Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was a commonly felt sentiment that we were living through a time of change. The rise of social media and its effect on political discourse, the climate crisis, and changing attitudes to gender, sexuality, sustainability, and animal rights have all contributed to this feeling of experiencing a societal paradigm shift. And all of this has simply been accelerated by the pandemic.
For brands in a number of industries such as apparel, food & beverage, and travel, the impact of consumers’ shifting attitudes is now being felt. But how disruptive these changes are to a particular brand can depend on the evolving views of their specific target audience and whether it has picked up positive or negative associations in the process.
All of this is to say that in changing times like these, it is invaluable that brands keep track of how they are perceived by consumers. Even in times of stability, brand tracking is an essential tool if marketers want to maintain a healthy brand that continues to resonate with their target audience and build strong relationships with consumers.
But in times of change, brand tracking can provide insights that can help you navigate tumultuous shifts in public opinion and develop successful strategies for growth. Here are just three ways it can help your brand.
Know When It’s The Right Time To Refresh Your Brand
When consumers’ tastes change, brands may find themselves suddenly isolated, with their identity increasingly irrelevant or their product struggling to attract once-loyal customers.
This doesn’t always come about because of a huge misstep like a poorly received product launch, instead, it can simply be that consumers develop new preferences as their priorities change. It can happen slowly or it can happen overnight, but nearly every brand will have to face this moment at one time or another.
Burger King is a recent example of a household name that has refreshed its brand, doing so in 2021 to keep pace with the ever-changing fast-food market, where consumers are increasingly moving towards healthy options. The new look embraces a muted natural feel to help demonstrate that the food on sale is now “free from colours, preservatives and flavours from artificial sources.”
Much like Burger King has done, brands that have their ear to the ground by using brand tracking will be the first to find out if their target audience has embraced new tastes and can promptly address this before it turns into a serious problem.
Find Out If Your Brand Has Attracted Negative Associations
As consumers interact with brands and their marketing campaigns, they establish brand associations with them. They might think of one brand as synonymous with quality while another might be associated with poor customer service.
As issues like sustainability or labor rights become more important to a greater number of consumers, there’s a risk that some brands could pick up negative associations which they previously did not have.
The fashion industry is just one example where consumers’ purchasing decisions have been affected by changing attitudes. The general population has become more aware of the high environmental cost of inexpensive clothing and the exploitative labor practices that are often essential to enable such low prices — and has started to turn to more sustainable options.
This has left those brands who rely on the model known as “fast fashion” in a difficult position. The term has become something of a toxic label and those that have found themselves branded with it need to act swiftly to clean up their image.
Similar stories are playing out in a variety of ways across numerous industries from cosmetics to travel, with growing awareness of a range of different issues powering this trend.
But knowing exactly what negative associations your brand has and how you can address these is a huge part of the problem. Brand tracking can provide an essential hotline to the perceptions consumers have of your brand, allowing you to stay up to date with your brand’s reputation as public opinion evolves. This gives you more time to build new campaigns that can address negative associations and, hopefully, build new positive ones. Still, it’s better to strike early before your brand gains a truly bad reputation.
Track Whether Your Campaigns Are Cutting Through The Noise
The rapid pace of change today is not being powered by changing attitudes and political polarization alone. The ecosystem that marketers once relied on to get their message out there has been thoroughly upended by new disruptors too, all of which gained ground over the course of the Pandemic.
Consumers’ adoption of mobile devices for completing more and more tasks and the unstoppable rise of Connected TV providers has fundamentally altered the media landscape, while a remote-working revolution could have a similar effect on Out-Of-Home advertising. Whatsmore, with consumers more connected than ever, their attention is now much harder to command than it once was, regardless of what device you’re reaching them through.
The result is that it is much easier for your brand to get lost in all the noise than it once was. Unless you have the budget to pay for an attention-grabbing SuperBowl half-time commercial, you’re going to need to be smarter about getting your message out there. That means you need to know your audience — where you can reach them and what type of message will resonate effectively with them.
On top of this, once you’ve run a campaign, it is essential that you track its performance before investing more money and scaling it up.
Brand tracking can help you with both of these tasks — giving you the ability to find your target audience and understand what is important to them, while also being able to check whether your campaigns have raised awareness of your brand or pushed up your audience’s preference for it.
In times of change, it’s imperative that you know which way the wind is blowing and how that might affect your business. Brand tracking is just one of many tools that marketers and researchers can use to inform their campaigns but unlike other tools, rather than just measuring performance, it can also give you vital insights into the relationship your brand has generated with your target audience.
By allowing you to understand how your brand is perceived, brand tracking empowers you to develop campaigns that resonate with your target audience in the right way.
As consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by changing attitudes, it has never been more important to get to know who your target audience is, what they feel about your brand, and how best to talk to them — and brand tracking is the most effective tool for the job.
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