You spend months planning, consulting, strategizing, and carefully allocating your budget until finally, you and your team execute a brand marketing campaign that you believe will help you reach your brand objectives.
Come next quarter, you discover that your brand is performing much the same, or worse than before! You realize your messaging didn’t have its intended effect. You’ve reached the wrong audience — or offended the right one — creating undesired associations and negative sentiment for your brand.
There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing your time and resources went to waste on brand marketing that didn’t achieve your goals. Or perhaps there is — having to explain to your boss just what went wrong!
Thankfully, there are ways to test how your brand marketing will perform. In this article, we take a look at some of these options to help you understand which might be best for you and your brand and stop you from throwing money away on brand marketing that doesn’t work.
Why Test Your Brand Marketing?
Marketing budgets have hit a low recently, with the average having fallen from 11.6% to 6.4% of total revenue in 2021. Therefore, marketing and brand managers need to be more scrupulous than ever when it comes to allocating their budget, ensuring every cent spent has a good chance at delivering results.
A brand marketing campaign that doesn’t perform could mean significant marketing spend is wasted. Even worse, if it damages your brand’s existing performance, you’re faced with decisions about how to recover, further chewing into a shrinking budget.
Likewise, by testing brand marketing campaigns, you can avoid wasting team resources on ineffective or misguided efforts. Time is as valuable as money!
One of the most important things testing allows you to do, but not often the most considered, is that it provides the opportunity to optimize your brand marketing specifically to your target audience. Doing so can help you reduce the risk and impact of getting it wrong.
Testing also provides you with opportunities to learn more about your audience. You can never know the profiles too well. By testing how they perceive your campaign, there’s always a chance to gain new insights into how a particular segment views the world around them.
Ready to get testing? Almost. Before looking at how to test brand marketing, let’s look at what successful brand marketing might look like to your company.
What Should You Measure?
Unlike some other marketing activities, brand marketing doesn’t always have clear and obvious performance indicators. So, what should you be paying attention to?
Brand marketing is focused on building and maintaining brand awareness, recognition, reputation, trust, and visibility. Some common brand performance metrics that give an indication of how your brand is performing include:
Brand Awareness: Can people recall your brand with or without a prompt?
Brand Consideration and Preference: How many people consider your brand or prefer it over others.
Brand Associations and Sentiment: How do people feel about your brand? When people think of your brand, what qualities or characteristics come to mind?
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): What is the total amount of money a customer is expected to spend on your products or brand during their lifetime?
Remember, this is just a taster of what you can test/measure. Your specific brand marketing goals will be unique to your company, your audiences, and your branding objectives.
For example, brand marketing for a new product or brand will likely be focused on building awareness, while a rebrand might be aimed more at influencing a change in sentiment. Naturally, your brand marketing strategy will be designed to achieve these specific goals.
Therefore, when testing a brand campaign, you’ll want to test for the metrics that are the most relevant indicators to your objectives. But how do we get that information before signing off on a campaign and sending it out into the world?
How To Test Your Brand Marketing
Hindsight is a wonderful thing! It’s much easier to assess how a brand marketing campaign is performing once it has been fully executed and out in the world for a period of time, than it is to predict and anticipate how it will perform before it’s been launched.
Surveys and focus groups can be great methods for testing how a particular campaign might impact an audience prior to its launch. A/B testing and advanced brand tracking allow you to test a live campaign and optimize it before investing more into it.
Read about the different ways of testing below to determine which works best for your brand.
Online surveys are one of the most inexpensive ways to gain insights from your target demographic about how they feel about your brand and competitors. In fact, almost 80% of growth organizations use surveys to collect customer experience data.
You can reach out to existing customers or other people in your demographic to ask what they think of specific brand campaign elements, testing how well it resonates and whether or not it creates the desired effect.
A basic survey is quick to set up and easy and affordable to distribute to large numbers of respondents than other options, quickly delivering insights and trends about how people think and feel about a certain aspect of your brand marketing campaign.
Surveys can include open-ended questions, which help to garner deeper insights, or predefined questions such as multiple-choice, rating scales, ranking questions, or Likert scale questions. Online surveys allow you to gather data from anywhere in the world, no matter how remote widespread your target audiences might be.
It’s important to be aware of the risk of generating inaccurate data by using confusing or misleading questions or failing to provide the answer choices that reflect the way the survey respondent feels. Make your survey too long and respondents may experience survey fatigue, which could lead to response bias, skipped questions, or higher drop-off rates, giving you incomplete data.
It can also be difficult to reach enough qualified respondents to build a sample size big enough to give a realistic representation of your audience segments.
Hubspot and Delighted are examples of survey software that allows you to create and customize questions, as well as gather and report response data. Depending on your needs, survey software plans range from around $35 up to around $500 USD per month.
