Executing consistent, in-depth research over time provides brands with valuable insights into their overall performance.

Brand Health Tracking, usually conducted for at least a year or longer, measures crucial aspects of performance such as brand awareness, perception, preference, and purchase intent. Brand Health tracking differs from satisfaction tracking by understanding how well a company performs against the promises made to its customers versus how well the people/technology perform for its customers.  Brand Health Tracking pinpoints fluctuations and changes that may be occurring over time and allows brands to create strategic responses to change. Here are the top five reasons why Brand Health Tracking provides a competitive advantage:

Brand Tracking Blog Post

1. Comprehensive Insights Across Competition

Brand Health Tracking unveils trends not only for your brand but also for competitors, making it an invaluable tool for understanding the market landscape. Conducted as an unbranded study, this approach ensures unbiased responses, allowing respondents to provide honest opinions about each brand.

2. Brand Funnel Metrics

Track both unaided and aided awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase intent to calculate the Brand Power Rating (BPR) for your brand and others. These metrics quantify performance and show where brands have their strengths and weaknesses.

3. Seasonal Variations

Uncover how consumer preference changes over time by considering factors such as seasonal variations, promotional efforts, and major natural and man-made disasters. Brand Health Tracking provides comprehensive coverage by analyzing impacts of variables that impact the marketplace.

4. Risk Management

Brand Health Tracking unveils where potential increases and decreases in performance occur. It provides an understanding of how a market can change with fluctuations in types of competition and helps brands manage the impact of competitors entering the market. By understanding when and why your brand increases in performance, a brand can implement similar efforts throughout the lower times of the year. Understanding where decreases in performance occur allows brands to implement risk management with a better understanding of what exactly is going wrong and how to fix it.

5. Strategic Decision-Making

Brand Health Tracking equips brands with in-depth knowledge of their own standing and that of competitors, paving the way for informed strategic decisions. Quantitative metrics produced from Brand Health studies can be leveraged to gain a competitive edge in your business model.

Know your brand, know your competition, and know your marketplace. Brand Health Tracking allows brands to make strategic decisions to their business model and gain a competitive advantage. For more information, visit https://www.sotech.com/brand-health-tracking

Meghan Bertig, Senior Analyst at Socratic Technologies, is deeply committed to unraveling consumer insights and deciphering market trends. With a deep-seated passion for both research and marketing, she thrives on crafting data-driven strategies that empower businesses to make informed decisions. Her expertise lies in not only conducting thorough research but also in effectively facilitating projects, ensuring seamless collaboration and implementation of strategies.

Using Marketing Research To Understand The Customer Impacts To Decreasing Quantity Or Increasing Prices

With rising inflation levels, brands are forced to make decisions to help maintain profit margins while limiting expenses. The cost of doing business paired with growing interest rates negatively impacts both consumers and brands. One tactic businesses undertake to offset rising costs is shrinkflation: decreasing product size/quantity while keeping the price the same.

To stay competitive, brands may choose to decrease quantities or increase prices. Sometimes, the choice between these options is not so clear. Brand tracking tools can help businesses determine which strategy to pursue to minimize negative customer impact. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind for each option.

Decreasing Quantity To Improve Costs

Businesses with more price-sensitive customers may choose to practice shrinkflation. The following four approaches should be considered when decreasing product quantities.

1. Be Subtle But Honest

When employing shrinkflation, be transparent about subtle changes.  For example, if a brand sells a 14.5-ounce bag of chips that is reduced to 13 ounces, the packaging should reflect the change. Keeping package sizes the same while reducing the amount of product inside without revealing it to consumers is unethical and could potentially result in legal problems.

Marketing research tools like Socratic Brand Power RatingTM (BPR) measures the conversion of those aware of a brand into purchasers and tracks with market share. This can help brands understand their competitive position and identify corrective actions needed based on their unique sales funnel. BPR, coupled with other survey metrics, can help determine how things like sizing, packaging type, and product look affect consumer buying intention.

