Stockholm (HQ)

Maria Skolgata 83
Stockholm, Sweden

Blog Posts

Why your brand tracker sucks and how to fix it

July 13, 2023

View of the King's palace in Gamla stan, Stockholm

Cajsa Wiren

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Greetings brand tracking lovers! Oh, are you not one of them? Well, you’re not alone. Many companies work with some sort of brand tracking tool to help them understand how consumers perceive their brand, and how their brand strength is developing. The results are often used in brand strategy development and to steer day-to-day decision-making. However, in many organisations brand tracking data is underutilised. The results float around the organisation in general KPI-reports, but what’s causing the results is rarely discussed and few actions are taken based on the data.

Why are brand tracking tools underutilised?

When a brand tracking program is first implemented, there is often a lot of interest and engagement from the organisation. People are excited to get new insights and expand their data tool set. But after a couple of years of measurement, many organisations see a declining interest and usage of the data internally. The users may find the brand tracking stale with no new insights. Rather than exploring how the brand tracking can be further evolved, users tend to gravitate towards new, perhaps more exciting, research solutions or data sources instead.

For many established brands, brand tracking results may appear stable year after year, with very little movement in the top funnel KPIs. And when changes in the KPIs do occur, many users find it difficult to deduct why this is happening and what’s causing the changes. This can lead to a perception that the brand tracking is not actionable and that results cannot be trusted.

The two types of brand trackers

If we generalize, we can say that the brand trackers used by companies can be divided into two categories: the report card and the business tool.  

The report card type is focused on measuring the brands performance on a set number of KPIs, e.g., top-of-mind awareness or brand preference. These KPIs are reported across the organization on a regular basis, and results might be tied to compensation or bonuses for the marketing teams. These report card trackers usually have a narrow, inside-out perspective. They only measure the brand associations a company wants to stand for and the specific consumer segments that they want to reach. Report card style trackers tend to have limited usage in the organisation. The main focus is to monitor changes in brand KPIs since these are often tied to compensation, but the data provides very little guidance on how to improve the brand’s performance. Results ultimately lead to very little action.  

The business tool, on the other hand, has a wider, more market-oriented focus. They include the main brand KPIs, but the set-up aims to cover the whole competitive landscape and all types of consumers on the market, rather than the narrower focus of the report card. These types of trackers are designed to not only measure how the brand is performing on its KPIs, but also what else is happening in the market and why things are happening, allowing for more proactive actions. This generally creates more internal engagement and long-term usage of the tracking as it helps to answers more business questions.  

The business tool tracker is also more sustainable as it can withstand changes in brand strategy, market changes etcetera, without needing large updates, providing a more continuous data stream.  

How to create a business tool brand tracker

Design the brand tracking around your business challenges

One key factor for creating a business tool tracker is designing the set-up around the business challenges you would like to address and the specific dynamics of your business and market. At Nepa, we tailor our clients’ brand tracking surveys to their business needs using a modular approach. For example, a client who advertises heavily will want to use the brand tracking to monitor communication effects. In that case, Nepa’s media and ad tracking modules would be applied to provide input to media optimisation and further development of creatives. A client with a new brand in an emerging category, on the other hand, would want to understand how behaviours and attitudes are developing and would benefit from Nepa’s modules on category drivers and purchasing behaviour. By considering what the specific use cases are for your brand tracking, you will be able to design a survey that is both more actionable and more engaging for the users in the organisation.

Use relevant slicing questions

When designing a brand tracking survey, it’s easy to get caught up in the brand and market related questions. But an area that often gets too little attention are the slicing questions that enable breakdowns of the data. Examples of slicing questions could be demographics, category behaviours, shopping missions or consumption occasions. These are the questions that help you answer the why’s: why my brand preference is declining, why a competitor is gaining strength etcetera. Slicing questions help you dig deeper beyond the top level KPIs and provide you with a wider range of analysis possibilities.

These questions are also an opportunity to ensure the brand tracking can cater to a wide audience within the organisation by enabling breakdowns that are relevant for a range of different stakeholders, for example product teams, assortment, customer service etcetera. Slicing questions can easily be added or updated when needed to keep the brand tracking up to date without having to makes changes to the main brand KPIs in the questionnaire.

Apply a continuous data collection approach

Many companies collect their brand tracking data in waves, either monthly, quarterly, or yearly. While this approach provides an understanding of the brand’s performance at a given point in time, it limits the opportunities for insight and analysis of the data. A continuous sampling approach, where data is collected every day of the year, drastically expands the value of the brand tracking. You can more easily follow the effects of campaigns and marketing activities.

