Advertising tracking is broken
Monday 17 June 2019
- Analysis for Mumbrella by Dr Chris Riquier, industry fellow, at Swinburne University of Technology
The majority of brand measures are meaningless, says researcher Dr Chris Riquier. To rebuild credibility (and brands), marketers need to take heed of proven Ehrenberg-Bass principles and redirect spend from tracking.
Shooting myself in the foot isn’t an everyday habit.
But it takes a brave researcher to admit their industry is failing clients when it comes to brand tracking (and let’s not get started on polling).
Research agencies will argue hard that the 2019 facade they have built over redundant 1960s thinking will build strong brands. Yet clients continue to require an intravenous caffeine supply during endless presentations of straight-line charts covering perceptions, consideration, commitment and many other pointless metrics.
As researchers, we need to cut the crap, admit the majority of brand measures are meaningless, and rebuild our credibility.
But how do we achieve it?
Use empirical evidence
Researchers at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute have a proven model for building strong brands, adaptable for startups right through to global brands like Mars and P&G. The approach advocates: continuous reach, ease of purchase, strong brand-linked memory structures, distinctive yet consistent communication assets, and avoiding giving customers a reason not to buy.
Since the model is based on empirical evidence across hundreds of brands in multiple countries and industry sectors, it’s no wonder some of the world’s most progressive marketers such as Mars have adopted this thinking.
Despite this endorsement, only a minority of Australian marketers seem to abide by these principles.
Use market research interviews as a last resort
In a world where we have the ability to review and adapt digital campaigns, and even some above the line campaigns, in real-time, leave the market research interviews for the pollsters (the research industry’s shining light). Pre-existing search, social, third-party and industry data can provide the majority of metrics needed to enhance brand building and guide campaign development and execution, according to the Ehrenberg-Bass principles.
Traditional research, including qualitative techniques, is limited to establishing the memory structures linked to brands. But to brand build, you need to not only identify these memory structures, but ensure campaign briefs are aligned and consistent with brand assets across all paid and earned platforms and physical touch-points.
Beyond this, pre-existing data sources, including social media and audience metrics, can provide the knowledge required to assess reach, consistency, purchase issues and other principles of the model.
Focus on nothing but the story
In the past, brands were deemed strong, and advertising worked, if metrics such as awareness and consideration were rising. We all know that, unless you are Deliveroo or Afterpay, establishing your business, brand and advertising tracking charts don’t change a lot. For established brands, a change in these metrics is usually met by a call to the research agency to identify who made the mistake in the report.
Where the real focus of effective brand and advertising research should lie is in guiding brands to achieve supremacy in the Ehrenberg-Bass principles.
Ensure SEO is aligned to key messaging in above-the-line and digital campaigns
Search is often used by consumers to overcome lack of brand recall for a particular call to action. Misalignment of search and paid communications can mean potential customers get redirected to competitors.
Building strong memory structures takes time, sometimes decades, and inconsistency is the enemy of marketing. The Golden Arches weren’t embedded in consumer memory via inconsistent messaging.
So, does a rear view mirror on your brand warn of an impending head on collision? You can continue using traditional brand and advertising tracking. But for those wanting to move from reactionary brand management to brand supremacy, adopt a proven model and capitalise on real-time data to proactively build your brand. Then, spend the traditional tracking budget on enhancing your media buy.