From time to time, we all misjudge certain things. Perhaps we don’t know enough about the subject; perhaps we are too deep in our own bubble to realise that our messaging is no longer hitting home. Whatever the case, getting an independent opinion can never hurt.
Because while failures can sometimes be illuminating experiences, it’s usually better to fail on a minimised scale. A strong understanding of your customer base, and a platform where you can test ideas in front of a smaller group, gives you a hindsight-view before you’ve rolled out a national, or international campaign or product plan.
Brand tracking – aka regularly checking in with real-life consumers – should be done consistently, not just once a year. Used properly, a brand tracker can be both mind-reader and clairvoyant: it will tell you what consumers think about your brand right now; and what they will think of product updates, or marketing campaigns in the pipeline.
Don’t believe us? Just have a read of the calamities that ensue when brands aren’t in regular contact with their users…
1. Being taken by surprise by challenger brands
There’s many a cautionary tale when it comes to getting too comfortable. It can happen when you’re just starting out (according to Bloomberg, 8/10 startups fail, largely because they’re not talking to consumers and actioning the insight) or when you’re at the top of your game (remember the days of Blackberry phones and Kodak cameras?). The minute you stop listening, you leave yourself open to another company tapping in to the needs of consumers, and stealing them out from under your nose.
The lesson here is to keep a look out for any smaller brands that suddenly pop onto the radar of consumers – more and more each month. If they’re also giving them high purchase intent, NPS and positive sentiment, these are all signals that the market may be shifting in their favour.
A brand tracker helps you see all these signals early…and understand why consumers are starting to favour the challengers.
And, if you’re a small brand looking to usurp the established leader, brand tracking is a great way to work out where their weak spots are, and see where you’re gaining market share and traction.
2. Losing your once loyal, core customer segment
So you love your brand? Day in, day out, you’re there. You understand the ins and outs of your messaging—heck, you wrote it! But are your consumers seeing the same thing? Chances are, probably not.
Anyone inside an organisation will very quickly become overexposed and overeducated about a brand to be able to imagine it from a customer viewpoint. And while you might be on-board with exciting new changes, if you’re not listening to your customers, you risk evolving to a point that they no longer recognise you.
Take last year’s Great British Bake Off move to Channel 4. It was met with widespread anger and led to a drop in viewings. Love Production’s executives clearly didn’t realise quite how integral the BBC brand was to their product.
It would have been information that allowed them to plan a smoother branding transition that didn’t depart quite so starkly from the brand that was clearly working so well with consumers.
3. Not realising the gaps in your messaging
Similarly, being too-familiar with your brand can mean you’re no longer adequately explaining it to unfamiliar consumers.
Though it’s on hundreds of bags, adverts, and shop walls, a Campaign survey revealed that most people don’t understand what John Lewis’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ slogan actually means. And while it might not be a problem for maintaining customers, it could definitely harm their ability to attract new ones.
Brand tracking gives you an opportunity to see things in the terms of your future consumers – those who don’t already know the value of your brand – and ensure that the words you’re choosing aren’t too specialist for the people you want to reach.
4. Misfiring Campaigns
Adverts, whether cooked up in-house or through an agency, are all too often seen only by business insiders before they go out for general consumption. But if it misses the mark with the average consumer, it can do serious damage to your brand for years to come.
Think about last year alone… Dove put out a blatantly racist advert; McDonald’s offended children who had lost parents; and Pepsi trivialised an international human rights movement. And these are companies with colossal marketing spend. But if the right processes aren’t used, you risk tarnishing your image—Kendall Jenner or no Kendall Jenner.
A simple, painless check-in with real consumers (preferably while they were still at the drawing board phase of the ads) would have brought instant feedback that these campaigns weren’t going to work. It’s a much cheaper, preventative measure that saves a whole lot of money, fire-fighting, and reputation-loss later on.
And it’s not just in these extreme examples that brand tracking can help. With the average consumer being exposed to 10,000 brand messages a day, yours really needs to resonate for anyone to take notice. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, brand tracking can be a great (and inexpensive) way to create an advert that will get people’s attention, not for its flashiness, but for its on-point messaging.
5. Spending money on the wrong channels
It’s all well and good having swanky adverts, and it’s even better if they’re well-received by audiences. But it’s all for nothing if that audience is never going to dream of buying your product.
When Captain Morgan launched a cool, interactive branding stunt through Snapchat, they were probably hoping for a positive reaction. But since they didn’t think enough about their consumers, and about the Snapchat demographic, they just ended up advertising alcohol to minors. To add insult to injury it was pulled by the ASA, as it became a safeguarding worry.
Use a brand tracker to understand the demographic of your consumers, and then find out where they’re spending their time. It will give you a much better chance of seeing real revenue increase in response to your branding, and ensure you’re not targeting the wrong – or even inappropriate – audiences.
6. Choosing the wrong influencers
Choosing an influencer can be treacherous ground, especially without intimate knowledge of your consumer base. Who do they like? Who do they trust? In the eyes of your consumers, who will add value to your brand by association? And don’t forget this will change over time – who’s hot today won’t necessarily be the most impactful tomorrow.
Hillary Clinton’s brand took many hits during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, partly due to harmful influencers. Vocally-liberal celebrities were a regular feature on the campaign trail, from the usually-popular Beyoncé and Leonardo diCaprio, to the always-controversial Lena Dunham and Miley Cyrus.
And while they brought Clinton a lot of press, they sent the wrong message to those she wanted to reach. The use of celebrities who are absurdly privileged and have no real financial or social trouble, alienated the average voter (61% of people said Hollywood had too much influence on the election), while Lena Dunham’s brand of white liberalism was particularly damaging.
If you want to spend time and money finding an influencer, it’s essential to choose someone resonates with your target consumers, and whose involvement will do more good than bad.
The insight that brand tracking affords you is invaluable. No longer is consumer behaviour an unknown quantity, but something that can be monitored and predicted, rather than blindly guessed at. The knowledge that you gain will save you time, money, and bad press down the line: it’s hindsight without having to live through the crisis.
Ready to do the smart thing and start tracking your brand? Get in touch.