Know your customers and know your competition. These are the two most vital aspects brands need to master in 2021.
It’s for these exact reasons that so many successful companies choose to use brand tracking — the wealth of data that can come from such a tool is immense. To start with, it can help you:
Reliably measure the impact of your campaigns
Understand how your target audience perceives your brand
Understand how your brand fares against the competition
Assess where to make changes in your brand strategy
The opportunities are numerous — but this can also mean that the amount of data available feels overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re new to brand tracking and are unsure of what your results mean — or you’re just curious about what insights a brand tracker can provide — we’ve outlined how you can interpret your brand tracking data in this article.
Specifically, we’ll look at how brand awareness data can help you make better marketing decisions. But first, let’s talk about those pesky fluctuations in brand awareness and where they might come from.
Why Your Brand Awareness Levels Might Fluctuate
After pouring buckets of money, time, and effort into your brand campaigns, naturally, you’ll want to see an increase in brand awareness with every new wave of data.
However, an increase may not occur every time — after all, brand awareness is a little bit of an art, a little bit of a science.
Plus, no matter how good you think your brand campaigns are, it’s unlikely they’ll be impactful enough to increase brand awareness by 20, 30, or 40% at a time. A more realistic figure is somewhere between 3-5%.
This is also a realistic number for drops in brand awareness. However, it’s only after experiencing a drop of 6% or more that you should start worrying. So, unless you see drastic changes up or down in your brand awareness levels, there’s no need to worry.
Now that we’ve established it’s normal for brand awareness to fluctuate over time, let’s look at three common reasons such changes might occur.
1. Your Brand is Too New
We’re sure you’ve heard it before, but brand marketing and growth is a long-term game. This means that if your brand is relatively new, it might not stick in the minds of consumers like more established brands are able to.
Let’s look at an example from the book “Building Brand Equity and Consumer Trust Through Radical Transparency Practices” by Elena Veselinova and Marija Gogova Samonikov to further explain this phenomenon.
The book recalls a study that was conducted amongst blender manufacturers in the 1990s. Respondents were asked to provide a list of all the blender manufacturers they could think of. Surprisingly, General Electric took second place — despite not having manufactured blenders for the past 20 years.
A similar study was conducted in 2019 where several thousand homemakers were asked to list as many household brands as they could. While this study produced many interesting insights, what we found fascinating is that of the 40+ brands mentioned, 85% were more than 25 years old and 36% were more than 75 years old.
The takeaway? Of course, spikes in brand awareness can be tied to your marketing activity, and if you’re running a brand campaign, you’ll likely see a lift in brand awareness during this time. However, if you’re not an established brand, your brand awareness levels might fall again when your campaigns are over.
Now, we know that this can be frustrating. But, remember: it takes a long time to reach the level of brand awareness that a brand like General Electric had in that study — especially if you’re a new brand in an already oversaturated market overflowing with big names.
2. You Don’t Yet Have a Loyal Audience
To be a super successful brand, you need a loyal, active customer base — an audience that regularly buys your products and advocates for your brand.
This point is explained perfectly in the book “Marketing Communications: Objectives, Strategy, Tactics” by John R. Rossiter, Larry Percy, and Lars Bergkvist. The authors look at big-name brands, such as Apple or McDonald’s, who many would presume already have 100% brand awareness.
While these brands may boast incredible brand awareness levels, consider the following question: Have you ever seen either of these companies run a campaign that didn’t involve their brand in some way?
Of course not, and they take this approach for a reason — to attract customers who are not loyal to their brand. This tactic is also important for smaller and newer brands. The authors explain by saying:
“...especially those who are not brand loyal or favorable brand switchers, brand awareness fluctuates - individuals may fail to recall even a well-known brand or may pass by its logo or packaging without noticing it”.
The takeaway? Ask yourself: Are you always, consistently showcasing your brand in your campaigns? If the answer is no, then you might need to make some adjustments going forward.
3. The Brain Is To Blame
You don’t hear this often, but it really could be a matter of “it’s not you, it’s them”.
We’ve already discussed oversaturation, the importance of how long a brand has been around, and the missing element of customer loyalty. But it also may just be that your target audience’s brains have been working against you — by pushing out information about your brand to make room for something else.
Nature Neuroscience recently published a paper that backs this theory up. They asked the question: when the brain receives new information similar to information it already has stored, does it interfere with the existing knowledge? So, how can a competitor campaign similar to the one you have previously run erase or mess with memories of your campaign?
