By Franck Sarrazit, Ph.D, Principal Consultant, Qualtrics
This is the second of a two-part series on the critical importance of investing in the brand experience. First post is available here.
The global pandemic has profoundly impeded sales and revenue growth for businesses across the globe — simultaneously, senior executives in nearly all industries have been forced to grapple with budget cuts. For many, curtailing marketing efforts seems like guaranteed instant savings.
But even during a downturn, some marketing efforts should never fall by the wayside. Understanding the health of your brand — and how it’s resonating with consumers relative to other brands — is one of them.
In fact, cutting brand tracking is a bit like driving in the fog. If you only focus on the road just ahead, you may avoid ditches and potholes. But without directions and a map, you’ll ultimately end up somewhere far away from your intended destination.
Don’t slash strategic marketing programs like brand tracking. Instead, learn how to make them work best for your organization.
Marketing Budget Cut? Save the Brand Tracking Program
For some companies, cutting marketing costs is the only option for a chance at survival. But for organizations that entered the crisis in reasonably solid economic shape, downsizing marketing budgets may have seemed like the logical next step to conserve spend. However, a logical move isn’t always the right one.
For example, Procter & Gamble doubled down on marketing investments during the pandemic to maintain visibility — and it’s paid off, according to the company’s recent earnings calls.
“There is a big upside here in terms of reminding consumers of the benefits they have experienced on our brands and how they have served them and their families’ needs. That is why this is not the time to come off air,” Procter & Gamble CFO Jon Moeller said.
And empirical evidence suggests companies would likely benefit from protecting, and sometimes even increasing, marketing spend — instead of cutting it drastically during these times. What’s even more impactful for a brand to understand is how their marketing dollars are working for them.
That’s where brand tracking becomes a critical expenditure. The decision to stop or pause brand health tracking will place more emphasis on short-term performance at the expense of longer-term strategy — much like looking carefully for the potholes in the road while driving aimlessly through the fog. Instead of relying on a traditional brand tracker, look at this crisis as an opportunity to reimagine how brand tracking can help you and your organization.
In fact, brand strategy is the most vital marketing capability in 2020, according to the most recent Gartner CMO Spend Survey. And upweighting the company’s brand is probably the most important action leaders can take during a recession to ensure long-term performance.
It’s dangerous to assume things will simply return to normal post-COVID-19 as the pandemic redraws the map of consumer demand. Brand tracking programs, when done right, can support long-term brand strategy even as everything else changes.
Doing it Right: Make Brand Tracking More Intelligent and Actionable
In fairness, traditional brand tracking efforts are often set up in ways that make it difficult to determine whether advertising efforts are working the way they should. These legacy trackers rely on lagging indicators that provide a backward-looking view on performance — or worse, don’t bear any relationship with business outcomes.
But instead of completely cutting the cord on brand trackers, use the current circumstances as an opportunity to make your brand program more intelligent and focused on metrics that: anticipate change, are sensitive to marketing efforts, and tie in with real business outcomes.
This doesn’t require breaking the bank. The best way to determine how a brand competes in someone’s mind — and where it’s headed next — is a simple brand tracker that answers:
- Where is my category headed? Do you know what your consumers will want as times change — or are you trailing behind? Let your brand tracker help you anticipate developing shifts in behaviors, like new brands that are gaining momentum or category entry points that the pandemic has made more salient.
- Is my brand delivering the experiences that fit the economic environment? Your brand tracker can help you be more aware of changes in the way people consume and the expectations that socioeconomic shifts have created — as well as the messaging that fits the current consumer mindset.
- Am I (still) relevant? Unless your brand comes to mind when customers are thinking of buying, sales won’t happen. A brand tracker can help you determine whether consumers think of your brand when they have a need in your category or what new questions people ask themselves while buying — and whether you’re positioned to address them.
A new report from McKinsey and the Yale Center for Customer Insights also found that, “whereas in the past, companies might have fielded brand trackers a few times a year, it’s especially important now for companies to keep a closer eye on the evolution of consumer behavior on a weekly or monthly basis.”
Without regular insights and tracking efforts that act as a roadmap, you may be able to avoid the potholes of brand strategy, but you’ll likely get lost in the fog of the changing future. Arrive at your final destination safely by rethinking your brand tracking efforts — and making them work for you.