By Jeff Reynolds
Recently I learned that the new VP of Consumer Insights at one of the largest global packaged goods companies is considering dropping major tracking programs in favor of social media monitoring. This clarion call for the Consumer Insights industry stridently announces that—despite social media monitoring’s limitations—traditional tracking programs have grown too slow, unwieldy and costly for the modern marketing manager.
Today, a CMO in Chicago can see social media feedback from consumers in Brussels minutes after they share their experiences; but it can take months to deliver “consumer feedback” in global brand and ad tracking programs. Data flows instantaneously in our new world, causing traditional insights to appear stale and awkward. Traditional tracking looks like a taxi cab in an UBER world.
HAILING A NEED
Sure, marketers need data, but more importantly, they need insights at the speed of business. Recognizing this trend years ago, we developed a vision for brand and ad tracking based on the following five principles:
- It must work in real time, connecting us and our clients to the voice of the customer 24/7 via nimble software, easily accessible by phone, tablet and computer.
- It must integrate mobile and traditional survey feedback with text analytics to bring structure to the consumer voice in real time.
- It must integrate data from digital and social sources to understand the new consumer journey.
- Automation must reduce cost and management such that we can get much MORE data for the same cost.
- Automation must shift labor from low value to high value tasks to enable greater insights from the data.
Our vision, now a reality, is called BX or Brand eXperience Tracking. This new model hybridizes traditional brand and ad tracking with social media monitoring. It operates in real time and allows consumers of our clients’ products and services to tell us about their experiences in their own words. For consumers, BX feels richly “in the moment.” Something happens, and feedback begins streaming moments later. Meanwhile, it possesses enough structure to specifically target sophisticated brand and advertising strategies, and reflects the marketplace representatively, rather than overemphasizing extreme brand advocates or detractors, often noisy in social media.
THE TEST DRIVE
After two years of R&D, one of our best clients agreed to pilot with us. This client spends nine figures on its consumer marketing budget and wanted to connect its marketing activities to in-unit activities across its global restaurants. The result: Together we have taken a dusty, old, brand and advertising tracking study, and turned it into a robust marketing and brand feedback system.
BX has already radically changed the way the client does business, even as it continues to evolve and improve. The company’s CMO, originally a critic of both the study itself and the marketing research department, now considers himself a proponent. Just last month, insights from BX drove recommendations to the Board of Directors.
Along the way, we’ve learned that this type of change is neither easy, nor free. It requires BOLD leadership because there are indeed trade-offs with the status quo.
- It requires a shift in mindset, from studies to “data systems”.
- More thinking, clarity and decisions must be moved UP FRONT in the process to design the system.
- A large data system requires that some forms of short-term flexibility are traded off for medium and long-term power.
- Data systems such as these require significant capital expense for infrastructure that often times are larger than the traditional MR appetite for technology investments. Like many systems, they cost more in Year 1 for savings and benefits in Year 2 and beyond.
The trade-offs mentioned are undeniable. Real leadership will be required to fight through the structural and economic barriers to change. But I believe that it, and approaches like it, are the future of our industry. The yellow taxi will forever be iconic. But as the nostalgic stand street side with their hands in the air, the ready among us will zoom past in UberBLACKs.