2. Take unit pricing into account

Customers want to feel like they are paying a fair price for the product they are purchasing. If you reduce quantity, be sure that pricing per unit is reasonable compared to product prices before shrinking the product. Using brand health tools to track performance after changing prices can tell a story about customer purchasing trends.

3. Keep tabs on your competitors

Shrinkflation has accelerated around the world recently. If a business is considering reducing product quantities, now is a good time. Consumers will most likely already have experienced this in their day-to-day shopping. Leverage concept testing to determine which types of packaging appeal most to consumers.

4. Make shrinkflation part of your advertising

Although consumers may not favor shrinkflation, highlighting positives can soften the blow. Examples of positives could be maintaining prices, using the same high-quality ingredients, or a reduced environmental impact from the new packaging. Market research can help determine differences in preference and impact on demographic groups including age, gender, location, and more.

Increasing Prices To Keep Up With Inflation

Businesses who would like to keep quantities the same, or even increase them, have 3 key considerations. Unlike reducing quantity, pricing shifts can be temporary and tested with faster updates but also come with different unique challenges.

1. Raise prices slowly, not all at once

Consumers do not want to see their favorite products drastically increase in price over a short period of time. Rather than raise prices all at once, slowly increase the price in increments to prevent shock and brand switching. Use custom-built surveys to identify price point ranges that consumers will tolerate.

2. Raise prices on products that produce higher profit margins, not on the entire product family

Rather than raising prices on all products, choose only the products that produce the highest profits to increase prices. This allows consumers to be less overwhelmed by price changes from a brand while allowing the brand to balance expenses.

3. Don’t keep consumers in the dark about business decisions

When choosing to raise prices, be honest with consumers. Consider running a last-chance promotion for a product before increasing prices. When deciding to increase product quantity, emphasize it in a way that is noticeable but not overwhelming. Introduce coupons or first-time buyer discounts. Keeping communication open between consumers and businesses can mitigate brand switching.

Price increases can allow you to test the use of discounts to attract new customers and segments. Using coupons during inflationary times can encourage customers to switch to your brand and increase your brand’s competitiveness.  Introducing coupons and discounts can provide a way to promote product trial during a time when customers are more price sensitive and frugal with purchases.

Using Market Research to Drive Success

There are other tactics that can be used during times of inflation to help brands. Cutting products that aren’t reaching sale goals, increasing business efficiency, and adjusting business practices to better appeal to consumers can all positively impact a brand’s performance. Brand tracking tools produce insights that will help develop a plan of action that is tailored to a business and its customers. Quantitative research can identify what positively and negatively impacts brand health, while qualitative data can provide an in-depth account of how consumers feel about a brand and its practices. Up-to-date, personalized data can create a story about current performance and suggest enhancements to impact future performance.

By understanding how shrinkflation and price increases impact consumer brand image and purchasing decisions, brands can adjust their practices to combat inflation. Inflation will inevitably impact business decision-making and strategy considerations. Using market research will help determine the best path forward to keeping customers happy and companies’ financials healthy.

Products are shrinking but prices are not

Inflation is now part of consumer lives – at least for the near term. Prices of food, gas and many consumer staple retail items are creeping upward to levels not seen since the early 1980s. As a result, consumers are paying more for what they routinely purchase. What is also occurring more frequently is "shrinkflation." What is shrinkflation? Shrinkflation is when products are downsized to help brands retain profit margins by slightly reducing the quantity of a product in a packaging while simultaneously maintaining or even increasing prices.

Product changes occur all the time without much notice by consumers, but during a period of rising prices because of inflation, consumers are taking notice and are facing choices to stay loyal to routine product purchases or change the brands they buy. Brands must pay more attention to customers now to better understand how they (customers) perceive the packaging, price, and value trade off. So how do brands wanting to remain in good standing with buyers during an inflationary period do to retain customers?

