May 23, 2019

Why Custom Questions Won't Help Your Brand Tracking

Blog post


Omar Benseddik

Custom questions can do more bad than good to your brand tracking strategy. Find out what to do instead to get the most out of brand tracking.

You may think that the more questions you have in a brand tracking survey, the more relevant data you will collect and the better positioned you will be. Well, that is not the case. In fact, custom questions can do more harm than good, by pushing your focus away from real goals and tasks.

Rather than asking custom questions, you should focus on a set of brand KPIs.By doing so, you will be more focused on understanding each KPI in depth and can focus on real objectives. However, the area of custom questions is not as simple as what we have just explained. As there is much more depth to custom questions for brand tracking, here are a few more reasons as to why the addition of custom questions will not help your brand.

1. Custom Questions Will Not Serve Your Purpose Over Time

Plenty of times, custom questions are included to answer a one-time question but are not worth the effort of brand tracking over time.

These custom questions may distract you from your priorities and you end up tracking vanity metrics that fall outside of your scope. When you look back at your brand progress over time, you soon discover that these custom questions don't show how your marketing activities have impacted your brand. Instead, you see individual sets of data that won’t help you grow your brand.

It is more worthwhile to focus on the 4 main brand KPIs: unaided brand awareness, aided brand awareness, brand consideration, and brand associations. With these KPIs, you can set focused goals, for example, increasing unaided brand awareness over the next 18 months.

2. Custom Questions Steer You Away From Depth

Custom questions provide an answer to your question, but do not allow in-depth brand tracking to understand what’s going on “behind the scenes”.

By focusing on a select few brand KPIs, you can leverage the power of an audience filter to understand how your brand performs with certain audiences - even niche audiences. Say you discover that brand consideration for your brand is 20% in the UK. You can go more in-depth by looking at brand consideration for women only - you find out its 25%. Wow! That’s a big change.

What about going deeper again? Keep the filter set to women but this time specify women who live in London to learn if this audience is more keen to use your brand. 40% brand consideration?! You have great insights there!

Latana brand tracking brand analytics brand funnel

By exploring multiple combinations of audiences based on data from important KPIs, you can get more actionable insights than you would from a typical custom question. In the case of the example we have given, you could decide to target women in London rather than women in general for better results.

Also, there is a chance that your custom question may be so specific that the number of responses you do collect would be insignificant. If you survey 1,000 respondents and only 20 of those respond the way you wanted for that question, the result is statistically speaking useless.

3. Custom Questions Don’t Help With Quantitative Measurements and Consistency

As a brand manager, you may be struggling with:

Quantitatively measuring your efforts

Ensuring consistency in reporting

By adding and/or removing custom questions, you will be lost in a swamp of data and might suffer from “paralysis by analysis”. This happens when you are so involved in analysis that you do not take action.

By focusing on the 4 KPIs we’ve previously mentioned only, you will be able to understand if your work is fruitful. In addition, you will also be able to report your brand tracking results with consistency over the years to come!

Say you have a current unaided brand awareness metric of 4%. You can use this number and the growth of this metric over time to set a target of 12% by the end of the year. Super! You have now set a goal and can track your progress over time. This is not often viable with custom questions.

4. Custom Questions Cause Data Saturation

If you work in marketing, you are very likely to suffer from data saturation (common for Chief Marketing Officers).

Data saturation, in this case, refers to an overload of marketing data you most likely will not take advantage of properly given the lack of structure or usage guidance.

Performance marketers are another group that has access to a wealth of data they barely use (think Google Analytics or Search Console). You as a brand manager or likewise, may suffer from the opposite problem.

In brand marketing, you may not know where to get the data from (except for good Google Analytics trick of separating branded keywords from non-branded ones).

Custom questions will only inflate this data overload and your brand will suffer. That’s why it’s better to stick to a set of metrics so as to not get lost when brand tracking.

5. Custom Questions Serve Other Purposes Than Brand Tracking

Planning to launch a new product? Looking to expand to a new geographic area? Then custom research is the go-to solution, on top of brand tracking.

While custom research questions absolutely make sense to get the proper insights needed to take the next steps in a project you are working on, they tend to be not so valuable in brand tracking.

6. Custom Questions May Drop the Survey Data Quality and Frustrate Survey Takers

Put yourself in the survey respondents’ shoes. If you have the choice between a survey with 4 questions, and another one with 40, leading you to receive the same reward, which one would you choose?

The shorter the survey, the more satisfied the survey taker is, and the more likely she or he is willing to take time to respond to all the questions properly.

Custom questions frustrate survey takers

For instance, when asked a question like “When you think of shampoo, which brands come to mind?”, instead of writing “no” or “---” as an answer to move on to the next question, they will be more likely to provide an accurate response, given that they are interacting with a short survey they know will not take long to complete.

So, in the case above, given that custom questions are not there to lengthen the survey, respondents are more likely to respond “Schwarzkopf, Head & Shoulders, TRESemmé” to the question above, rather than “#57*^^&k”.

7. Custom Questions May Not Give You Actionable Insights

Most custom questions requests do provide information, but it is unlikely to take action for your brand based on this information.

If you choose to leave out custom questions, you will benefit from having a focused set of KPIs that will lead the direction of your brand strategy. For example, if you see that your competitor has double your result in terms of trustworthiness, you set increasing trustworthiness as a goal and implement a tactic that will help you catch up.

For example, if 40% of senior-age people see you as trustworthy, compared to your competitor’s staggering 80%, you can set an objective to reach that level by working on your brand’s interaction with senior-age people.

A custom question would not help you set up such actionable moves.

8. Custom Questions May Be Interpreted in a Certain Way by Survey Respondents

It is simple for a respondent to take a survey-based on the 4 KPIs above. They either know the brand or they don’t. They can either mention your brand off the top of their head or they can’t. They either consider using your brand or they don’t.

Survey respondents appreciate direct questions as they have time to waste interpreting the meaning, which can often cause them to respond with perplexity.

Often custom questions can be difficult to understand in that they can be interpreted differently. Therefore, survey respondents would answer based on their understanding of the question, and that could hurt your brand strategy.

Here are some examples of how a custom question could be interpreted differently.

How secure do you feel about your current financial situation?

One person may feel secure with a thousand dollars in their current account, while another person would need fifty thousand dollars in emergency savings to feel at ease.

What do you think would be the disadvantages of a single global currency?

One should be an economics expert (or at least have a minimum knowledge) to be able to respond to this question in a way that would be beneficial to you.

A few other questions that will not add value to your brand strategy are:

Where did you first hear about [brand]?

Which, if any, of the following services, do you think the brand [brand] does?

Stick to a Set of Brand KPIs and Set the Right Objectives

We’re not saying that custom questions make no sense. They may indeed be very important for other projects, but they are not so relevant for brand tracking. By focusing on a set of KPIs, you will be able to set the right goals, report consistently and celebrate when you reach your goals. Perfect!


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