February 12, 2020

How to Interpret Brand Tracking Data

by Joy Corkery

**Brand tracking data can be overwhelming to analyse. Find out how to make sense of brand tracking results and use them to improve your marketing campaigns.

  1. Know your customers.

  2. Know your competition.

These are the two most vital things companies need to know in 2020. That’s why companies opt to use brand tracking software. The wealth of data that can come from such a tool is immense. It can help you:

The opportunities are endless - but this can also mean that the amount of data available is overwhelming. If you are new to brand tracking and are unsure of what your results mean, or you are curious about what insights a brand tracker can provide, we’ve outlined how you can interpret your brand tracking data, specifically brand awareness data, in a way that will help you make better marketing decisions.

Why Your Brand Awareness Levels Might Change

After pouring big wads of cash, time, and effort into your campaigns, you naturally want to see brand awareness rising with every wave of data. However, an increase may not occur every time.

Life isn’t static.

Unless you see drastic jumps, either up or down, in your brand awareness levels, don’t worry. Plus, and this is very important, no matter how good you think your brand campaigns are, it is unlikely they will be enough to increase brand awareness by 20, 30 or 40% at a time. A more realistic figure is somewhere between 3-5%. This is also a realistic number for drops in brand awareness. It’s only after experiencing a drop of 6%+ that you should start worrying.

Now that we’ve established that it’s normal for brand awareness to fluctuate over time, let’s look at some of the reasons this might happen.

Your Brand is Too New

Yup, brand marketing and growth is a long-term game. This means that if your brand is relatively new, it might not have the long-lasting effect in the minds of consumers that more established brands have. We looked at an example from the book “Building Brand Equity and Consumer Trust Through Radical Transparency Practices” by Elena Veselinova and Marija Gogova Samonikov to further explain this.

The book recalls a study that was conducted amongst blender manufacturers in the 1990s. Respondents were asked to provide a list of all the blender manufacturers they could think of. General Electric took second place, despite not having manufactured blenders for the past 20 years.

A similar study was conducted in 2019 where several thousand homemakers were asked to list as many household brands as they could. Many interesting insights came from this study but what is important to us here is that of the 40+ brands mentioned, 85% were older than 25 years and 36% were older than 75 years.

Spikes in brand awareness can be tied to your marketing activity. If you are running a campaign, you’ll be likely to see a lift in brand awareness during this time. However, if you are not a long-time established brand, brand awareness levels might fall again when the campaigns aren’t running. Now, we know that this can be frustrating, but remember, it takes a long time to reach the level of brand awareness that General Electric had in that study, especially if you are a new brand in an already oversaturated market full of big players.

No Loyal Audience

This point is tied up neatly in the book “Marketing Communications: Objectives; Strategy, Tactics” by John R Rossiter, Larry Percy, and Lars Bergkvist. They look at brands such as Apple or McDonald’s who many would presume already have 100% brand awareness. This may be true, but have you ever seen either of these companies run a campaign that didn’t involve their brands in some way? They do this because they keep customers who are not brand loyal in mind. And this is important for companies not as big as these.

“...especially those who are not brand loyals or favorable brand switchers, brand awareness fluctuates - individuals may fail to recall even a well-known brand or may pass by its logo or packaging without noticing it”.

We’ll go into more detail later regarding how to use brand tracking data to improve your strategy but, for now, think about this: are you always, and consistently, showcasing your brand in your campaigns?

Why It’s The Brain’s Fault

It really could be a matter of “it’s not you, it’s them”. We’ve already discussed oversaturation, the importance of how long a brand has been around, and the missing element or customer loyalty. But it may just be that your target audience’s brain has worked against you, by pushing out information about your brand to make room for something else.

Nature Neuroscience recently published a paper that backs this up. They wanted to know why - that when the brain receives new information similar to information it already has stored, it interferes with the existing knowledge. So, how a competitor campaign similar to the one you have previously ran can erase, or mess with, memories of your campaign.

So, how does this happen?

The researchers involved taught participants to associate the same word with two different pictures: a picture of Marilyn Monroe and another of a hat. They chose a target memory and got participants to recall that memory multiple times. The more this memory was recalled, the weaker the competing memory became. It could very well be that your brand is the competing memory. If your target audience sees your brand campaign in February and your competitor’s in March, when you look at your brand tracking data you could see a decline in brand awareness from February to March.