Start Brand Tracking To Be Aware Of What Your Customers Value

Smart brands invest in continuous brand tracking. Brand Tracking provides many different insights. Some brand tracking can be about online awareness or how well the brand is considered against competitors. But during inflation, brand tracking should also focus on consumer preferences and opinions about the brand. As prices move upward and packaging gets lighter, brands need to know if consumers notice and, more importantly, decide to stay or not to buy due to the increased purchase price.

By monitoring buyers' sentiment, brands can be proactive before impacting revenue with incremental changes. Insights gathered by brand tracking can inform future decision-making. Socratic Brand Power Rating with a tracking study provides further guidance on where and why buyers abandon the brand in the sales funnel. Those drivers leading to a lack of consideration can then be used to fix the price, quality, quantity, or competitive options that lead to a decline in sales.

The tumultuous retail landscape over the last few years from COVID and supply chain issues is now hampered by inflation. Consumers are now budget-conscious, causing some purchases to be deemed unnecessary. To stay ahead, brands need to recognize the segments where inflation might create challenges. By tracking their perceptions and opinions, brands can proactively launch advertising campaigns, on and offline, targeting those soft spots to reinforce the value propositions ahead of any revenue erosion.

Packaging Design Matters

During times of inflation, many brands will look to reduce the amount of product while keeping the pricing intact to minimize the risk of losing customers while holding on to their margins. When the cost of making and delivering products cuts into profit margins, brands will tweak a product to shave costs. So instead of 36 cookies, you might get 34 for the same price. This might not seem like much, the packaging and overall experience are the same, but the actual product is slightly less. This is a common and often used strategy by brands, especially in food products, and goes unnoticed by many. As costs become a larger consideration to companies' bottom line, this will be more frequent and done by more brands. It is already becoming a frequent news story and consumers are noticing.

Brands can use this period of rising prices to their advantage by revisiting and redesigning packaging to reset consumer experience. This redesign work could be creating a packaging that’s right size and pop off the shelf.  A good example of a package redesign is when a product promotes a "Family Size" quantity yet it is almost the same size and quantity as regular package size. Today, there are already examples of products moving to less and keeping the packaging as similar as possible. Gatorade did a change to their bottle design as they lowered the volume of the sports drink. They were ahead of the current shrinkflation by launching a slimmer bottle design to the market.

Employing design research on the packaging to hone the colors, fonts, and even the overall look of the package will permit a brand to get confirmation on the impact the packaging can have on shopper preference. The upside to performing a package change during inflation will allow your product to be more eye-catching and bring new buyers to your brand who are considering new options. Consumer preferences are changing more during the inflationary period creating an opportunity for brands to retain and attract new shoppers and consumers with the right price and packaging value.

Design, Test, Capture Insights, and Improve Changes

Any change, no matter how small, should be customer validated before launch. Many companies check internally with different stakeholders and executives to get sign-off, which is expected, but this should never substitute the learning process and obtaining feedback from those who buy the product. Putting the updated product in front of potential buyers delivers the needed data on the concept's viability to the targeted audiences. More importantly, the feedback can influence improvement to the concept so the best qualities found by the buyers can be highlighted in the new design.  

Two additional reasons concept testing should be utilized during shrinkflation include:

  • Concept testing can use various research methods to understand consumer interest. Testing any aspect of the product change can be done. Whether it is a new color scheme or the messaging on the package, it can be tested, so the product has the best chance for success.
  • Concept testing can deliver quick, timely insights. In many cases, the turnaround from launch to analysis can be fast, as low as 48 hours, with concept testing. This allows for retesting to find the right concept without a long delay.

Balance Costs And Customer Expectations

Brands have to adjust their products at a larger scale during an inflationary period in the economy. Reducing the volume of a product while maintaining or even increasing prices is a straightforward approach that many consumers may not noticed or simply overlook. But as many brands face rising costs of transportation and manufacturing, consumers have begun to notice the number of product changes and they are starting to reconsider their buying options and loyalty to brands.

