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Brand tracking studies

Dino Demarchi

Interview with Dr Michael Schrackmann on the topic of brand tracking studies

Dr Michael Schrackmann is a member of the management team at intervista. Bettina Hufschmied, Marketing Manager at intervista, talks to him about, among other things, what to look for in brand tracking studies in terms of quality, what the trends are and why intervista tailors the studies to the needs of its clients.

Michael Schrackmann intervista

Brand tracking studies are an important field of research at intervista

Bettina Hufschmied: For whom and how often does intervista conduct brand tracking studies?

Dr Michael Schrackmann: Brand tracking studies are an important field of research at intervista. We probably conduct around 50 such studies per year for clients from various industries. We handle many such trackers with companies from the finance and insurance sectors, but also for health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, as well as for companies from the retail, consumer, energy, transport or telecommunications sectors. For many of these clients, we have already been collecting such time series for several years.

Typically, KPIs are collected from the marketing or branding funnel

Bettina: What KPIs are typically collected in brand tracking studies?

Michael: They are usually KPIs from the marketing or brand funnel, i.e. questions about awareness, consideration, preference, use, recommendation, loyalty and so on.

In most cases, the brand image is also measured, either classically or with our reaction time-based image measurement. These measurements are benchmarked so that our clients not only have an overview of the perception of their own brand and performance dimensions, but also that of the most important competitors and can see where there is a need for action.

Bettina: Can other dimensions also be measured?

Michael: In many of these studies, we also integrate blocks of topics that are variable in terms of time but standardised in terms of content in order to evaluate the impact of specific campaign and sponsorship measures. This allows us to compare the impact of different campaigns.

We also conduct tracking studies in which we measure customer satisfaction with regard to various dimensions over time and in comparison to the competition.

Depending on the client and the industry, however, the content and focus differ significantly. We tailor such studies for the respective client.

intervista customises every study

Bettina: Why does intervista do customised?

Michael: In our experience, clients’ needs are very different. We take this into account. Different requirements show up in the survey content as well as in the key data of the survey.

A classic example for differences in content are the brand image dimensions: In multi-client studies, one has to agree on a certain set of brand image dimensions. This is of course possible with certain, generic dimensions, but inevitably leads to compromises. Often our clients have established brand values within the company. They direct their communication measures very specifically towards them and want to closely follow the development of these concrete brand values.

The values collected in the tracker should also ideally be comparable with other studies of the client, which is why e.g. question formulations and answer scales should be chosen in the same way. The benchmarks relevant for our clients, i.e. the most important competitors, also differ.

The basic key data of the tracking can also be different

Bettina: Are there other aspects where the client’s specific needs are addressed?

Michael: As mentioned earlier, we also measure the client’s current campaigns as needed to measure their impact on various KPIs. Something like this can only be set up in a research-efficient way with a customised solution.

Bettina: How and where do the different customer needs manifest themselves?

Michael: The different needs are not only expressed in the survey content, but also in the basic key data of the tracking: In addition to the sample sizes, the target group definitions are also different depending on the customer, especially in the B2B area. But the desired frequency of the survey also varies greatly: we conduct many trackers cyclically, every month, every six months, every year or every two years. However, we also run continuous trackers with which we realise a defined number of interviews daily so that evaluations can be carried out on a weekly or sometimes even daily level.

On a technical level, too, the requirements vary depending on the client. Sometimes we import the survey data directly into internal company dashboard solutions via interfaces. Or we import the contact addresses of the survey participants from the customer’s CRM directly into our survey software in order to invite them automatically to the survey.

The most important quality aspects of brand tracking studies

Bettina: What aspects do you have to consider regarding quality in brand tracking studies?

Michael: All of the aspects discussed earlier have an impact on the quality of the data. The basis is a well-designed questionnaire. The better the questionnaire is adapted to our client’s questions and the living environment of the respective end customers, the higher the quality of the data.

Bettnai: And what else is important in terms of quality?

Michael: Another decisive factor is the high quality of the data source and the fieldwork. With our online panel, we have an excellent basis for collecting representative samples in both the B2C and B2B sectors. Especially in tracking studies, the quality and size of the panel is crucial: you should collect a constant data quality and a representative sample structure for the target groups across the survey waves, but you must not interview the same people over and over again. Otherwise you will quickly have learning effects and other distortions in the data. The more comprehensively you can implement the exclusion criteria of respondents from previous waves, the better. This requires a large panel with the highest possible response rate. The continuous studies with daily invitations require a lot of experience and expertise in fieldwork. Our fieldwork team does an excellent job here.

Last but not least, our clients appreciate the personal support and advice on the results.

KPIs do not always have to be updated daily

Bettina: Sometimes people criticise brand KPIs because they are not up-to-date, such as turnover KPIs. How do you respond to this criticism?

Michael: In my view, KPIs do not always have to be up-to-date. Depending on the strategic altitude at which you measure, KPIs are not very volatile. In order to build a good brand image, for example, strategically well thought-out values that are also lived in the company are important. The marketing activities then ideally play into precisely these values. Brand image cannot be changed significantly with a single campaign. Accordingly, such KPIs must also be measured and interpreted in the long term. Of course, there are sometimes individual events that damage the image enormously, at least in the short term. Let’s think of the VW diesel scandal, for example. But that tends to be the exception.

Bettina: But intervista also does continuous surveys?

Michael: Yes, as already explained, we are very flexible in this respect. If a client wants KPIs that are updated every week, for example, we can also do continuous surveys in order to recognise awareness effects over the course of a campaign or to bring greater topicality to brand tracking with rolling analyses. In this way, the client can see very promptly when, for example, a campaign is peaking in awareness, and he can use this data to deploy his marketing budget more efficiently.

I think it’s more important to think carefully within the company about which KPIs you want to measure at all and where they are used as metrics or targets. Less is sometimes more.

Marketing KPIs from brand tracking are often established at the top target level

Bettina: What are the current trends in brand tracking studies?

Michael: For many companies, marketing KPIs from brand tracking have become established at the top target level. Often there is also a desire to integrate survey data with behavioural or sales figures in internal company dashboards.

In general, there is also a growing need to analyse correlations between different KPIs and metrics and not simply look at them in isolation – so it can also make sense to integrate temporary campaign measurements into brand tracking. With our methodological expertise, we can offer clients great added value in identifying relevant drivers: What pays off how strongly on awareness, consideration or image?

In recent years, there has also been a steady increase in demand for implicit, or response time-based, measurement methods.

Measuring spontaneous reactions with implicit measurement methods

Bettina: Can you describe the implicit methods in more detail?

Michael: Instead of classic matrix questions, which are rather tedious for the respondents to complete, we record spontaneous reactions of the consumers in brand research. The respondents decide very quickly whether a certain attribute (e.g. a brand value like “modern”) fits a certain target (e.g. company X). We analyse the responses and reaction times with a standardised algorithm that takes into account interindividual and dimension-specific differences in reaction times.

Bettina: Where are implicit measurement methods used?

Michael: We can use them to quickly and efficiently capture the intuitively perceived strengths and weaknesses of different brands in the benchmark. There are also other possible uses, such as measuring the intuitively perceived fit of certain marketing materials with the respective company. Or we can capture which company is intuitively most strongly associated with a certain theme. The resulting data are interval scaled and can easily be used for multivariate analyses, e.g. to identify importance.

Bettina: Thank you very much for the interesting interview!

Michael Schrackmann intervista
Michael Schrackmann
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