Brand Tracking Gone Wrong: the Vicious Circle

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The Common Nature of Business Problems

There is one good thing that all business problems have in common: they are specific. Think of the three most challenging topics you had in the past 2 months: they probably felt vague only as long as you did not understand them well enough.

This is why the technique of “5 Whys” is so powerful. It is widely accepted that asking “Why” 5 times in a row brings you closer to the core of all kinds of problems. It helps you to identify the root cause — and to get rid of it. The rise of Design Thinking & User Research brought new attention to the “5 Why” technique that has a long tradition in different varieties of quality management.

The good thing about specific problems is that you can find specific solutions. They guide your thought process.

How can we stop plastics pollution? Sounds challenging and utterly complex.

How might I carry my groceries home without using single-use plastic bags? You probably have 3 options that come to mind immediately.

Tracking Branding Performance

Let’s talk about one specific business problem. At Dalia, we interviewed more than 40 Brand Managers of consumer-facing companies. Tracking branding success was a shared struggle. Understanding brand performance over time — and which marketing measures actually contribute to the bottom line of their company — is challenging in the fuzzy context of branding and brand marketing.

Keeping track of the most relevant brand KPIs has the potential to be a really specific solution for this specific challenge — this is what we call Brand Tracking.

A. Defining a set of relevant KPIs

B. Find a smart way to track them

C. Execute & learn

Even though many companies started with a really slick solution in mind, they ended up spending hundreds of thousands on elaborate market research solutions.

Whereas a deeper understanding of the market and competitive environment is not a bad thing per se, these companies somehow ended up with a Swiss army knife even though they needed a screwdriver.

We heard this story quite often — and started calling it “the Vicious Circle of Brand Tracking”.

“The Vicious Circle of Brand Tracking”

Most companies start with the ambition to track success of branding activities — and little else. Young & fast-growing companies especially have really precise needs in this area (read more on how Startups do Brand Tracking).

Most market research companies that are capable of providing these insights run a traditional “key account” / “consultant selling” approach of doing business. We have heard of five-digit minimum project budgets — which is enormous for small and young companies, no matter how grown-up they are.

If the initial impetus to learn more about the company’s brand health is strong enough, people are willing to jump over this barrier. This, naturally, triggers new thoughts: if it costs so much money, we should try to reimburse the cost by leveraging it for more insights. We might also ask this and that. This is where the vicious circle unfolds.


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Learn more about our BrandTracker: the leanest way to track brand performance over time

Brand Tracking: the Solution to the CMO’s Eternal Struggle

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Imagine you’re selling a product: delicious lemonade made from the freshest, homegrown lemons. But instead of setting up your lemonade stand outside on a hot day, you wait inside and are surprised that no one is buying your amazing product. This is what a business without a marketing strategy looks like.

But for most businesses, marketing is far more complex than just setting up a lemonade stand. Chief Marketing Officers have to balance brand promotion, marketing communications, consumer feedback, strategic planning, market research, and even more. And despite the universally accepted importance of the role, if the business falls behind, you can bet the CMO will shoulder most of the blame.

A report from Accenture Strategy found that when a business doesn’t reach its growth goals, 37% of CEOs say the first person they’d fire is the CMO. This is backed up by a different report by Korn Ferry which finds the average tenure for a CMO is 4.1 years, the shortest among all C-suite positions.

Needless to say, CMOs have it rough. They are responsible for driving the growth of their business, but frequently have a hard time justifying their strategic actions and risk their jobs when objectives aren’t met.

How can we make the CMO’s job a little easier?

One effective and proven solution: brand tracking! We’ve heard from CMOs at both large and small companies that brand tracking has been an invaluable tool for them because it helps them prove the ROI of marketing activities, which 40% of marketers say is their single, biggest challenge.

Here’s how CMOs can use brand tracking to quantify impact, prove how their work contributes to the bottom-line and progress internally:

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Brand Tracking for Startups

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Understanding consumers is important for companies of all sizes and stages. This is where brand tracking comes in: it’s a powerful tool that helps brand-focused companies answer some difficult questions, including:

  • What is the ROI of our marketing spend?
  • Has our advertising campaign impacted brand awareness among our audiences?
  • Are we confident that our advertising spend is having a positive impact on purchase intent?

Brand tracking is an irreplaceable tool for companies that are investing in their brand, particularly in competitive markets. It provides you with answers to the questions above and helps you understand whether your activities are helping your brand.

So what’s the problem?

Most of the startups that we have talked to don’t engage in brand tracking for one of the following reasons:

  1. The Price Tag
  2. The Time
  3. The Knowledge

The Solution?

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Branding and brand tracking success

Tracking Short-term Branding Success

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Branding in Startups

Branding is not the most important thing to do right away when starting a new business, but it becomes of increasing importance when you strive for a relevant chunk of market share in a competitive environment.

Brand Managers from 40 Startups

We talked to 40 Brand Managers from startups and fast-growing consumer brands. All of them were strongly KPI-driven and felt the urge to track their marketing success — and their contribution to the company’s bottom line. This, we heard, was quite challenging for most of them because their entire organization had been growing on a simple equation: “High Revenue = Good (Performance) Marketing.”

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Brand Tracking Concept & Explanation

Brand Tracking: Explaining a fuzzy concept

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Measuring Brand ROI is difficult

Try to think of your brand as the vehicle your business uses to transport your product to your customers. The stronger and more efficient your brand is, the easier it is to conduct your business and set yourself above the competition. And just like any vehicle, you shouldn’t expect excellent performance without regular checkups and maintenance. Don’t neglect your brand: take care of it, and it will take you the distance.

So how does a company measure the health and performance of it’s brand, and what does brand tracking have to do with anything?
While there is no cut and dry definition for brand tracking, we see it as the process of measuring changes in brand health over a period of time, which helps to quantify the brand-related return-on-investment and improve decision making that keeps your brand healthy.


Strategic brand tracking helps companies understand which brand marketing initiatives are fruitful and where future activities should be focused to improve the company’s standing in the market.


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