External factors such as seasonal fluctuations, or competitor movements, can quickly be viewed and analysed. The continuous survey data can also be combined with other time series data such as media investments, market share development or sales. Additionally, continuous data collection provides more robust results and a more reliable base for conclusions.

Brand tracking can get a bad rep for not being actionable and relevant enough for the users in the organisation. However, by truly treating your brand tracking as a business tool when designing the survey and set-up, you can drastically expand the value and actionability of the insights and keep up the interest in the data over a long period of time.  

Blog Posts

Salience vs. Differentiation: Is being famous enough for a brand to succeed or does differentiation really make the difference?

April 13, 2023

City Hall in Stockholm, Scandinavia, Sweden

Cajsa Wiren

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If you are a follower of the general marketing discourse on LinkedIn, Twitter, or in the marketing media, you’ll notice ongoing debates around supposedly opposing concepts – long-term versus short-term, traditional versus digital media, mass marketing versus targeting, etcetera. Each concept comes with its own dedicated following and active promoters swearing their view of the world is the correct one. A big, seemingly conflicting, topic that has sparked debate in recent years is the issue of salience versus differentiation.

At its core this is a discussion on the best route to brand growth. One side of the argument claims that improving salience, i.e., having a brand that people come to think of in many buying situations, is the only route. This implies that brands should only focus on making sure they are mentally and physically available to consumers in the right buying situations, and that building a differentiated brand position is a waste of time and resources. Team Differentiation, on the other hand, argues that brands need to find a meaningfully different position compared to their competitors or they will lose their relevance in the marketplace. The pendulum has been swinging back and forth on this topic over the years. Not long ago, most brands were focusing all their efforts into creating a differentiated position. However, salience has made a comeback thanks to the highly influential work of Byron Sharp and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

As entertaining as these polarised marketing debates can be, the truth is often that it’s not either/or. We need to consider both the long and the short term, traditional and digital media combined to reach the broadest audiences, etcetera. And the same goes for salience and differentiation. Both are crucial aspects of long-term brand building, but they play different roles in how they contribute to a brand’s growth.

How do Salience and Differentiation add to your brand growth?

Sharp and his colleagues have shown that salience is a key factor for growing volume and revenue via increased penetration and the activation of non-frequent buyers. But solely focusing on salience means ignoring another important benefit of having a strong brand, which is creating pricing power – i.e., that consumers are willing to pay more for your brand compared to competitors. This is where differentiation comes in. Brands that are very salient but lack differentiation against competitors are perceived as generic and can rarely justify charging a higher price for their products or services. On the other hand, a brand that is differentiated from competitors in a way that is meaningful and value adding for consumers can not only charge a price premium, but maintain it over time.

Well known examples of this strategy are Apple and Tesla. Both those companies have been successful in building a unique position as a niche brand, then grow their salience without compromising on their differentiation. This has allowed them to dramatically grow their market share over the years while keeping their price premiums intact. Then there are other brands, like Virgin and IKEA, that have built a unique brand position and then used the higher perceived value from consumers to keep a sustainable growth and expand their brands into other areas.

So, both Team Salience and Team Differentiation are right – salience grows volume and revenue, whilst differentiation builds and maintains pricing power, over time.

To ensure that investments are allocated in the right direction, brands need measurements and KPIs that capture both perspectives. Most brands measure salience in some way, either through brand funnel KPIs in a Brand Tracker or through other measurements such as share of search. A Brand Tracker usually also covers brand associations or attributes. This is an important way to keep track of consumer perceptions and the current competitive landscape. But brand associations should not serve as long-term KPIs of differentiation.

Achieving a differentiated position is a moving target – consumer needs and behaviours change, and a brand’s position needs to be adjusted to maintain differentiation over time. What sets your brand apart from competitors today may be category standard in just a couple of years. Thereby, the brand associations you choose as your main KPIs for differentiation will need to be changed and updated frequently, making them difficult to use as guidance for long-term strategy adjustments. Instead, brands should consider the end-goal of having a differentiated position and use pricing power as a KPI for differentiation.

At Nepa, we have developed a Willingness to Pay (WTP) solution that captures a brand’s pricing power. The solution uses Discrete Choice Modelling (conjoint) to simulate actual choice trade-offs and is a valid method to accurately measure and predict consumers’ willingness to pay for the different competitors in a market. It shows the incremental value that is created by a strong and differentiated brand in a simple, transparent KPI that can not only be quantified in monetary value, but also connected to market share development. Nepa’s Willingness to Pay can be added to our continuous Brand Tracking set-ups, providing brands with the KPIs they need to grow through both salience and differentiation.