To figure this out, the researchers involved taught participants to associate the same word with two different pictures: a picture of Marilyn Monroe and a picture of a hat. They then chose a target memory and had participants recall that memory multiple times.
The findings? The more one memory was recalled, the weaker the competing memory became. It could very well be that your brand is the competing memory.
If your target audience sees your brand campaign in February and your competitor’s in March, your brand may have been replaced in their mind. And when you look at your brand tracking data, you might see a decline in brand awareness from February to March.
If this is the case, there’s not too much that can be done — other than running more frequent brand campaigns.
How to Interpret Brand Tracking Data (& Inform Better Marketing Decisions)
There are many ways that brand tracking data can be interpreted to improve marketing strategies.
As a general rule, when you use reliable data to gather insights, you’re better positioned to make data-driven decisions. Below, we will discuss some specific ways that brand tracking data can be interpreted and how that can help make important marketing decisions easier.
To Determine if a Campaign Was Successful
One of the most important things you can interpret via brand tracking data is whether or not your marketing activities have been successful.
As a baseline, you can consider the brand awareness levels of the general population. While it’s great to see an overall increase here, don’t let the general population be the deciding factor of campaign performance. Instead, look to see how your target audience has responded.
A good brand campaign leaves a particular group of people, namely your target audience, feeling like they absolutely need your product. And for this to happen, they must see real value in your product. Remember, your target audience members are the ones who will better retain information about your brand — aka the ones you should guide through your brand funnel.
Additionally, you need to make sure you’re reassessing your target audience regularly — as they’re not static. In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn, they found that as of May 2020, 43% of US marketers are now targeting audiences whose needs have changed because of Covid-19.
Whether it’s global pandemics or natural changes in trends, you need to ensure that your target audience compilation adjusts to the times.
As An Example
To elucidate this point, consider the following scenario: you’re a brand manager for a mid-sized company that sells refurbished furniture, called “Refurbsy”. In an effort to increase the efficiency of your brand marketing campaigns, you’ve been using brand tracking software to evaluate your brand performance for the last few months.
In your latest wave of data, you see the following results compared to the previous wave:
Brand awareness has increased by 7.5% for the general population
Brand awareness has increased by 5.2% for your main target audience (urban-dwelling women aged 30-55 with an interest in sustainability)
Of your five tracked brand associations, “environmentally-conscious” did not change position from your second-most associated trait for the general population but, for your target audience, it jumped up to your top-most associated trait
Now, of course, there would be heaps more data to interpret, but we’re going to focus on these three points for this example.
So, what do the first two points tell us? While it’s always a good thing for overall brand awareness to increase by 7.5%, this brand manager is far more excited by the 5.2% increase in their target audience.
Why? These are the consumers they want to reach, so while it’s great that the general public has a higher awareness of the brand, the target audience matters more.
Therefore, these points can be interpreted as follows: the latest brand campaign has been successful in reaching the target audience and improving their awareness, as their results fall within a ±5% increase, which lies outside the typical margin of error of ±2% and is therefore noteworthy.
Next, let’s look at the last point. This brand manager also chose to track five important brand associations, such as whether or not consumers think they’re “environmentally conscious”. In this latest wave of data, we can see that while this brand association did not change position for the general population, it did jump to the top spot for their target audience.
Though it may not feel like a big win, we can interpret this data as follows: while the latest brand campaign wasn’t able to fully convince the general public of your brand’s environmentally conscious traits, it did connect with the target audience — which, in the end, is preferable.
Our advice? While you should pay attention to your KPIs for all audiences, you should pay special attention to your target audience.
As shown in the example above, even if some things remain static for the general population, these kinds of results for your target audience can still be interpreted to prove a brand campaign was successful and effective.
To Make Changes to Your Marketing Activities
It’s often difficult to say exactly when you need to make changes to your marketing campaigns — or what those changes need to be.
Still, the purpose of brand tracking data is to allow you to see where you’re succeeding and where you’re faltering in order to improve your overall performance.
However, to do so, you need to know how to interpret your brand tracking data. Let’s say, for example, brand awareness levels for your target audience have been static for a while — despite the continued use of advertising strategies that have proven effective in the past.
While it may be frustrating to consider, it’s a clear indication that you need to make changes to your marketing activities. Keep in mind, you may not have to change the campaign itself — changing promotion tactics could be enough.
Either way, your brand tracking data will make it clear when changes need to be made to your marketing activities.