Using Brand Tracking Data to Make Better Marketing Decisions

Determine if a Campaign Was Successful

One of the most important things you can do with brand tracking data is to determine whether or not your marketing activities are hitting the spot.

Take the brand awareness levels of the general population as a baseline. It’s great if you see a general increase here - but don’t let the general population be the deciding factor of campaign performance. Instead, look to see how your target audience reacted.

A good brand campaign leaves a particular group of people, your target audience, feeling like they absolutely need your product. They need to see value in your product. These are the people who will better retain information about your brand, and the people you should focus on guiding down the brand funnel.

As your product may mean different things to different people, focusing on brand awareness in the general population won’t help you determine if what you are doing is making a positive impact. Instead, look at brand tracking data for your target audience. This is where the real insights lie.

Make Changes to Your Marketing Activities

Say, for instance, brand awareness levels for your target audience have been static for a while despite continuing to use advertising strategies that once worked. This is an indication that you need to make changes to your marketing activities.

You may not have to change the campaign itself. Changing promotion tactics could be enough. Take this as an example. You launched a billboard campaign a few months back to resounding success. Brand tracking data was used to determine brand awareness levels, and they have risen as a result. Happy days! You decide to extend the life-cycle of the billboard but lately, it hasn’t been having the same effect.

Advertising in the exact same place all the time will have its threshold. Eventually, it leads to more or less the same people seeing your billboard day in, day out. Brand awareness won’t increase because you have limited the number of people it can increase with. As a matter of fact, it could even have a negative impact on your brand.

Your target audience may have been impacted by your billboard the first couple of times they saw them. It was fresh in their minds and they built a level of brand awareness surrounding your brand. However, as the same people continued to see the billboard (your brand) every day, they began to find it harder to explicitly describe its features or pick out a representation of it among alternatives.

UCLA conducted a study to see if this is in fact true. They tested people’s memories on where bright, red fire extinguishers were located in an office. Despite the fire extinguishers being placed in highly visible spots, many people, even those who had been working at the office for 25 years, had trouble remembering where they were, or if they had even seen one in the office before.

The moral of the story: seeing something is not the same as noticing something.

Play around with your campaigns. Run them in different areas. This is a key strategic decision that will help you with brand awareness.

Understand Your Target Audience Better

Understanding your target audience is the key to success, even beyond building brand awareness. And what better way to figure out what makes them tick than by using brand tracking data to see how they perceive your brand.

Brand tracking data can help in many ways including:

1. Figuring out who your audience really is

This ties into the first point on using brand tracking data to see if a campaign is working. Maybe your data is telling you that your campaigns aren’t really resonating with your target audience. That’s a pity. But before you go changing every single campaign detail, check if there was a particular group who was positively impacted by your efforts.

Blabla Kids took the time to really dig down into their audience. While at first, they presumed that expecting mothers and women were their biggest audiences, they were pleasantly surprised to see that male shoppers and single women without any children have also driven revenue for them.

Play around with your data and see if you can also find new avenues for growth.

2. Helping you target your audience the right way

Combine different brand KPIs to see if you are reaching your target audience in the most effective way possible. Ultimately, the end goal of all companies is to make profit. And our branding activities have the end goal of helping us achieve this. So imagine your current strategy is to increase brand awareness in Germany and you are spending most of your brand budget here. However, a deep dive into your brand tracking data shows that brand usage is actually higher in Switzerland. Wouldn’t it make sense to spend more budget on starting more Swiss people on your customer journey as the country is proven to sell more?

Brand awareness and brand consideration is another duo to keep an eye on. Consideration is a nice reflection of whether or not your brand has influenced your target audience enough to change purchase intent. Sometimes the brand awareness level doesn’t change- but consideration will increase/decrease depending on the effectiveness in the campaign of changing purchasing behavior. Again, it might be a case of putting your budget to better use.

Brand tracking data may overwhelm you at first, but ultimately it is one of the most exciting and useful sets of data you can have. Next time you have your data in front of you, refer back to this article and determine what the numbers are really telling you about your brand performance. There is a vast amount of information within your data that can help you transform your marketing strategy into one that won’t be reckoned with.

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