Many companies across the globe use Brand Tracking to monitor and measure the performance of their brands over time. It’s an important tool for long-term growth plans because it helps businesses understand how their brand is evolving and where they may need to adjust to stay relevant and competitive. By tracking key performance indicators such as brand awareness, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction, businesses can identify areas of strength and weakness, whilst staying agile and responsive to market changes.
Traditionally, Brand Tracking is done using cross-sectional research. This is a a type of observational study that collects data from a sample of individuals at a specific point in time, to examine relationships between the variables. However, here at Nepa we do things differently. We believe that continuous research is far superior in several ways.
A continuous approach to research drastically expands the usefulness of data, compared to a traditional cross-sectional dip or an ad-hoc approach. Our aim is always to integrate with business results outside of what can be included into a questionnaire, and to do that we need a common denominator to be able connect the model universe in the data set to the real universe outside it. The most versatile and powerful common denominator is time.
Changes in data collected over time in a persistent way is always more reliable than the levels themselves at any given time. Data collected at a single point in time can be influenced by various factors such as random fluctuations and sample variability, which can make it difficult to draw reliable, actionable conclusions.
Ready-aim-fire has become ready-aim-steer. Many of the business problems we aim to solve for our clients focus on small, constant adjustments to reach a target over time, rather than one big change. Continuous does this infinitely better than ad-hocs or dips.
Brand Tracking at Nepa
We have a long history and a built in DNA of viewing the data we collect as a component in our delivery, not as the delivery. We also have a track record of guiding our customers to well thought through decisions on what data they need from us to solve their business questions, and to go beyond the questions they formulate themselves in the initial brief to us.
We have a clear take on the pros and cons of different methods and ways of collecting data and generally think one or two steps further than the average customer. On the surface, our data looks like that of our competitors’, but it’s most often not the same. The difference doesn’t show if you are looking at line-graphs or pie-charts; it starts to show when you start trying to make inferences based on the insights and connect or integrate it with other sources of data.
A prime example is our continuous collection of data in our Brand Tracking. Heraclitos said that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. What I think he meant is that there is constant change in both the environment and the agent, and that you have to adapt and continuously revise what you thought you know. That, one may think, should constitute enough of a reason to believe in continuous data collection, continuous analysis, and continuous action.
There is more to it though since a continuous approach will drastically expand the usefulness of your data. Let me elaborate on this. If you are satisfied with quarterly score cards and a temperature gauge of your brand health or brand experience, and you are confident that you can cram everything you need analyzing into the same questionnaire, you might as well do dips and save yourself some costs and some work.
However, if you aim to connect it to business results outside of what you managed to cram into the questionnaire, or if you didn’t quite manage to anticipate and fit all the factors influencing your KPI beforehand, the differences will start to show. Recent global events like the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation, Brexit, etc., has highlighted how incredibly hard it is to manage to foresee and include all relevant factors into a questionnaire before they happen. We live in a complex and eventful world and it’s not only global macro-economic factor like these that affect our brands and marketing efforts. There are a tenfold of industry or market specific circumstances that’ll have an impact on our company’s performance. Things like new competitors, changed competitor ad spending, product innovation, cross-segment merchandising, or any number of hard to predict occurrences within an industry. These are just some examples that either must be incorporated beforehand in the survey of a cross-sectional study to allow us to assess the impact or be left to guessing.
In a continuous approach this is not an issue. The beauty of continuous Brand Tracking is that we don’t need to predict the unpredictable and add specific questions to the survey beforehand. We can take it into account whenever it occurs and assess the impact of any unforeseeable event as to long as we can assign a point in time to it.
Continuous data collection, if done right, allows for a much broader and much deeper analysis, and consequently much more actionable recommendations. You can switch back and forth between respondents and time as units of analyses and connect the survey data to other sources such as Marketing Mix Models, tracking insight meetings, and campaign meta-analyses.
We have always had this approach at Nepa, and we tend to take it for granted. We have built all, or close to all, of our technical assets around this basic philosophy. Not just that they should be continuous, but that it should be possible to connect our insights to things happening outside the survey or tracker. That’s why we are best in class in continuous sampling and that’s why we are investing in continuous quality control, continuous analysis, media investment integration, data exchange protocols, “action triggers”/“notifications”, event driven processing, etc.
Our long-term commitment to continuous is what makes our trackers better than our competitor’s when trying to weave them into MMM-solutions. It’s why we can connect financial impact to brand health scores. It’s deep in our DNA and a philosophy much more than, and far beyond, a technical feature.