You work tirelessly to understand your customer, market, and competition so you can differentiate. Voice-of-customer (VoC) research, user research, competitor research, and insights on jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) can inform your marketing strategy.
Brand tracking is how you measure if those efforts are paying off.
Brand tracking provides both qualitative and quantitative answers to crucial questions:
- How do your customers perceive your brand?
- Are your campaigns driving conversions?
- Do consumers know who you are?
- Does your messaging at each touchpoint match customer intent?
- Is your brand part of most consumers’ consideration set?
- Have you built perceived value?
In this article, we’ll share key brand tracking metrics and methods for how to measure and optimize your success.
Key brand tracking metrics
Brand tracking measures the changes in your brand perception, and provides some insight into branding investment ROI. But branding spend (and thus tracking) can’t be measured in a vacuum.
Unlike conversion rate formulas that produce statistically significant results, the ROI of brand awareness is less obvious and quantifiable. But that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
Qualitative data is a powerful indicator of positive changes in your brand awareness and customer sentiment. To efficiently track brand awareness growth, you need to draw out both quantitative data and qualitative insights.
NPS & CSAT
NPS (Net Promoter Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) are both methods of quantifying customer sentiment and satisfaction.
Use NPS to track improvements in customer experience against baselines and competitor data, and to make predictions for future growth (NPS and loyalty are highly correlated):
CSAT asks customers to rate their satisfaction with your brand on a scale from 1 to 5.
Use this to measure customer satisfaction at each touchpoint to identify points of friction and opportunities for improvement.
For example, you could deploy CSAT surveys at various parts of the buyer’s journey (distributed across leads so as not to bombard a single customer with multiple questions). You might find that, on average, your CSAT score is lowest at the handoff point between sales and service.
This would show you exactly where your brand experience needs work.
Brand loyalty is a quantitative brand tracking measure that often relies on purchase intent data.
Supplement brand loyalty metrics with qualitative measures such as brand associations and perceived quality, as these can give you insight into why customers intend to repurchase.
For example, if a significant portion of customers intend to repurchase simply because you offer the lowest prices, give less weight to brand loyalty in the final analysis. In this case, you’ve captured customer loyalty, but perhaps not brand loyalty.
Brand usage metrics provide insights such as:
- Frequency of purchase
- How customers purchase (when and where)
- Purchase quantity/amount (how much)
- Share of wallet (percentage of spending in the sector that your brand receives)
Use this data to understand consumer behavior and to develop targeted messaging strategies.
Market share is a good measure of your brand position relative to your competitors, as it’s a zero-sum game.
Unlike metrics such as brand awareness, which can rise across the board, growth in market share means a decline for competitors.
For example, as some of the largest providers of cloud computing (Microsoft, Google) experience an increase in market share, we all see a significant decline in competitors’ share:
To give context, compare market share changes with objective measures such as changes in total industry spending and company revenue, and strategic changes.
For example, if your market share has declined, but the industry overall has grown, this can be an indicator that your competitors are doing a better job at picking up new market entrants.
Brand momentum in the marketplace
Brand momentum is a brand tracking metric that walks the line between qualitative and quantitative.
It’s possible to create a quantitative metric in order to track progress, but this will be rooted in qualitative measures, meaning it’s a useful metric for internal measurement but not to benchmark against competitors.
Brand momentum can be calculated similarly to physical momentum (mass x velocity):
Brand momentum = brand mass (your company’s size, reputation, and relevance) x brand velocity (speed of growth, agility in keeping up with industry changes).
Take Tesla. They tick all three boxes in the “brand mass” department:
- They have a strong reputation in the market (as evidenced by continuous stock price growth)
- They’re incredibly relevant (there has never been a time where renewable energy was more important)
- They’re a giant in their industry, owning more than 80% market share
Tesla’s not only able to navigate industry changes. It could be argued that they are driving these changes). This is demonstrated by an exponential speed of growth:
Brand awareness and recall
Qualtrics, a leading customer experience management company, breaks brand awareness into three categories:
Brand awareness metrics should also be broken down by segment, to understand which audiences your messaging is resonating with most, and to identify areas for improvement.
