights.
It’s a shift from looking back to looking forwards and having the insights to take timely, bold action. Welcome to the future.
This article was published in the latest issue of Frame magazine.