7 tricks for cracking trackers

Brand trackers – the most ambivalent research tools of all times. A true love/hate relationship for many researchers and research users. While they provide a finger on the pulse, allowing to continuously measure brand performance, they often lead to frustrations amongst their users. Why? Because trackers are among the most static, repetitive, and unidimensional research solutions, often lack relevance and credibility, and are not actionable. So how can we turn the tide and make brand trackers future-proof?

From ‘alarms’ to ‘radars

Brand trackers are all too often used as ‘alarms’ that should go off in case of problems. Yet, trackers should rather function as ‘radars’ that determine the position, velocity and distance of brands, allowing managers to take proactive action. Only when trackers evolve from being ‘alarms’ to being ‘radars’ can they grow into true management decision tools.


Here are seven tips to crack your tracker

1. Don’t track for the sake of tracking

Start by asking yourself which key performance indicators are worth tracking over time by critically evaluating the significance of each performance criterion in your survey. Does the item directly influence your brand strength and impact your strategy? If the answer is ‘no’, you should instantly discard that question from your survey. It is not because you have always measured your brand performance through the traditional brand funnel thinking that you should continue to do so. So, stop tracking for the sake of tracking and revise your tracker survey, question by question.


2. Use clear consumer language

Make sure that each question is written in clear consumer language. Always ask yourself if your average consumer will be able to answer your questions. As researchers and marketers, you need to keep in mind that the average consumer is not like you, so avoid using marketing jargon. Here’s a simple trick: ask yourself whether your next-door neighbor would be able to answer your survey questions.

3. Align with your brand strategy or Brand Religion©

As set out in our Brand Religions bookzine, there is an abundance of books and theories guiding marketers in growing strong brands. The choice of brand strategy, or , not only shapes how one defines brand success, it also outlines how to measure brand performance. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’; a brand tracker should be customized according to your brand strategy.

An example is the work we have done with Duvel Moortgat, where we shaped their tracker as a navigator for future growth. Based on Byron Sharp’s thinking (see our Penetration Religion), we developed a brand tracker that measures three main components: (1) mental availability, (2) distinctiveness, and (3) physical availability. By measuring the performance of several of the Duvel Moortgat brands, and some competitive brands, in China, Belgium and the Netherlands, the tracker is helping to fuel Duvel’s yearly Global Brand Strategy meeting.

Duvel brand tracker flow

4. Make them adaptive and modular

What do you think is the average length of a brand tracker survey? 15 minutes? Think again.

More than 30 minutes is no exception today, unfortunately. A modular approach – in which modules are switched on and off based on stakeholders’ needs – can help brands to choose wisely as to what to include while preventing participant fatigue. It provides the flexibility to tune your trackers to the current marketing reality. This flexibility also helps maintain the attention of executives and spur their curiosity to learn something new with each measurement and reporting wave.

Modular approach to brand tracking

5. Limit your question’s time frame

Many tracker questions rely on information recall. Depending on a question’s time frame, it can be hard for people to provide an accurate answer, resulting in imperfect and thus unreliable input. Trackers must avoid questions which require thinking too far back in time. As a guideline, try to use the repurchase time frame of your product or service.

Duvel online insight community
6. Contextualize for advanced actionability

Your tracker might provide a hard-core metric, but it often won’t explain the why behind it. To boost your tracker’s actionability, adding context is advisable. This can be done by using ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘make’ and ‘do’ activities, such as projective techniques, or asking participants to upload pictures and/or videos. Another way to add context is through complementary methods such as an insight community. Duvel, for instance, is tapping into their ‘The Brewery’ community to cross-check brand-tracker results (in China, Belgium and the Netherlands) and ask consumers to explain findings and/or co-create ideas.


7. Measure in relevant context or moments

Especially when consumers (could) connect with your brand via different touchpoints, make sure your survey is available throughout those touchpoints, allowing consumers to provide in-the-moment feedback. This is exactly what SkyTeam has done in their quest to become more customer-centric. By means of geolocation technology, customer feedback is captured across eight touchpoints for 20 airlines in over 1,000 airports worldwide. The app triggers customer feedback while people are in the actual experience. When evaluating a touchpoint negatively or positively, open-ended questions probe for the ‘why’, and customers can even upload a picture. For SkyTeam, the tracker shows their passengers’ reality, allowing the airline group to address shortcomings immediately.

In summary, to ensure that a brand tracker becomes a true management tool, you should not track for the sake of tracking. Trackers need to use clear consumer language, be aligned with the brand’s strategy, be adaptive and modular, include a limited time frame, be contextualized, and measure in the moment. Only then do they have the potential to become a ‘radar’ which helps executives spot and solve issues before these become a real problem.

Brand Religions bookzine by InSites Consulting

Brand Religions

Simplifying the world of marketing, grouping the most popular books, frameworks and beliefs in different schools of thoughts or ‘brand religions’. So what is your brand religion and are you measuring brand success the right way?

Request your download

You might also be interested in

Creating a consumer-centric brand position for Bankwest

Written by Matthew Jorgenson

Fresh insights helped Bankwest develop a new, unique positioning, resulting in winning the hearts and minds of their consumers, and being nominated as finalist in the 2020 Effie Awards Australia

How Ster increases online advertising impact for clients

Written by Vincent Konings

Dutch ad specialist Ster composed a checklist for ad-impact testing, with six factors which influence how people deal with ads

6 principles of persuasive marketing: how to influence people

Written by Niels Schillewaert

Today, consumers function as a brand’s amplifiers, which is why brands should actively invest in creating contagious content. Or as Jonah Berger puts it, conversation content should be STEPPS, a six-letter acronym for more persuasive marketing.


Niels Schillewaert
Co-founder & Managing Partner

Contact Niels