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Brand Tracking to Help Agencies and Clients

Posted by Mark Doherty on Sun, Apr 30, 2006

Is your brand tracking research telling the whole story?

As agencies are being held to a higher level of accountability, many clients solely judge the success of an initiative by its immediate sales. So, when sales are down, clients quickly lay blame on the agency. Put on the defensive, agencies often point to tracking studies that show higher awareness, favorability, and intent to buy scores.

So, how do you resolve these kinds of all-too-familiar stalemates?

In our 20+ years of doing brand tracking work, two key guidelines are becoming increasingly useful to our agency partners:

1. Agree on how success will be judged and adjust the measurement

One of the biggest problems with standard brand tracking studies is that theyre not designed with the specific goals of the clients brand strategy in mind. A one size fits all research approach often doesnt provide enough detail to adequately determine a campaigns success.

Agreeing on the goals of the campaign is the first step in designing the measurement. For example, the goals for an immature brand may be to build awareness. For another brand, the goal of a campaign may be to expand its relevance to the whole target audience. Simply documenting the areas of focus prior to the campaign can help ensure that the agency and the client are on the same page.

Once the areas of focus are agreed upon, the measurement can be adjusted. Less mature brands may need more specific questions to gauge the campaigns effectiveness in initiating brand relationships (e.g., knowledge of product line), while more established brands may need to have a different measurement focus.

Because not all programs are designed with the same end in mind, it is important that your tracking research takes into account all of the ways that advertising programs can impact consumers and prioritize which ones mean more for a given campaign.

2. Incorporate measures beyond the agencys control

Good brand tracking needs to recognize that a companys operations can either support or sabotage a campaign. For example, we recently worked with a leading consumer electronics firm that was not happy with below-forecasted sales for a new product, and the agency was seen as a (if not the only) culprit.

Fortunately, our tracking research included a sample of inquirers consumers who investigated buying the product at retail stores. It turned out that many inquirers were discouraged from buying the product from retail salespeople (who, as it turned out, lacked training on the products new technology and were receiving higher commissions on competitive products). The findings showed that the campaign was extremely effective in creating awareness and interest in the product, but that interest was being choked at the purchase stage.

In the end, the agency was able to demonstrate the campaigns effectiveness and position themselves as a strategic partner by identifying the larger problem.

While it seems like a no-brainer, there are lots of brand tracking studies possibly even those you work on that dont adequately address the clients operations as a driver of brand impressions. And as a result, the agency risks unfairly taking the fall for poor sales.

So, when youre designing your brand tracking research, make sure that you recognize the goals of a program and incorporate all of the factors affecting the brand and sales. If all goes well, youll make the agency look good and keep your client happy!

To continue the discussion or learn how it might apply to you and your clients, email Mark at markd@cmbinfo.com or give us a call at (617) 350-8922.

Topics: methodology, brand health and positioning