Focus Groups and Interviews
Gathering people together to discuss ideas and gather feedback is still a solid way to dive deeper into a topic. Focus groups can help you collect qualitative data about how your brand marketing ideas will be perceived and what sort of impact they’ll have on your target audience.
Unlike surveys, the interactive nature of focus groups and interviews allow you to probe deeper into the responses given, delving into aspects of your brand campaign that you hadn’t considered before.
If, for example, you’re developing a new brand logo, you can present different designs to a focus group of relevant people and ask which ones are more attractive and why. The personal interaction of focus groups and one-on-one interviews allows you to observe reactions and responses as well as listening to what’s explicitly said.
Allowing participants to answer questions in their own words offers more complex information than what a multiple choice or written survey might.
If, in the logo example, participants found most of the designs to be unappealing, you may uncover through further, unplanned questioning that your audience is particularly resistant to change, or that there are some very strong and specific feelings held around your old logo.
You then have the opportunity to assess the risk of alienating your audience with the change, or whether you’ll need to focus your campaign on nurturing audiences in order to foster acceptance. You may even find that there’s a new segment or opportunity in learning about the legacy of the brand in consumers’ minds.
You may choose to run focus groups or interviews via an agency, with professional moderators, or run one yourself to attempt to save some costs. Focus groups can cost anywhere between a few thousand to over $10,000, depending on factors such as whether you need help sourcing participants, whether you need to hire a venue, and how many attendees you need for how long.
Make sure you have an appropriate sample size (three groups of 6-10 people is a good start) and participants who represent relevant profiles to your brand, or else you’ll undertake a costly exercise without generating strong enough insights.
A/B testing is an effective method for finding out which version of a brand marketing element performs better, allowing you to refine different aspects of a campaign.
A/B testing is not only useful to test possible brand marketing campaign elements prior to a full campaign launch, but also to optimize a campaign at any point in time once a campaign is running.
To conduct an A/B test, you run two variants of a campaign element, with one aspect changed, and collect data on performance. You can then implement the variant that achieved a better result.
For example, two different variants of the same campaign might contain all the same imagery, with different ad copy. You’ll be able to see which ad copy resonates better among various real audiences.
Most marketing software has some level of built-in A/B testing functionality that uses AI to measure and optimize your brand campaigns. You could also incorporate A/B testing in other testing methodologies like surveys and focus groups.
Advanced Brand Tracking
Emerging technologies like AI and machine learning have enabled us to gather and analyze consumer data in new ways. Advanced brand tracking helps companies track key brand KPIs across different target audience segments to determine how their campaigns are making an impact.
It can be used to gain a comprehensive picture of your brand health before, during, and after a brand marketing campaign, providing detailed, nuanced insights into brand performance.
Although brand tracking won’t allow you to test how a brand marketing campaign will perform prior to its launch, it has some other advantages. With Latana, you can build and track custom target audiences and segmentations, allowing you to track the impact your brand marketing has on niche audiences that are most important to your brand.
Thanks to AI-powered algorithms that enhance the data that’s collected, brand tracking generates accurate insights that you can confidently use to make data-driven brand marketing decisions.
By consistently tracking how consumers perceive your brand, you can easily measure and benchmark your key brand metrics over time, and continuously refine, iterate, and optimize your brand marketing strategy.
Share The Results
There’s not much point in testing if you’re not making good use of the results. Once you’ve applied what you’ve learned to the relevant aspects of your brand marketing campaign, make sure to share and allow it to inform future campaigns and other areas of your business.
If, after testing, you realize that the ad copy used in your brand awareness campaign is likely to cause confusion and dilute the brand message, don’t just change the ad copy and move on.
Share the test results with other members of the branding and marketing team, and check for any other potential issues with confusion. Is confusing language used in any other brand touchpoints? Do you need to update other elements such as landing pages, emails, or product campaigns?
Allow these insights to inform future campaigns, too. If you discovered that one particular audience segmentation tends to engage more with humor, consider how you could incorporate humor into future brand campaigns targeting that segment.
Share findings among team members who contribute to brand campaign ideation and development and may not otherwise be aware of what performs better, such as designers, copywriters, or creative agencies.
Getting accurate results is one thing, but what you do with it is just as essential. Saving and sharing test data will allow your knowledge to grow, improving brand marketing over the long term.
While surveys and focus groups can be helpful in the development and pre-launch phase of your brand marketing, A/B testing, and advanced brand tracking are essential to consistently monitor and optimize your campaign, even after it’s gone live.
Each of these methods can be helpful in testing the effectiveness of your brand marketing and gaining new insights that allow you to understand your audience and improve your message. Of course, the more time and money you can spend on testing, the more reliable your results will be.
Keep in mind that brand marketing is a long-term strategy that includes your brand in every aspect, at every touchpoint of your business. Measuring the impact of a brand campaign over a longer period of time that allows for natural peaks and falls and anomalies is essential to truly getting an understanding of whether your brand marketing is working.