Brands investing in tracking and packaging research can ensure that price, packaging, and quantity decisions are informed by insights from customers increasing the likelihood of retention and acquisition of buyers. Because inflation can create many unknowns in the economy, brands should prioritize knowing their audiences and how their products are perceived in the field as much as possible. Using brand tracking and packaging design are two effective ways to help for the foreseeable future.

As the world continues to contend with global circumstances, the need to remain on top of your brand's place in the marketplace.  Consumers and the marketplace are ever-changing and will continue to be affected by the economy and the current lifestyle impacts of COVID and the conflicts in Eastern Europe.   

Marketing and product leaders need to create a connection between their brand and their buyers through their business strategy.  In order to convert potential customers into buyers, companies need to understand as much as they can about the public’s brand perceptions.  

By implementing a brand tracking study, organizations will obtain ongoing and relevant data about their brand's performance by the segments of the public they wish to engage and ultimately convert into customers.  Here are a few of the reasons why brand tracking is important.  

You Will Learn What People Think About Your Brand  

It is said that perception is reality.  If that is true, you need to know if and how the public perception of your brand aligns with what you want your brand to portray.  Tracking studies provide critical information about the distinct needs, wants, and desires of the population segments you are looking to attract.  Since perceptions can be altered with messaging, competition, and the occurrences of day-to-day life, brand tracking is essential to monitoring and maintaining brand health.   

With an ongoing tracker providing data, you can calibrate your marketing efforts by aligning messaging to key concepts that deliver the right message to the right people. By using data provided from a tracking study, you can ensure the perception is the brand reality.  If there are times where the perception isn’t what the brand supports you will be able to address it with corrective messaging, campaigns and targeted efforts. 

You Will Learn Why They Buy Your Brand

Sales and revenue metrics demonstrate how many buy your brand. But, do you know "why" customers chose you instead of another option, or why they didn’t choose you? Measuring your brand against the competition can uncover the distinct value proposition your brand carries into purchase decisions. These attributes, once identified, are valuable points to be leveraged in a brand strategy.

Additionally, a tracking study can identify messaging or attributes missed or overlooked during the buying decision. If there are essential aspects absent from the buyer journey, you will gain the ability to re-address and pivot the strategy to either remove or re-enforce brand strengths.

You Will Learn How Much Your Brand Is Worth

Building a brand takes time.  The investment into a company's brand is one of the most important things an organization will do to differentiate from the competition and ensure the public knows who you are and what you do.  Unless you are assessing your brand's equity, you are leaving vital data untapped. 

Tracking your brand's awareness in the marketplace and the attributes assigned to the brand will help validate your positioning against your competition and ensure that the segment you wish to attract aligns appropriately.  Keeping updated on a brand's worth over a year allows for quick response to competitive, economic, and lifestyle changes that might influence your buyers. 

You Will Know How And When Audiences Engage With Your Brand 

Consumers have choices.  In some cases, they have a lot of options and decide on one brand over another.  The influencing behaviors that lead them to become customers are important and occur well before they get to the checkout. 

Assessing the impact and exposure your brand can have on new buyers or those needing a new brand starts with understanding engagement of your messaging and brand exposure within the market.  This tracking of the progression down a sales funnel creates a holistic brand map that can drive advertising investments and more tailored product launches.  Tracking consumers’ behaviors through a brand study will give you "the how" and "the when" they engage and interact with your brand.  Equally important, a properly designed study will inform you of the emotional or sentiment that influences consumer buying decisions.

A brand tracking study is key for a successful growth strategy.  Socratic has been implementing tracking studies for some of the world's top brands and is well-positioned to help you kick off or refresh your brand tracking.  Using our proprietary platform, along with almost three decades of research experience, Socratic delivers knowledge for meaningful strategy creation and successful marketing efforts.   To learn more about Socratic's brand tracking solutions, click here.