Take AirHelp, an air passenger rights advocate. Through a comprehensive brand awareness study, they discovered that their most aware segment was frequent travelers. And, that while brand awareness was increasing for their company, it was also growing for competitors, pointing to industry-wide growth:
Results such as these can be diving off points for future brand marketing, and can be interpreted in different ways, depending on your brand strategy.
For example, AirHelp might decide that since they already have strong brand awareness with the frequent traveler segment, they’ll focus branding efforts on less aware audiences. Or they might take the opposite approach, and double down on what is working.
Similarly, understanding that awareness is growing across the industry might prompt AirHelp to team up with a similar company (a non-competitor, but a relevant industry leader) to launch a dual campaign. This partnership would leverage both audiences and the rapidly growing awareness of the vertical.
Brand awareness is a measurement of whether consumers know who you are, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that they’d consider you for purchase.
Brand consideration tells you how often your brand is part of a customer’s initial consideration set, and this metric isn’t always consistent with awareness measurements.
Take BMW. Of luxury car brands, they have the highest brand awareness:
But when it comes to consideration, BMW falls into third behind Jeep and Nissan, with two-thirds the consideration of their top competitor:
The implication is that not all press is good press.
Brand awareness can be influenced by negative factors such as scandals and product recalls, and while a brand can be well-known, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a strong reputation.
Brand association tracking helps us to qualify this.
Brand association studies help you determine how customers feel about your brand.
You can use this brand tracking metric to understand terms and emotions that customers associate with your brand (such as trustworthy, sustainable, and affordable) and use them to further differentiate brand messaging.
Take reBuy, a marketplace for high-quality used electronic goods. By undertaking brand tracking studies in customer associations, reBuy discovered that their primary association was ‘price value’. They also identified a growing trend in associations with ‘sustainability’ in the younger demographic:
Before conducting this brand tracking study, reBuy had no idea that ‘sustainability’ was a brand association, and they certainly weren’t pushing this concept in any brand marketing activities.
This new learning allowed reBuy to reinvent how they were positioning their brand with younger consumers and grow that segment of their audience.
Brand perceived quality
Perceived quality gives you an understanding of the overall opinion and sentiment toward your brand.
Low perceived quality can be the reason for discrepancies between awareness and consideration metrics (such as in the BMW example).
To understand where opportunities for improvement lie in perceived quality, break this metric down into seven sub-measurements:
- Performance of the product
- Features offered
- Frequency of defects/conformity with specifications
- Reliability of the product
- Durability of the product
- Service system competence, efficiency, and convenience
- Fit and finish of the product
Brand visibility is a measure of how frequently consumers see your brand through channels such as search, social, and email.
Visibility is an upstream measure and has a positive influence on awareness (the more you’re seen, the more likely you are to be recognized).
Take Zoom. From the moment the world turned to remote work, Zoom’s name was everywhere.
They were in front of 300 million people per day at their peak, and that’s not accounting for other visibility avenues like media coverage and meme culture.
In short, their visibility skyrocketed.
And as a result, they came out on top for growth in brand recognition in 2020:
How to track your brand
You’ve got three options when it comes to brand tracking studies.
The first is to outsource everything to a third-party research firm.
This is the most affordable approach as it requires minimal resource investment. You’ll have to sacrifice flexibility, however, as you won’t have the same command over which data gets recorded and analyzed.
The second is to swing the other way and build a custom brand tracking program.
The advantage here is that you have complete control over all aspects:
- What questions are being asked
- How audiences are segmented
- Which brands are included in the study
The downside is that going the DIY route can involve more upfront investment, both in resources as well as building a system for data collection and analysis.
If you take this approach, use a brand tracking tool like Latana to leverage AI-powered insights, and to tackle aspects such as audience segmentation.
Using Latana, mobile banking brand N26 were able to identify highly-segmented groups and establish a baseline for metrics such as brand consideration and associations:
The best path forward to reap the full benefits of brand tracking is a hybrid model, which is option three.
You can use a third-party research firm to establish baselines and to handle large-scale consumer panels. And complement this data with ongoing research such as in-app surveys, social media listening, and customer retention metrics.
