Our Tracking Studies
Tracking studies should:
Measure the right variables.
Tracking studies should provide information essential to identify the opportunities for growth, and should also monitor progress against growth goals. To do so, they should measure variables that are most important to future growth.
Provide a leading indicator.
Tracking studies should provide leading indicators of a brand’s health and growth prospects. Even before market share and revenue numbers reflect growth or decline, tracking studies can measure indicators such as brand image or customer satisfaction that foreshadow upcoming changes in a brand’s market position.
Track performance reliably over time.
Tracking studies should also provide a foundation to measure how brands, consumers, and markets are changing over time. To do so, they must be anchored in the key fundamentals that provide reliable measures over time. Question order and phrasing should be changed cautiously lest the measures change, but there are times when needs for new types of information drive reasonable changes in tracking studies.
The Tracking Questionnaire
A well-designed tracking questionnaire should include the following essential measurements:
- Unaided And Aided Brand Awareness. The creation and maintenance of brand awareness is one of the most fundamental (and most valuable) goals of media advertising. Advertising can be effective if it does nothing more than create brand awareness.
- Unaided and Aided Advertising Awareness. These tend to be diagnostic measures. These measures help indicate if the changes in brand awareness or market share are related to the advertising itself. For example, if brand awareness is trending up over time, and advertising awareness is trending up, then we can reasonably assume that the advertising is having positive effects. But, if brand awareness is rising while advertising awareness is declining, then one would have reason to suspect that the advertising might not be responsible for the improving brand awareness.
- Advertising Message Recall. What messages and ideas from the advertising do consumers remember? Do the remembered messages correspond to the advertising messages that the advertising was intended to communicate? Advertising message recall is measured by an open-ended question, to which respondents give unaided, spontaneous answers. This question helps determine if the intended messages are getting through to consumers. Advertising message recall also provides an indication of consumer memory distortion and learning effects over time. That is, once a commercial starts running, consumers do not remember everything in it equally. Some elements stick in the memories of consumers, and other elements fade away. Knowing the elements that have the highest memory value is of great benefit in improving future creative executions.
- Brand Image. Advertising can shape and magnify a brand image over time. This is one of the most important strategic benefits of advertising. However, if you include brand image rating questions in the tracking questionnaire, don’t expect to see any meaningful changes in a brand’s image in the short run. Typically, it takes a minimum of one to two years of consistent advertising to cause a measurable change in brand image. The full effects of brand-image shifts play out over 10- to 50-year time intervals (sufficient time to let the stubborn and the rigid of mind pass away).
- Brand Trial And Usage. Trial (ever tried) of the subject brand and major competitive brands is a useful measure to track. Usage of the subject brand and the major competitive brands (i.e., how often, what size package, etc.) allows market share estimates to be calculated and tracked over time. Moreover, both “trial” and “usage” are valuable analytic variables. The survey results can be cross-tabulated by triers versus nontriers, users versus nonusers, and light users versus heavy users. Including a measure of volumetric usage of the target brand is always important, because one of the possible effects of the advertising is an increase in frequency of brand purchase (i.e., an increase in the volume or amount of the brand consumed).
- Demographics. Key demographics such as geography, age, sex, education, and income should always be included. These variables are extremely valuable in analyzing tracking survey results and in defining the optimal target market for a brand.
The following measurements might also be considered for inclusion in an advertising tracking questionnaire. Typically, these are not must-have questions, but at times one of these optional questions can be very useful:
- Aided Advertising Message Recall. Sometimes researchers will include a list of all major copy points, and ask consumers who are aware of the advertising whether the advertising communicated each point. This can be an effective way to measure messages conveyed by the advertising. One must be careful in how this question is posed, and how it is interpreted, because consumers have a tendency to claim that they recall all aided messages—even messages not actually in the advertising itself.
- Aided Commercial Recall. Typically, a campaign consists of several commercials. By reading a brief description of each commercial to respondents, the level of recall for each commercial can be determined. This is not an exact or perfect measure, but it can provide a “first approximation” of the impact of each commercial. Once it has been confirmed that respondents have seen a specific commercial, it is then possible to ask follow-up questions, such as (a) the number of times each commercial was viewed, (b) whether respondents remembered the name of the brand advertised in each commercial, and (c) some type of simple rating of each commercial. Again, none of these are perfect measures, but each can tell us a little about the commercial’s on-air performance.
