The consumer marketplace has become more crowded, fragmented, and personalized than ever before, and the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic this year only accelerated this trend. As a result, brands across industries are having to strike a balance between meeting ever-growing demands for personalization and scaling within their category.
This shifting landscape has called for changes in market research priorities and budgets as well. Traditionally, marketing budgets prioritized the build and communicate phases of market research. But over the past five years, there’s been a 163% growth in strategic exploratory research, according to ESOMAR. Exploratory insights give organizations a road map on how to build better (i.e., differentiated products and services) and communicate better (i.e., communication strategies that resonate)—both of which are vital to staying competitive.
As traditional research methods become more agile, we’ve seen agile methods fulfill their promise in the build and communicate phases, in particular, by doing more work with less dollars. Following this success, there’s now more opportunity to use an agile approach to inform growth and retention strategies as well. In fact, an agile approach can successfully be used across the entire innovation funnel, from exploration all the way through to measurement.
As agile market research continues to provide critical flexibility and actionability to marketing and insights teams, especially those who are resource-strapped, one area where it can be particularly beneficial is in brand health tracking.
Bringing agility to brand health tracking
The world has experienced more changes in 2020 than any other period in recent history, and consumer attitudes and behaviors are no exception. Brands have been struggling to keep up and know where they stand in this new world.
In a telling new study from Gartner, chief marketing officers ranked brand health as the most important metric to track (as opposed to brand awarenss in 2019). It seems that CMOs have recognized the need to take a step back and understand their brands’ strengths, weaknesses, perceptions, and growth opportunities in these new and rapidly-evolving marketplaces.
In this situation, brand health trackers are the most sensible first step. But businesses should remember to prioritize agile audience intelligence when moving in that direction. Here’s a breakdown of what that means:
- Agile: Agile means more than just cost and time savings. While speed is still a critical component of agile methods, equally important are quality and rigor. Today, agility is a combination of all three, enabled by technology and automation. It’s about turning around research quickly and efficiently without sacrificing the quality of sampling, data collection, or actionable reporting.
- Audience: It’s all about your audience. An agile vendor needs to identify the key differentiating features, characteristics, and attributes of your target consumer and ensure this knowledge is leveraged during each development phase.
- Intelligence: Without the right context, consumer insights fall flat. True intelligence offers contextualized insights that address your strategic business initiatives. Moving away from a transactional relationship with your agile vendor and into a partnership enables their team to fully know your business and stay grounded in your core values and strategy.
In a competitive market research environment, you need to be able to trust in your vendor’s data, panel providers, and strategic recommendations. After all, agility without rigor is risky. And rigor has to come from agile audience intelligence.
The case for a better brand health tracker
In theory, brand health trackers are an important tool that should generally enable you to:
- Track consumer metrics over time, going beyond basic sales numbers.
- Identify opportunities and diagnose potential issues with consumers before it’s too late.
- Build a more intelligent marketing strategy.
- Uncover how your current consumers view your brand and which brand strengths you can leverage in your communications with them to build loyalty.
- Understand which brand attributes non-users are looking for in your category and how you can incorporate them into your brand.
But not every brand health tracker is created equally, and some have gaps in capabilities that can cancel out the benefits they provide. For example, many brand health trackers are quite costly and their timelines are too long from recruit to report to be of real use. Metrics tend to be flat with no depth or detail, and there’s no real actionability around the recommendations. Furthermore, consumer analysis tends to be at a high level, so you can’t gain a clear, detailed understanding of brand loyalists. And non-user analysis may not be included at all, which makes it tough to reach outside your current consumer base.
Let’s go back to actionability for a moment. When actionable recommendations are missing, you’re essentially just getting a report with numbers, not a deeper understanding of what the facts and figures mean within the context of your brand’s unique position within the marketplace. Actionable recommendations are key to helping you develop the right strategies, especially in highly fragmented categories.
An agile brand health tracker has the capability to:
- Turn around recruit to report in just a few weeks.
- Offer a complete view of your category.
- Study your brand health funnel and conversion metrics (more about this below) to help you understand marketplace dynamics and where you stack up against your competitors.
- Uncover emotional and functional drivers for satisfaction and purchase intent among your current consumers and prospects.
- Help you understand non-users of your brand, their current category purchase behavior, and how to encourage awareness, trial, and conversion.
- Reveal your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Recommend how to build better brand and product experiences.
A closer look at your brand health funnel
Your brand health funnel is how you can compare your brand’s health to your category and other brands over time, using a variety of metrics:
With an adequate sample size, an agile vendor can dive deep into the data and analyze sub-groups to see what trends may be emerging or evolving in your category. If metrics are flat at the overall total level, the vendor can determine where else to look to help drive actionable recommendations and results that you can take back to your key stakeholders. How a brand is trending in certain areas has long been a part of traditional brand health tracking, but an agile vendor can take elements of that traditional method and add speed and rigor to it.
Understanding non-users – and their awareness and attraction to competitor brands – is another critical piece of the puzzle. An agile vendor can run a competitive intelligence exercise to see what other brands in your category are doing and how you should adapt your strategy. This helps:
- Inform the creative and media channels that can be used to reach non-users.
- Set sales priorities, in that understanding how your brand stacks up in the awareness metric gives your sales teams a better idea of how to prioritize SKUs.
- Identify potential innovation opportunities.
Guiding future growth and innovation
Brand health tracking is important to identifying white space opportunities. It provides you with a greater understanding of what’s driving brand loyalists, non-users, and prospects so you can better meet their needs through innovation and keep up with a rapidly-evolving marketplace.
Using an agile brand health tracking solution, you can bring non-users into the funnel instead of leaving them out in the cold, and you can improve and grow each area of your funnel to trend in an overall positive direction. Instead of falling behind the competition, you can arm yourself with growth and innovation strategies that help you stand out and rise above.
Watch our webinar with Founders Brewing Co. to see how they leveraged GutCheck’s Agile Brand Health Tracker to better understand current and potential consumers to guide their future brand strategy.