Study after study shows that companies with strong brands consistently outperform the market. So, keeping tabs on your brand’s health is simply good business. That’s why brand tracking is so important.

Brand tracking involves measuring the multitude of factors that impact brand health and tracking those metrics over time so you can adjust your brand strategy accordingly. This data-driven approach to brand management ensures you get the most of your investment into your business’s most valuable asset.

In what follows, we’ll take a closer look at what brand tracking entails, the benefits of brand tracking, how you can develop a brand tracking platform for your brand, and exactly where you should be focusing your brand tracking efforts.

Sound good? Let’s get started.

What is Brand Tracking?

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Brand tracking is the process of monitoring brand metrics over time to measure the health of a brand.

Because brands are inherently nuanced and complex, measuring the ROI of branding has never been as straightforward as some executives would like. By providing a way to quantify the impact of your brand building initiatives on sales and conversions, brand tracking can help you draw the line between branding and your company’s bottom line.

Unlike marketing initiatives, which are typically centered on the promotion of a specific product or service and designed to get customers to act, brand building initiatives focus on reinforcing brand attributes, with the goal of fostering an emotional connection with audiences.

REI, for example, has been wildly successful with branding around attributes like exploration and adventure. Its Opt Outside campaign encouraged customers to get outside on Black Friday, rather than shop for gifts.

This type of values-driven brand building increases existing customer loyalty and garners new customers who share similar values around environmentalism and consumer consciousness. Whatever sales REI loses by closing its doors on Black Friday, it more than makes up for with savvy brand building initiatives like Opt Outside.

Using brand tracking to measure the impact of brand building initiatives like Opt Outside means you can leverage those insights for future campaigns. This makes brand tracking one of the best ways to strengthen customer loyalty, increase brand equity, and drive business growth.

What are the Benefits of Brand Tracking?

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Beyond the ability to optimize marketing campaigns, brand tracking has a number of practical benefits that ultimately translate into business growth.

Customer Understanding – One of the most important things brand tracking does is provide deeper insights into the interests and behaviors of your customers. Gleaned from qualitative and quantitative customer research, this information can help you build marketing strategies and campaigns that better connect your brand with your target audience.

Customer Loyalty and Retention – By helping to ensure your brand message is aligned with customer values and connects with audiences on an emotional level, brand tracking helps you strengthen customer loyalty and reduce the chances of losing customers to competitors.

Premium Brand Status – With customer loyalty and trust come an increase in the premium status of your brand. Premium brands are more strongly differentiated—and able to charge more than competitors for similar products and services.

New Product Excitement – When your brand building efforts are continually optimized by brand tracking, you have a more receptive, hungrier audience for new releases. Additionally, brand tracking can help R&D and engineering teams develop new products that will resonate with new or larger audiences.

How Do I Develop a Brand Tracking Platform?

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Successful brand tracking starts with developing a brand tracking platform. Your platform includes a clear strategy for your brand tracking efforts, as well as the brand health metrics you want to track. There are four essential steps to developing a brand tracking platform.

1. Define Your Brand Tracking Strategy

A solid brand tracking strategy clearly outlines the goals you’re trying to achieve with your brand tracking efforts. Common brand tracking goals include measuring brand strength over time, identifying longitudinal trends, and measuring the impact of specific marketing campaigns or other initiatives.

Also consider broader business goals when defining your brand tracking strategy. Are you looking to promote a new product or service? Increase new or recurring sales? Enhance the market’s perception of your business? Objectives like these should inform brand tracking as well.

2. Determine Brand Metrics

Because brands are complex entities, there are a number of different metrics involved in measuring brand health. Research shows that six key metrics capture the full picture of brand health: awareness, perception, usage, preference, purchase intent, and advocacy.

These six metrics roughly mirror the marketing funnel and work together to identify customers’ satisfaction, loyalty, and need for your brand.

  • Brand Awareness – The extent to which customers are familiar with the distinctive qualities of your brand. Includes both unaided awareness (recognition of a specific brand without being prompted with possible names) and aided awareness (remembrance of a specific brand from advertising, previous purchases, or word of mouth).
  • Brand Perception – How customers think and feel about your brand and which other brands they associate with it. Research into brand perception can help you identify weaknesses in your products or services as well as better understand the expectations customers have of your brand.
  • Brand Usage – A look into the behavior of customers that have purchased your products. Brand usage data include how often customers purchase your product or service and what other products or services they use. Data like these can help identify which factors lead to long-term customers.
  • Purchase Intent – Measures how likely customers are to buy your products or services. As a metric, purchase intent is distinguished from mere online engagement in the form of website visits or social media following.
  • Brand Preference – Evaluates how likely a customer is to continue purchasing your products or services. Preference is a good barometer for the overall health of your brand.
  • Brand Advocacy – The likelihood of a customer to recommend your product or service. The upshot of customer satisfaction and loyalty, brand advocacy is central in boosting your brand’s value and enhancing its perception. The best way to measure brand advocacy is with a Net Promoter Score (NPS®) framework.