The continuation of COVID precautions and rising costs due to inflation will impact all corners of life and create challenges to the economy. The entire retail and business infrastructure is still taxed with staffing issues and supply chain problems, largely disconnecting products and services from buyers. Besides these operational and financial challenges brands faced, consumers became more aware of how companies operate. More than ever, brands are under increasing pressure to understand how these ongoing challenges impact their business, competition and the bottom line.

Consumer Preferences and Brand Supply Chain

When shelter in place started over a year ago, consumers became hyper-aware of their consumption because certain items and brands were no longer readily available.

Consumers now know about the supply chains of many popular brands and why their products are unavailable or cannot be found on shelves. Consumers began to want information related to the sourcing and steps products took to get to them in light of the unknowns surrounding COVID contraction. This level of transparency with consumers has forced many brands to provide their processes and logistics.

For consumers, this knowledge is part of the buying decision. They might switch to a more available brand or one they feel is better at addressing the interests of the public’s health. A brand’s supply chain and employee relations have been used as a differentiator in some sectors, but recent events are now an impetus for brands to think about and prepare for how to provide this level of information. 

Reflection of a Brand vs Antiquated Marketing

Along with brands increasing supply chain transparency, the scrutiny of brand ethos has become a discussion point in the media. Protests worldwide supported reforms and changes related to Black Lives Matter have widened the discussion regarding how companies engage, represent, and support minorities. Additionally, the treatment and policies related to staff and their health regarding COVID and the ability to work from home or be able to protect themselves when working against COVID, as added to the list of items a buyer may use in brand selection depending on if that brand is aligned with their own ethos.

For a brand, the desire to remain connected with loyal consumers and continue to garner new customers and the priority of reviewing the pros and cons of changing the brands look and their messaging are not a small matter. In some cases, the shift from decades-old branding will be a significant move within a company and sector.

We will continue to see the social narrative motivate brands to evaluate their brand equity and decide if changes might be beneficial for both near and long-term growth. To rebuild a go-forward plan or to pivot away from what is no longer desired will require research and insights to craft the next generation of their brand image and how they want to be seen by their customers.

Evaluating Brand Health and Decision Making

Not unlike the public who adjusted their routines, shopping, and lifestyles, brands will need to adjust how they engage, message, and represent themselves to consumers. The trends and information from previous studies may no longer be useful in light of the recent events affecting their consumer base. What a brand cannot be is neutral during these times. The call is to be proactive in learning and understanding such concerns while pursuing a strategy that recognizes the risks and opportunities they may face.

By employing the use of brand tracking studies, companies can capture the consumer’s drivers and sentiments with respect to how recent events have influenced their buying decisions. While many companies may have existing studies in place, the realities of today require an objective review of what the study provides as it may no longer be relevant to the target audience.

Additionally for companies who have not maintained or done a brand health study, the benefits of this investment can help foster better-informed strategy decisions when looking ahead both for the remainder of the year and onward. Since brand tracking can include dynamics pertaining to consumers, competition, social and economic aspects, companies can get a data-supported assessment of the public views them.

If you would like to learn more about the different brand health tracking approaches or start building a tracking study, click here to learn how Socratic’s Brand Health Tracking enables companies to make informed and data-supported strategy decisions.

Updating mobile icons is a common practice for businesses.  It keeps a brand recognizable on mobile devices and attracts users’ eyes.  Amazon’s recent mobile app icon update did not go as planned, resulting in a quick and quiet switch to a less controversial icon after some negative reactions.  It is unknown if Amazon employed any concept testing before launching the new icon, but a well-designed concept testing program might have saved them from the recent gaffe.  The snafu serves as a good reminder to consider concept testing for any planned brand changes.

Amazon updated their mobile app icon in January 2021.  The previous icon that had been in place for five years showed a shopping cart and the Amazon logo.  The problematic updated icon resembled an Amazon delivery package using a brown background with a jagged piece of blue packaging tape and the Amazon smile logo and presumably designed to resemble their distinctive packaging.   However, many on social media quickly saw a certain Nazi dictator's mustache above a smile, an image that is hard to unsee after it is pointed out.

