Brandtracking, Byron Sharp-way

Marktplaats called Blauw for a brand tracker, but actually wanted insights which they could use directly. The research bureau decided to get the ball rolling and to exchange classical brand measurement.

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Brand Tracking | Blauw Research

Ricardo van der Valk, brand and communication manager at Blauw, and Christel van de Burgt, brand expert at Blauw, see themselves perhaps more as consultants than as pure market researchers. That's perhaps also why they approached the original briefing from Marktplaats creatively. Christel van de Burgt: ‘Markplaats wanted a brand tracker, but also “actionable insights” which they could apply directly to allow their brand to grow. We thought then that you wanted much more, but you asked for something different.’

Ricardo van der Valk: ‘Companies see the clicks and conversion, which actually are no longer consistent with brand awareness and brand metrics. In that case, you can run a brand tracker, but you can't act directly on it.’

What did Marktplaats want?

Van der Valk: ‘They wanted to know what initiatives they could take on the basis of which fluctuations, monitored by a brand tracker. They also wanted to link the various brand aspects to elements of the site and to products. Marktplaats is a platform on which various products are bought and sold and they have to deal with various competitors. And yet they operate under the umbrella of one brand. So how do you carefully analyse that and then adapt it?’

If search behaviour and conversion do not match the awareness figures, brand marketeers lose support in the organisation. Because why would you rely on emotion when the sales are figures are good anyway? Van der Valk agrees: ‘As researchers, we've encountered these disadvantages ourselves. Because what does that tenth of a percent difference mean exactly and what can the marketeer do with it the next day? At a time when everything is becoming automated, the role of a consultant is becoming increasingly important. That's why we are committed to it.’

So an entirely different kind of brand tracker was proposed. Van de Burgt: ‘One which is not based on awareness. Classical trackers assume that many people are aware of the brand in the market, and want to find out if people consider the brand. They measure market awareness, consideration, purchasing or non-purchasing and loyalty or non-loyalty to the brand.’

Van der Valk: ‘We suggest that this brand awareness says little about your growth and whether people are actually going to purchase your brand. Amongst other things, this suggestion is based on Byron Sharp’s ‘How brands grow’ i.e, that it is important for brands 'to be there' when people are going to make a purchase. And that is slightly different to top of mind. ‘Do you know Douwe Egberts’? ‘Probably’. ‘Do you purchase and drink Douwe Egberts?’ ‘Possibly not’.

Van de Burgt: ‘These facts are logically linked to each other in brand trackers, but for us that is no longer the way in which you should measure; we have removed awareness from the start of the research; we simply start at the end of the brand tunnel, beginning with purchasing behaviour. We get to the bottom of that and then work our way backwards through the brand funnel. So we're very close to it: immediately after purchase.’

Many brand trackers run the AIDA model, which has been known for a long time to be inconsistent with reality, according to Van der Valk. ‘But in one way or another, it is in our system, KPIs are built up in this way and businesses are accustomed to relying on it for guidance. But it can no longer be relied upon for guidance. First you demonstrate behaviour and then you rationalise that behaviour. And if you carry that through to research, why should we explicitly question something about which people are entirely unaware?

People are a bit less rational than they think they are, so it's very difficult to predict behaviour. Nevertheless, you can influence behaviour through marketing and communication, but in a different way. Van der Valk: ‘Byron Sharp talks about mental availability, i.e. what does Coca-Cola mean in your head? So you have to go and measure that. It's less explicit.’

Van de Burgt: ‘In the past you had image statements. The most credible, professional, innovative or whatever. For consumers this is completely interchangeable, certainly if you are talking about categories the size of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.’

Does that also apply to the online retail sector?

Van der Valk: 'Yes'. Of course it has a few more differences. Marktplaats is positioned differently to or Coolblue, but you do see that brands are shifting ever closer to each other. And the auto category at Marktplaats is also competing with Autotracker for example.’

Van de Burgt: ‘We are arguing from the idea that people google everything and that they no longer automatically go to Marktplaats first, but only after they have searched for something. That is the moment we need to measure: What elements surrounding that brand determine that moment and determine the supplier's image?’

In place of brand aspects with which a great many brands wish to distinguish themselves in the market, Blauw is seeking specific category entry points: what do you think of a supplier of a fridge or soup mix and in what situation does that happen? For example for Marktplaats: ‘When I got my driving licence’.

And the market research bureau researches the role of the distinctive brand assets. Van de Burgt: ‘If we find those, we also know on which elements a brand can be driven/built on, in order to be present more frequently. These are also therefore occasions on which a consumer is going to purchase.’

So how do you measure it?

Van de Burgt: ‘It begins with behaviour: first we look at whether you recently purchased something. We can then question the facts in more detail. “Where did you purchase it, and did you plan to purchase it from there? Which brands and which stores did you also consider?” We use these types of questions to analyse how the entire orientation process plays out.’

Where do your respondents come from?

Van der Burgt: Respondents are consumers who have purchased 'something’, either online or offline. Naturally, Marktplaats also has offline competitors. From that point we filter by category, competition etc. Ultimately, you have a really good picture of your market share and what you need to work on, whether that's the brand or product, at store level. Where are we losing ground?’

Now we get to the second bit; the implicit emotional component whereby, based on implicit content which the client considers to be important in terms of the brand aspect, we investigate to what extent that is associated with the brand. For example, 'buying your first car’. Van der Burgt: ‘The used car market is huge, so someone who thinks about buying a new car after getting their driving licence, should actually first think of Marktplaats.’

So how do you go about that?

Van de Burgt: ‘We test it. So we define ongoing situations and submit them to respondents in relation to specific brands and use implicit testing to assess how strong those associations are. We do this with various brands and with competitors and we use large numbers of respondents for it. We question them using brief, robust questionnaires, which are easy to complete and quick to adapt. We want it to be a stable tool, because if you want to take direct decisions, you don't want to have to deal with fluctuations caused by a lack of data.'

And if you discover something of interest?

Van de Burgt: ‘For example, if you notice that cars are mainly being sold somewhere else, we do what we call deep-dives: we ask a separate group of respondents a number of focused questions or for example a diary assignment. There is now an ongoing basis, very brief and concise, and we can add things around it. Marktplaats now has a lot of data, from various categories. The market level encompasses this.’ Van de Valk: ‘We search for the mental shortcuts within the category for that product.’

Blauw worked with Marktplaats for 3 months to develop and set up the dashboard step by step. Van de Burgt: ‘We didn't want to throw all of the data at it immediately and cause cross-pollination of the data. We gain new insights every week.’

The dashboard is based on real-time data and mental hooks. Scores are allocated, even for competitors. From the first data you can see which hooks are effective and which are not.

This is not a standard approach. Isn't that quite a reversal?

Van der Valk: ‘Which Marktplaats were thankfully open to, because you have to create internal support for it. The effect at brand level must be visible in the data. It is unusual that Marktplaats wanted to do this, that they were willing to stick their neck out. But if they hadn't done so they would have continued to be deadlocked because they could see that reality was no longer consistent with the data from the brand trackers.’