No matter which method you choose, follow these six steps to effectively track your brand:
1. Establish your goals and baseline metrics
Are you looking to boost your reach and generate leads? Do you plan to rebrand, and subsequently need to know what’s resonating so you can double down? Or are you concerned more with customer retention and cross-sell opportunities?
Having more than one goal is fine, but make sure to note these down and draw clear dividing lines so you can ask appropriate questions and segment answers accordingly.
Take L.L. Bean, an outdoor goods retailer, as an example. Being a 100-year-old brand, L.L. Bean had been experiencing a long period of zero revenue growth. So, they set a goal to break the cycle.
They determined that targeting customer growth in the outdoor family enthusiast segment was the most appropriate goal, tying key metrics to that objective.
This allowed L.L. Bean to segment in-store survey responses, and analyze improvements in customer experience based on designated customer categories:
With clear goals established, determine which metrics to track and establish baseline measures.
You should also establish the scope of your brand tracking measures.
Advanced brand tracking studies can include inputs from digital advertising efforts, social listening tools, and other operational data. This may be overkill for some brands, so consider starting leaner with a more focused survey—at least to establish your baseline.
Qualtrics provides a good matrix for scaling brand tracking complexity:
Following this model allows brands to start with what matters most, and access tangible insights faster without getting bogged down in technical analysis.
2. Test by target audience and target segments
Brand tracking research should be designed to help you understand how your brand resonates on the whole, but also by segment.
This is where large-scale market research firms deliver a major benefit: the ability to survey thousands of people, giving you a workable sample size to analyze within each segment.
These findings then inform your brand strategy. You may find, for example, that your messaging is resonating more powerfully with one segment than another, and thus it may be worth investing more resources into that segment.
Or, if the segment that you’re not resonating with is the one you want to grow the most, a marketing strategy that is differentiated by segment may be required. From there, you can track the impacts of subsequent marketing campaigns using your brand track.
This is just how Holvi, a digital banking service for freelancers and small business owners, approached brand building.
Knowing that their current marketing activities were falling flat, they leveraged Latana’s Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP) algorithm to track super-niche audience segments, using customer insights to fuel targeted brand campaigns.
This hyper-segmented brand tracking survey is empowering Holvi to drive brand recall and perception metrics, and better reach key stakeholders within their desired target audience.
3. Choose competitors to test against
If winning customers from the competition and growing your market share is a key goal, consider which brands you want to test against.
Recall the problem that BMW has. They rank number one for brand awareness in the luxury car segment in the U.S., but fall to third place when customers are surveyed for brand consideration.
Given that consideration and actual sales data are highly correlated in this vertical, it follows that if BMW can influence brand consideration, they can forecast a lift in future sales and possibly market share:
Recall that the best way to understand discrepancies between awareness and consideration results is to dig into qualitative findings such as brand associations.
In this case, BMW should survey and track associations for both their own brand, as well as key competitors, Jeep and Nissan, to understand what customers think about each brand and how this influences purchase decisions.
4. Pick data collection methods
There are several methods to choose from in determining how you’re going to collect brand tracking data:
- Custom consumer panels
- Generic consumer research surveys (not ideal, but you can still leverage some high-level data)
- Online sentiment analysis (such as social listening platforms)
- Survey-based brand trackers
A survey-based approach will allow you to monitor and track key brand metrics on an ongoing basis. And allow you to analyze trends over time, rather than static increases in quarterly increments (such as in consumer panel studies.)
Sample questions to use in your surveys include:
NPS & CSAT
- NPS – On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [your company] to a [friend/family member/colleague]?
- CSAT – On a scale from 1 to 5, how would you rate your experience at [your company] today?
- On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to purchase [product] form us again?
- For how long have you been buying [your product]?
- On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to switch to a competing product in the future?
- When was the last time you used [your product]?
- How often do you use [your product]?
- Do you use our products exclusively, or do you switch between brands?
- Why is that?
- What do you use [your product] for? (for more comprehensive offerings such as software packages)
- When you purchase [X product] how often do you buy [your product]?
