Is Your Brand Tracker Old-Fashioned?
Checking the Pulse of Brand Trackers
As marketing researchers we often ask questions like: “What brands do you think of when you think of tennis shoes?” After all, according to canonical theories of brand marketing, we need to identify what brands come to mind when thinking about a particular category… don’t we?
Typically a brand tracker includes measures such as unaided brand recall, brand preference, and brand associations, and those measures certainly serve a purpose. But isn’t it appetizing to think that brand trackers could provide much more? Perhaps even results that brand and marketing managers could actually act on?
We thought so. So naturally, we did some research.
Where Did Those Measures Come From?
Typically a brand health tracker uses measures that are based on the traditional brand marketing concept, the “consideration set,” which is defined as a subset of brands that consumers seriously consider when making purchase decisions within a category. Therefore, with the consideration set in mind, the classic, “What brand comes to mind…?” question is completely valid.
But, it Depends
Who remembers that one provocative classmate that always answered questions with, “It depends”? Well, the same goes for brands that come to mind for a consumer. In reality, the consideration set is populated by brands that a consumer recalls for particular situations. For example, when I think of tennis shoes in general I think of Nike, Asics, New Balance, Mizuno, Reebok, and Adidas. But when thinking of serious running shoes I think of Mizuno; and when I think of casual tennis shoes, I think of New Balance.
So, the better question becomes: Why do so many researchers ask only what brands come to mind when thinking of tennis shoes in general? Isn’t it more useful to ask what brands come to mind when thinking of reasons why consumers actually enter the tennis shoes category in the first place?
The answer is YES, and the key to unlocking this priceless information is to consider the way that we recall memories. Consumers derive relevant answers based on their own experiences; and obviously, every category has unique cues that consumers call on when they need to make a purchase decision within a category. Through a disciplined sequence of qualitative and quantitative research, brands can map their performance (i.e., captured mindshare) across the most relevant category buying cues.
What Does it all Mean?
Mixing a bit of category buying behavior into your brand health tracker makes a powerful and delicious cocktail that can give you the information you need to grow your brand. Imagine the gold mine of information that can be uncovered when brands identify and measure the pervasiveness of various category buying cues. Managers who understand which cues offer the most potential and the mindshare captured by their brand for each one will be a step ahead of the game.
This post barely scratches the surface of the incredibly complex mind of the consumer and how we can better harness the power of category behavior. If you’d like to learn more, contact Brandware here.
 Howard, JA & Sheth, JN. The Theory of Buyer Behavior. John Wiley & Sons. New York. 1969.
 Tulving, E & Craik, FIM. The Oxford Handbook of Memory. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2000.