As a result of negative feedback, Amazon quickly changed the jagged blue stripe to a different shape that no longer looks like a small mustache.  The quick adjustment by Amazon was an appropriate course of action. Still, it did not seem like the result of deft design or high-level communication we’d expect from Amazon and may indicate that the new icon was not properly vetted through concept testing.

Using concept testing before launching the new icon, Amazon might have learned of the potential issue and could have avoided the unintended attention to their update. Amazon could have considered the following concept testing approaches to ensure the updated icon would deliver the desired reaction.

Concept Testing That Provides Useable Insights

There are two important factors to successful concept testing – the who and the how.  Leveraging internal staff's thoughts and opinions and "trusted" people for opinions exclusively would be a mistake.   Including opinions from customers and others who know the brand will ensure greater objectivity.   You also need to ask the right questions of the audience.  Using the correct testing approaches and well-crafted questions will yield insights that give explicit direction about the best option and the data to support the decision. With the proper audience and concept test design, Amazon may not have launched the offensive mustache icon.  

Have More Than Two Concepts Prepared For Testing

Testing of new concepts, whether a mobile icon, a product design, or new messaging, requires iterations of options and features to help arrive at the best attributes and identify potential detractors.  By starting with several concepts with discernable differences, the tests can narrow the attributes and combination of features that give the concept the best chance for success.

It is unknown how Amazon arrived at the choice of the replacement icon. Was the replacement an icon that was not as well-received when socialized, or did Amazon triage and simply adjust the mustache?  Proper concept testing with alternative concepts would have allowed Amazon to pivot to the updated option and have insights associated with that second choice.

Test Domestically, Internationally, And Culturally

Amazon operates in 13 countries where different colors, images, and visuals can garner unique responses from country to country.  When launching in multiple countries, the importance of translation across language, geography, and social norms are critical in concept testing.  Using concept testing in different countries and languages can prevent a product from falling flat on arrival due to poorly written copy or product builds not tailored to the needs of those in a particular country. There are countless examples of products failing in different places around the globe due to narrow concept testing practices, whereby data from the global audience is not collected or ignored.   

In addition to having global insights for a concept launch, obtaining cultural perceptions can also be integral. Conducting studies for a specific audience segment based on cultural, religious, or lifestyle norms can ensure your concept does not unintentionally offend.  In the case of Amazon, the updated icon's association to the Nazi dictator might have surfaced more quickly among Europeans or older people.  Suppose Amazon had learned of the association with the dictator in an early concept test. In that case, they could have run additional tests to understand how strong the association was and the level of distraction from the desired response.  This information could have potentially informed decisions to launch with low concern or move away to a better, less risky option.

Using Text Science To Identify Associations And Perceptions

Using visuals for concept testing to capture feedback may seem straightforward but gaining a deeper understanding of what influenced a choice is equally essential. Learning the customers’ underlying thinking and motivations can uncover the concept attributes that strengthen or weaken willingness to use or engage.

Using open text answers as part of concept testing captures respondents’ opinions and thoughts on the concept in their own words. This type of feedback can be insightful when pairing it with machine learning and algorithmic approaches to uncover deeper insights associated with answers.  Common themes and influencing attributes can be found across all responses, as can the emotional sentiments related to the responses.  These influencing drivers can pull people towards the concept or push them away from using or buying a product. For Amazon, this “in their own words” approach might have uncovered a strong association to a smile and a mustache instead of packaging tape.

Test Early -- And Often

Concept testing is an important step in marketing and product development. Using concept tests for only large investments can be a short-sighted approach and can distance the company from properly understanding the customer.  Concept testing allows your company to know what is important and relevant to customers.  Adopting a well-crafted concept testing program for highly visible and widely distributed changes can save a company from bad press and having to make fast, expensive, and unplanned changes.

Amazon's recent update to the mobile app could and should have been at the very least an unremarkable or satisfactory event. On the other (much more strategic) hand, proper concept testing could have propelled their branding toward optimal new heights – and who doesn’t want that?

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