Don’t get too complicated with these questions. Customers should be able to answer from top of mind and too much cognitive effort tends to lead to less reliable answers.
- When you think of [X product or service], what brands come to mind?”
- If they mention your brand: “What stands out to you about our brand and why?”
- If they mention another brand: “What stands out to you about [competitor brand] and why?”
- Have you heard of [your brand] before?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how familiar are you with [your brand]?
- Which of the following brands have you heard of? (list your own + competitors)
When surveying brand awareness and recognition, let customers tell you which brands they’re aware of.
Achieve this by asking open-ended questions such as:
- How likely are you to purchase from [your brand] next time you go shopping for [X product]?
- If your favorite brand in this category isn’t available, which brands are you likely to consider instead?
- Which of the following brands would you consider purchasing from in the next X months? (List your own + competitors.)
- When you think of [your brand], what feelings/words come to mind?
- On a scale from 0 to 10, how much do you trust [your brand]?
- What did we do to earn your trust?
- What can we do to keep your trust?
- What are some positive associations you have with [X brands]?
- What are some negative associations you have with [X brands]?
- How well does this statement apply to [your brand]? [Your brand] is
These should be based on the associations you’re aiming to form as a brand.
Brand perceived quality
- Based on what you know about [your brand], how well does it compare to other [category] brands?
- On a scale from 1 to 5, how would you rate the quality of [your product]?
- On a scale from 1 to 5, how would you rate the reliability of [your product]?
- How valuable is [your brand] to you?
- On a scale from 1 to 5, how likely would you be to switch to an alternative brand if it was cheaper?
- On a scale from 1 to 5, how likely would you be to switch to an alternative brand if it was more convenient to purchase?
- When was the last time you saw [your product]?
- How often do you see [your brand] on social media?
- When was the first time you heard of [your brand]?
- In the last month, how often have you heard other people talking about [your brand]?
5. Run your tests and analyze the results
Having collected all required relevant data, analyze the results to identify trends and customer perceptions. Also, compare key brand tracking metrics against the goals you’ve set.
A suitable process for data analysis would be to:
- Separate data into qualitative and quantitative results
- Compare quantitative results to goals, benchmarks, and competitors
- Use qualitative data to explain why you’re ahead of or behind your goals or competitors
- Analyze qualitative results and perform a gap analysis (i.e. what desired associations are missing from customer reports, and vice versa)
- Use these findings to inform changes to your brand strategy
Brand tracking’s main objective is to understand changes in brand perception across time.
Rather than viewing results in a vacuum, analyze trends across time to gauge the effectiveness of your branding campaigns.
Take global brand Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app. By analyzing trends in brand awareness and comparing these to brand marketing efforts across regions, they found their efforts in Germany we’re proving more fruitful than those in France and Spain:
They subsequently diverted more effort to lagging regions, which will help even the playing field.
6. Optimize and repeat
Brand tracking is best approached holistically, with brand tracking studies undertaken bi-annualy or annually.
Where other forms of marketing tests (such as A/B testing) can be done fairly rapidly, brand tracking studies require much more time to effectively analyze results, trends, and causes.
Short-term changes in brand awareness and perception are common. Mistakes, scandals and bad PR happen, and they can influence results drastically in the short term, as can positive events such as going viral.
However, these changes are not statistically significant.
Think of brand tracking like stock investment. Though short-term changes should be paid attention to, what you should really be interested in is long-term growth or decline.
These macro shifts are what fuel your investment decisions, as well as your brand marketing decisions.
You should still use data from feedback you receive daily (response to marketing initiatives, social media engagement, A/B tests on messaging, etc). But this data should be viewed from a big-picture perspective.
Set your cadence for brand tracking studies (quarterly, bi-annually, or annually) at the outset, and optimize brand marketing strategies at each interval based on progress toward goals.
Brand tracking studies are crucial for gaining an in-depth understanding of how the market views your company.
They give you some insight into whether your brand marketing efforts are paying off, and whether you’re effectively avoiding the sea of sameness.
Use data collected in brand tracking studies to draw insights into customer sentiment and brand performance. Then, leverage your findings to create effective campaigns that improve brand health and drive brand growth.