- Promotion Awareness And Usage. If promotion plays a significant role in the marketing plan, then it could be useful to track awareness of a brand’s various promotions and consumer participation in those promotions. These questions can be unaided and/or aided, and questions about competitive promotions can be included as well.
- Market Segment Characteristics. These are typically questions to identify important market segments, to refine one’s ability to analyze the tracking survey data. For example, questions about price sensitivity, cents-off coupon usage, preference for shopping at certain types of retail outlets, propensity to participate in promotions, etc. can be useful cross-tabulation variables. These questions might reveal that the advertising is doing particularly well among certain groups of consumers, but is not reaching other segments of the consumer market.
- Media Habits. These questions can be simple and few, or complicated and many. Generally, it is best to limit media questions to a few important measures, such as the amount of time the respondent spends “consuming” various types of media, or types of programming watched most often. The media questions can be analytic variables and can help refine media strategies. Since so many good syndicated sources of media data are available, it usually doesn’t “pay” to add a lot of media questions to an advertising tracking study.
- Lifestyle/Psychographics. These types of attributes or statements can allow us to analyze tracking data by lifestyle or “psychological” segments. Typically, lifestyle and/or psychographic measures are of limited value in an advertising tracking study. First, the correlation between lifestyle/psychographic market segments and marketing-relevant consumer behavior tends to be low (i.e., these measures don’t work very well). Second, time limitations on questionnaire length tend to preclude the inclusion of sufficient lifestyle/psychographic measurements to provide statistically reliable results.
Once you have decided what questions to ask in your tracking study, two critical decisions remain to be resolved: sample definition and continuous versus pulsed interviewing.
Continuous Versus Pulsed Interviewing:
Continuous interviewing offers a number of advantages over pulsed. Continuous provides a complete record of consumer measurements over time—with no gaps or missing time periods in the data. The quality of interviewing tends to be higher with continuous surveys, since the same interviewers work on the project day after day. Continuous tracking smooths out the effects of short-term disturbances such as adverse publicity, new product introductions, bad weather, etc., whereas pulsed tracking can be biased strongly if some negative event occurs just as a “wave” of interviewing is conducted. Continuous tracking is a better monitor of competitive information, since the interviewing is ongoing and not biased to the media schedule of one brand (as tends to happen in pulsed interviewing).
Continuous tracking data can be analyzed in relation to other continuous data (sales, advertising expenditures, market share, etc.), normative standards can be set, and predictive mathematical models can be derived. That is, it is possible over time to develop a model for a specific brand that explains the relationship among media expenditures, tracking variables, and market share (given sufficient time and data). Such an understanding is the Golden Fleece that marketing executives seek.
Pulsed tracking is not without some advantages. Pulsed tracking is less expensive than continuous tracking. Pulsed interviewing can be concentrated into a short time interval to provide highly precise before-after measurements for specific flights of media advertising, and the waves of interviewing can be precisely timed to coincide with media schedules.
Regardless of whether you choose continuous or pulsed interviewing, several guidelines should be followed to ensure that the tracking data is comparable from time period to time period:
- Maintain Constant Methods. The questionnaire, the sample definition, the training of interviewers, the editing, coding, and tabulation procedures must all remain constant from time period to time period. Any change in methods is very likely to cause perturbations in the survey results, and destroy the comparability of data between different time periods.
- Stay With One Research Company. Once you have found a research company with (a) financial stability and (b) good quality-control systems to do your advertising tracking, stay with that company. If you change research companies every year or two, the tracking data will not be comparable across time. Small differences in methods (i.e., interviewing training, callback policies, editing and coding conventions, etc.) from research company to research company will almost always destroy data comparability.
- Stick With Advertising Tracking. The tracking research will grow in value from year to year, as you learn more and more about the long-term effects of your advertising. You must stick with your tracking measurements year after year to fully realize the maximum strategy insights into your brand, your market, and your advertising.
Our tracking studies address topics such as:
- Brand Image: What is the image of our brand? How does that image compare with the image of competitive brands?
- Brand Performance: How does our brand perform against competitive brands? In key segments of the market, such as specific retailers, channels, or customer segments?
