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Brand tracking: becoming the voice of the customer

Hamish Asser

Brand tracking is neither new nor exciting and can sometimes even be a little pointless. It all depends on the way that you do it. If your tracking techniques are constantly evolving, then your business will keep evolving too. That’s because the way your customers think and feel about your products and services is constantly changing, so your business can’t afford to fall behind. Cue a different kind of tracking that lets you keep pace.

You need customers to believe in your products and services as well as buying them, which is why you need to put their perception of your business at the heart of your brand positioning. Savvy businesses should really want to know what customers think of them. And they should be talking to target audiences at periodic intervals to track their changing awareness, attitudes and experience. What doesn’t change, however, is human emotion.

Customer perception is implicit

Regardless of fast-paced digital or marketing innovation, people have not fundamentally changed. Human hopes, desires and feelings are intrinsic, which also makes them invaluable to brand tracking since all human behaviours are governed by emotion. If you therefore want to influence the actions and attitudes of customers, you first need to understand what underlying hopes, desires and feelings are driving their beliefs and behaviours. That’s what this is all about, becoming the voice of the customer.

If you ask someone how they feel about something, they’ll give you a rational answer. Say you ask them why they bought a house; they’ll probably tell you the location is great, or it has good parking. What they don’t say is that they’re buying the feeling the property gives them because it’s hard to put that into words. It’s implicit. Which is why you really shouldn’t ask people to articulate the emotions your brand arouses in them. Instead, it’s better find out how they’re feeling without actually asking them outright.

Blending innovation with the time-tested  

The following passive measures are just a few examples of how to capture emotional responses in the moment when someone is exposed to your brand. Implicit response tests see customers answer questions quickly, almost automatically, so there’s no time for the conscious mind to overthink the answers. Instant responses reflect instinctual feelings.

Webcams capture unconscious responses to TV campaigns. The cameras scan 49 different points on the face, picking up micro-movements. Facial coding then maps these movements against six universal human emotions, as observed by psychologist Paul Ekman in the sixties. Fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise span all cultures and tell us something of customers’ deep held feelings and beliefs about your brand.

Biometrics is a handheld device that measures emotional arousal. When someone is in a heightened emotional state, they begin to sweat and the device senses this. A great way to capture this data in real time would be, for example, when customers are watching Formula One. As they hold the device during the race, it captures peaks and troughs of excitement second by second without anyone having asked them a single question.

Making data work harder 

Having the ability to marry brand perceptions with a multitude of analytics and modelling makes tracking data work even harder. This lets you look deeper into brand perceptions to ascertain what’s working and what’s not, such as linking peaks in web traffic to advertising campaigns then overlaying results drawn from facial coding. Or matching market sales data with tracking results. This kind of statistical analysis applied to the many different measurements within brand tracking reveals how brand perceptions are manifesting in terms of actual behaviours, such as buying a product.

What’s more, don’t assume that all companies in a specific market sector are one and the same. Each business has specific needs, even if they do sell the same product as a competitor. Tracking techniques must be as bespoke as your business. It’s a bit like adding different ingredients to a plain sauce to create something altogether more exciting, or in the case of brand tracking, adding different techniques to create a tailored methodology that’s all the more effective.

Tracking perceptions across the whole competitive sector also hones research much more than focusing purely on your brand. It’s advisable to look closely at your category of product or service to understand how your offering fares against direct competitors. Say your product isn’t doing so well in a certain area of the market but someone else’s product campaign is super successful, the right tracking can report on this and inform future activity.  

Tracking for continuous evolution

Brand tracking is often positioned as a tool of retrospection, yet it must integrate seamlessly into your future planning. You can certainly use the data to understand why your customers have come to perceive your brand in a certain way, or how you’ve got to where you are in the market, but any insight gained through tracking is invaluable in moving your business forwards. Ultimately brand tracking reflects the strategy it’s trying to inform, and the more you understand and respond to customers’ perceptions of your brand proposition, the greater the agility you have to influence future perceptions and ensuing behaviours.

You see, brand tracking isn’t so old school after all, is it? In fact, when integrated into a bespoke end-to-end service, tracking becomes the pivot for your business strategy to ensure continuous evolution for growth.