3. Implement Brand Tracking Tools

Measuring each of the metrics outlined above is done with the help of a number of brand tracking tools. Each tool provides insights into one or more metrics. A comprehensive brand tracking initiative includes the implementation of multiple tools. Brand tracking tools include:

  • Surveys – Quantitative surveys offer insights into a wide variety of brand awareness data. Well-crafted surveys can provide insight into all six of the above-mentioned metrics.
  • Focus Groups – Live or virtual group settings with a moderator are exceptional ways to ask open-ended questions and receive actionable feedback about your brand tracking metrics.
  • Social Monitoring – Monitoring social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for mentions and hashtags related to your brand helps you better understand how customers are talking about your brand.
  • Sales Channel Monitoring – Monitoring comments on platforms like Amazon where your products are sold is another important way to collect data on brand tracking metrics.
  • Real-Time UX Analytics – Host a session of participants and see how they navigate your website. What do they look for first and how do they view your brand during the experience?

4. Analyze Brand Tracking Results

Analyzing the results from your brand tracking tools is a methodical process of data parsing. We recommend data analysis best practices, such as:

  • Validate – Ensure the data was gathered accurately and without bias. Make sure, for example, that respondents completed the full survey and that no errors were made in collecting the data.
  • Scrub – Check for any survey errors or incomplete answers throughout your data set and purge the bad data from the results.
  • Convert – Compile the raw data and assign values so that it is meaningful and digestible. Assess open-ended responses for salient themes, relevant connections, and overarching narratives. Use descriptive and statistical analyses to model quantitative data.
  • Assess – Finally, connect the performance of metrics to branding or business initiatives. Ask questions like, Which metrics performed best—and worst? Are certain demographic segments stronger or weaker? Did the results spike or drop based on marketing campaigns or promotions? What sort of macro trends emerge from the results?

5. Adjust Branding and Marketing Strategies

Even the best insights gleaned from brand tracking are useless until they are used to adjust your branding and marketing strategies accordingly. What you learn can help drive big marketing decisions like where and how much to invest in advertising.

Discover you have low brand awareness? Consider more paid media and strategic brand-building campaigns. Results show low NPS® scores? Consider loyalty programs or strategies to increase brand advocacy via social applications. By contrast, if the results reveal a high degree of brand awareness, you might want to double down on your efforts.

Who to Track and How Often

Brand tracking and the subsequent adjustments to branding and marketing strategies are ongoing, cyclical initiatives leading to ever-more refined and effective campaigns. The final factors in the brand tracking equation are understanding which audiences to track, and how often.

Who to Track

When it comes to who to track, there are three primary customer segments to consider:

  • Current customers: There’s a reason why your current customers are using your brand. Often, there are many reasons. Whether they’re first-time buyers or long-time brand advocates, understanding things like the reason current customers chose your brand over the competition, the extent to which they identify with your brand, and whether or not they would recommend it to family or friends are critical to optimizing your brand building efforts.
  • Former customers: Equally as important as understanding the needs and motivations of current customers is understanding the rationale behind lapsed customers. Did they have a bad experience with your product or service? Have they found a superior alternative? The answers to the questions allow you to correct for brand weaknesses and identify new opportunities for growth.
  • Potential customers: Customers who have never used your brand but fit the demographic and/or psychographic profile of current customers also represent an important segment to track. Have these customers heard about your brand? What are their perceptions? What would incentivize them to buy? These types of insights enable you to adjust your branding and marketing strategies to better appeal to new audiences.

How Often to Track

Determining how often to do brand tracking initiatives depends on what is being measured and how customer utilization or sentiment may change throughout the year.

  • Weekly or monthly tracking: Tracking on a weekly or monthly basis is most effective for measuring an advertising campaign or other timed initiative to assess the baseline before, during, and after the campaign. Frequent tracking like this measures the impact of a campaign’s effectiveness in real time to identify opportunities for adjustments and optimizations.
  • Quarterly tracking: Brand tracking on a quarterly basis is the most common frequency for small to medium-sized businesses looking to keep tabs on the impact of their brand-building efforts.
  • Annual tracking: Tracking changes in brand usage or perception can be conducted annually if usage is steady across the year. If usage tends to spike at certain times of the year like with seasonal products, quarterly or monthly tracking will likely deliver more relevant data.

The Takeaway

The market these days is more dynamic than ever. Adapting your brand strategy to ensure your brand remains relevant to the needs of your customers is crucial for continued business growth.

Brand tracking is the best way to quantify the impact of your brand building initiatives on sales and conversions. It helps you understand which brand initiatives are working and which need optimizing, so you can adjust your branding and marketing strategies accordingly.

Getting a better grasp on your brand health is one of the most effective ways to strengthen customer loyalty, get an edge on the competition, and drive business growth. And effective brand tracking is one of the best ways to get there.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.