- Customer Demographics and Behaviors: What are key demographics and behaviors of customers in the marketplace? How is the product purchased and used? What are key demographics and behaviors of prospects, or frequent customers? Are changes in buying behavior favoring our products, or suggesting new opportunities?
- Customer Needs and Satisfaction: How are customer needs changing in the marketplace? How satisfied are customers with our brands and with competitive brands? What are the touch points where customers are most satisfied? Most dissatisfied? Where do we need to improve customer satisfaction?
- Advertising Effectiveness: What is the effectiveness of our advertising, promotions, or other types of marketing communications? What media are most effective? Does advertising drive awareness, consideration, purchase, repurchase, or other elements?
OUR BRAND TRACKING STUDIES – TAKING THE PULSE ON YOUR BRAND
Brand tracking studies allow marketers to monitor the health of the brand and provide insights into the effectiveness of marketing programs implemented by the company.
Each brand faces different issues, which often required customized tracking surveys. Nonetheless, at Relevant Insights, we always recommend our clients to include measurements of awareness, usage, brand attitudes, perceptions, and purchase intent in brand tracking studies
- Awareness: both recall and recognition measures should be collected. They are different indicators of the strength of the competition among brands in the minds of the consumers. A brand that first comes to mind in certain situations is more likely to be considered than one that is only recognized when it is prompted to the consumer.
- Usage: this can be measured through recency, frequency of usage, and total spending in the brand, and product category. These brand tracking measures, not only tell us about consumer shopping behavior and preferences, but also are indicators of market share and “share of wallet,” which is the amount of consumer spending a brand is capturing and has a direct impact on a company’s revenues and profits.
- Brand Attitudes and Perceptions: this is usually captured through questions related to brand image and associations that consumers develop as they experience the brand and are exposed to its positioning message through PR, advertising and promotional programs. Many brand associations are often beliefs about product-related attributes and benefits. However, brand associations also include non-product-related and symbolic benefits. Product and non-product associations, as well as those related to price and value are important sources of brand equity and should be part of brand tracking studies. Some brand associations are stronger than others, are more easily recalled and are enough appealing that they become an important factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a brand.
- Purchase intent: measures of likelihood to buy a brand or switch to a competitor are also indicators of brand health and should be part of brand tracking studies, but these questions should be put in context regarding specific product or brand, reason for the purchase, time, channel, price and other relevant factors to the purchase decision, so they can be predictive of actual purchase behaviour.
WHEN AND WHO TO TRACK?
When determining the frequency of data collection in brand tracking studies, we recommend clients to consider:
- Frequency of product purchase: for example durable goods with long purchase cycles can be tracked less frequently.
- Marketing activity in the product category: a category where brands are constantly launching marketing programs and promotions should be monitor more often.
- Level of competition in product category: highly competitive product categories, where new products and competitors are constantly trying to break in, should be tracked regularly.
- Stability of brand associations: brands with an established image that don’t show appreciable changes over time, can afford a less frequent brand tracking.
Brand tracking studies are often conducted with current customers, but monitoring non-users of the brand can prove to be invaluable to the development of an acquisition and market penetration strategy in search for business growth.
Our Tracking Studies procedure:
Usually in our concrete cases of tracking studies, we use tracking technology «continuous tracking», based on rotation the data (rolling).
The essence of this method are:
- Each week, certain amount of respondents polled - for example, 300.
- Questionnaires data for 4 weeks are added. In this casethe size of one month's wave sample will total 1,200 respondents.
- At the fifth week again polled 300 respondents (second month, second wave of Tracking Studies)
- The respondents' answers from the fifth week introduced into the rotary general database (which has a restrictive framework - 4 weeks or 1,200 respondents)
- Therefore, simultaneously with the introduction of the fifth week polling data, we remove polling data from the general polling database of the first week first month.
- Then, chronological sequence polling data from the sixth week (responses of 300 respondents in the second wave, the second month of the project) will replace a similar polling data from the second week of the project (first wave, first month), on the same principle, the seventh week of the survey (the second wave, second month) - will instead the third week (first wave, first month), then launched the procedure will be repeated cyclically during the whole tracking project.
- Thus, there is a continuous rotation of the sample of 1,200. Wave sample "is "rolling" along the time axis. Currently this method is one of the most popular tracking of MRP-EURASIA conducted in each of the 33 countries of the Eurasian region for the benefit of large advertisers.
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