How tracking has evolved from map to Satnav

by Nigel Hollis | March 07, 2018

Today’s tracking is dramatically different from what it used to be, designed to guide a brand’s future not follow what  happened to it in the past. In this post, Claire Spaargaren, Global Lead of Brand Guidance Solutions at Kantar Millward Brown, offers us a viewpoint on how tracking studies have evolved to meet marketer’s needs in our age of immediacy.

I have a map in my car. It is probably over 10 years old, and I doubt if I’ve looked at it for the last five. And that’s because, yes, I have a Satnav – and I’m guessing you do too. We always have a need to know where we are on a journey, how far we have to go, if we are going the right way, and if we are going to get there in time.

The beauty of the Satnav is that it shows you the answer to these questions in a simple dashboard, avoiding the need for your partner to unfold the map, work out which way is up, where you are, and where your destination is - before you reach that vital turning. It’s been said that Satnavs are the best marital aid to come along in the last 50 years; imagine the countless arguments they’ve avoided!

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Today, tracking studies are like your Satnav, showing you where you are, whether you are heading in the right direction, as well as what the other brands around you are doing. But, when the data is handled in the right ways, they can also help you decide where you should be heading; and if you are pursuing the right marketing actions to get there.

Like maps, tracking studies have evolved over the years. Tracking studies are around 60 years old; but it was only when Millward and Brown developed a technique to plot the data as trends against the exact timing and weight of media inputs that tracking studies went from report card to measuring cause and effect. The real value comes in using these insights to address specific issues such as why are we losing share to brand A, but gaining from brand B? Is our alternative media strategy to reach the light TV viewer working? Has the new digital programme built on the success of the offline activity? Are we on track to meet the targets we have set? And, as any good Satnav would help you to determine, ‘How can we get back on the right course?

Tracking has evolved substantially since the early days; Kantar Millward Brown’s Brand Guidance Systems now provide a faster, more modular approach – only asking just what you need, just when you need it –integrating these insights with those from multiple other widely available data sources, such as search and social This allows for a much more cost-effective and agile approach to brand measurement; using automated analytical routines to separate underlying trends from current campaign response; and with the outputs provided in simple user-friendly dashboards that guide you on your way with weekly updates and hot alerts if you are ‘taking a wrong turn’.

Seeing the data from hundreds of tracking studies has also brought about some far reaching generalised learning about brands and marketing. We’ve found that for brands to disrupt the market place, they need to offer something meaningfully different from what has gone before and then work to make that salient to potential customers. It’s why the iPhone, Uber and PayPal have all been so hugely successful; and why we are all driving around with Satnavs!

Does your tracking study give you fast feedback you can use? Please share your thoughts. 

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