As An Example
Let’s consider the following example: You’re the brand manager of an up-and-coming dating app called Lovelate — aimed at helping older adults find love.
You launched a billboard campaign a few months back to resounding success. Brand tracking data was used to determine brand awareness levels, and, as a result, they had risen within your target audience. Happy days!
Based on this data, you decided to extend the life cycle of the billboard. However, over the last few weeks, your brand tracking data has shown that it hasn’t been having the same effect — brand awareness levels for both the general population and your target audiences have remained static, leading you to believe something isn’t working.
The issue your brand tracking data has revealed? Continuous advertizement in the same place will, unfortunately, eventually reach its threshold. With more or less the same people seeing your billboard day in and day out, brand awareness can’t increase exponentially because there are a limited number of people it can reach.
Think about it — your target audience may have noticed and liked your billboard the first couple of times they saw it. It was fresh in their minds and helped build a level of awareness surrounding your brand.
However, as the same people continue to see the same billboard every day, they began to find it harder to explicitly describe its features or pick out a representation of it among alternatives. Why is this?
Well, UCLA conducted a study to explore this issue. They tested people’s memories of where bright, red fire extinguishers were located in an office. Despite the fire extinguishers being placed in highly visible spots, many people — even those who had been working at the office for over 25 years — had trouble remembering where they were or if they had even seen one in the office before.
The moral of the story: seeing something is not the same as noticing something.
Our advice? Listen to your brand tracking data. When your numbers start to drop or plateau, play around with your campaigns — run them in different areas with different mediums. This key, strategic decision will help you with brand awareness, as your ads will retain a sense of freshness in consumers’ minds.
To Better Understand Your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience is the key to success — even more so than building brand awareness. And can you think of a better way to figure out what makes them tick than using brand tracking data to interpret how they perceive your brand? We can’t.
First off — by interpreting your brand tracking data correctly, you can discover new audiences.
Consider homemade toy company Blabla Kids. Recently, they took the time to really dig deep into their audience. At first, they presumed that expectant mothers and women were their strongest audiences.
However, they were pleasantly surprised to find that male shoppers and single women without any children have also driven revenue for them. If they hadn’t had brand tracking data to interpret, they never would have been able to identify this new audience.
Another way brand tracking data can help? By helping you shift focus to increase performance — after all, you may be targeting the right audience with your brand campaigns, but are you targeting them the right way?
With the data brand tracking provides, you can combine different brand KPIs to see if you’re reaching your target audience in the most effective way possible.
Additionally, you can interpret your brand tracking data to see if your brand communication is on-point. When it comes to how you target different audiences, brand awareness and brand consideration are an important duo to keep an eye on.
While brand awareness shows how many people know about your brand, consideration is a nice reflection of whether or not your brand has influenced your target audience enough to change purchase intent — essentially, if you’ve communicated with them effectively.
Sometimes, your brand awareness level doesn’t change — but brand consideration may increase or decrease depending on the effectiveness of your campaign in influencing purchasing behavior through communication.
Our advice? Make sure you examine performance for each individual audience and always be on the lookout for new audiences. And if you discover discrepancies in how each audience received your campaign, come up with a plan to more effectively communicate next time.
As An Example
For example, let’s say you’re the brand manager of a mid-sized athleisure brand, Athletire. With a potential rebrand on the horizon, you want to gather information on how current consumers perceive your brand to better understand your audience.
By using brand tracking software, you can gather that data for a wide range of data on brand communication, associations, individual audience performance, and more.
With this kind of data on hand to interpret, you can get a better idea how where to steer your rebrand.
Say you want to cultivate a more exclusive, high-end brand image going forward. In this case, ask yourself: are you currently targeting the right audience? Do consumers associate your current brand image with the right qualities? Do you need to change up your brand communication?
The answers to these kinds of questions will let you know whether or not some major overhaul is in store. Most importantly, interpreting your brand tracking data makes it easier to understand your target audience — what they want and need, as well as how they view your brand.
Brand tracking data may seem overwhelming at first, but, ultimately, it’s one of the most exciting and useful sets of data around.
So, next time you need to interpret your brand tracking data, refer back to this article to help determine what the numbers are really telling you about your brand performance. Are there new audiences for you to explore? Are your brand associations being translated well?
Just remember: there’s a vast amount of information within your data — and with the ability to interpret it correctly, you can transform your marketing strategy into something truly formidable.
Updated by: Cory Schröder on 20.08.21