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Brand Tracking for the Digital-first World

Posted by Ashley Harrington

Wed, Dec 12, 2018

digital brand tracking-3

In today’s digital world, there are innumerable ways to reach your customers. It’s critical to know where, when, and how your brand is performing so you can prioritize your marketing resources and investments accordingly—where is your brand resonating most with consumers?

Traditional brand tracking gets at this somewhat with questions like, “Which of the following brands, if any, do you recall seeing an advertisement for in the last three months?” Respondents are then asked to identify the specific channels they saw (or heard) the ad—was it on TV? The radio? Social media?

But this questioning can be tricky because it relies on respondents’ ability to accurately recount their memory of an ad. However, remembering specific ads isn’t always easy—sometimes we’ve seen respondents citing television commercials for brands that don’t advertise on TV.

To avoid relying solely on respondent recollection, one solution is to leverage behavioral data to blend digital ad tracking (e.g., conversation rates, new sessions) with traditional brand tracking data (e.g., “Please recall a specific ad”).

At CMB, we take this traditional advertising question a step further by tagging and tracking the performance of a brand’s digital ads, then incorporating those insights into the overall brand tracking program.

We’re able to tag respondents as either “exposed” (saw an ad) or “control” (did not see an ad) so we know for sure if they in fact experienced an ad—even if they don’t remember it themselves. This tagging mechanism allows us to measure the lift in perceptions associated with ad exposure based on verifiable behavior versus just respondent recall.

Ultimately, this digital approach can help provide more context around:

  • How did exposure to a specific digital ad impact consumer perception or consideration?
  • Do certain digital advertising tactics impact particularly segments differently?
  • Which campaigns or messaging resonate best and lead to action?digital brand tracking example

Linking behavioral data to digital ad and traditional brand tracking can help paint a fuller picture of a brand’s marketing performance. It helps fill in some gaps between traditional digital ad tracking (e.g., clicks, sessions) and traditional brand tracking (e.g., “Which ad do you recall seeing?”) so marketers can better understand which strategies are working.

Of course, there are considerations when integrating this kind of data into your brand tracking study:

  • Not everything can be tagged. For example, certain channels don’t allow for this type of media tagging. So, marketing campaigns or strategies that rely heavily on the channels that are blocked may not be the best fit.
  • Weighting/sampling. In some cases, it’s possible that a “lift” we see among those who are exposed may be due to a difference in demographics related to targeting. Therefore, we recommend considering setting certain key qualities to equal when making comparisons.
  • It’s tough to track competitive ads, so it’s still valuable to ask those stated recall questions as they can tell us how recall fares vs. the competition.

As marketers continue to invest in digital strategies, it’s critical brand tracking programs evolve to consider these investments. By measuring digital ad exposure based on verifiable data, we're able to help marketers better understand what's working—informing smarter decision making.

Ashley Harrington is a Research Director at CMB who is hoping behavioral data will one day provide us with a clever solution to the age-old expression: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Topics: brand health and positioning, brand tracking