How a Better Brand Tracking Program Can Forge Deeper Connections with Customers



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While visiting our oldest at college, we went to a DC restaurant with several TVs playing national news. The news anchors debated the pending recession, mid-term elections, and the real estate market. On the TV closest to our table, the news anchor announced that it felt like 2008 all over again and that corporations didn’t know how to react. Looking around at the table at my four kids and husband, I realized how much has changed since 2008. Back then, I was a fresh college graduate who was grateful to have a job at a major corporation and thought getting email on my phone would be exciting. Facebook had just started surpassing Myspace, and Blockbuster didn’t think Netflix would make it. The stock market wasn’t accessible through an app, Airbnb had just launched, and Lyft and Uber hadn’t even been invented. Consumers had a different relationship with, and metabolism for, content consumption. They didn’t have easy access to cross-cultural communication, trends, and the ability to engage with global brands.

Unlike in 2008, consumers today have a greater expectation for personalization and a customer-centric approach to engagement. There’s a new standard for brands when it comes to authentic engagement, and the challenge they face is this: while more access to technology provides additional data on consumers, the amount of data has evolved to immensity, slowing a brand’s ability to have a complete picture of those consumers. Turning such data into strategic insights — especially ones paired with behavioral science that assesses the intent and mindset behind consumers’ thoughts and behaviors — will be a crucial strategic advantage going into 2023.

Turning such data into strategic insights — especially ones paired with behavioral science that assesses the intent and mindset behind consumers’ thoughts and behaviors — will be a crucial strategic advantage going into 2023.

Put another way, brands will need to understand the type of experiences, engagement, and value that builds a deeper bond with their consumers. The lipstick index, a financial indicator that leverages data from cosmetic sales to forecast recessions, is an excellent illustration. Understanding a consumer’s emotions and mindset around why they turn to cosmetics for comfort during tough economic times is more profound than the data alone, as it gives you insights into how that purchase made the consumer feel. Why a consumer tries a new brand or remains loyal to their favorite one; how lipstick makes them feel confident during a video conference or lets them express who they truly are when they feel a little lost — the real impact comes from understanding these motivations and desires and being able to take action.

A future-proof approach to brand tracking

Companies must be prepared for pivoting competitors, unpredictable celebrity brand partners, new digital platforms, and cultural shifts. In times of uncertainty, it’s even more critical that companies take a dynamic and future-proof approach to tracking and customer experience to drive growth. A deeper understanding of your consumers provides a refined and actionable guide to business performance, allowing for pivotal decisions to be made more efficiently.

You don’t need to go back to 2008 to see that the last few years of unpredictability in the marketplace have made it essential for brands to uncover up-to-date customer insights to drive their business and create a transformative relationship with their consumers. In 2020, consumers spoke very clearly with their purchases and online behavior. They sought to make their home environments worth seclusion; fitness equipment, cooking tools, and comfy clothes all saw record sales. This surge in customer purchases also lead to many companies still dealing with the inventory impacts of attempting to predict ever-shifting consumer demand for experiences and engagement that align with their needs. Companies gleaned a lot of data during 2020 that, while powerful, highlighted the consumer’s mindset during a particular period. The real power is with the brands that have a comprehensive, global tracking program to have a single source of truth that understands their consumers’ emotional drivers.

Of course, consumers are human and beautifully diverse, so our data can be flawed. This can be challenging for brands when humans from different cultures or within the same culture answer questions differently despite sharing the same attitude or behaviors. Brand tracking partners must be focused on metrics that reduce bias and have culturally relevant insights. Then there are the non-human data hurdles that have evolved along with technology—whether human or non-human, having an insights partner that has mastered the fundamentals of data quality eliminates misdirection and inaccuracies. The last thing any company needs in a complex environment is for insights based on poor-quality data to impact their business.

The expectation of a better experience

In our connected world, building a brand or selling a quality product is not enough. Consumers expect an experience that acknowledges their motivations, values, and awareness of who and what influences them. As a millennial marketer mom sitting across the table from Gen Z consumers, I can confirm we are not the same as in 2008. The 2020 census showed that the United States is growing younger and more diverse, and other countries are also seeing demographic shifts in their populations. K-Pop has become a global phenomenon, and Puerto Rican rapper and singer Bad Bunny is breaking international records with a Spanish language-only album. We are not the same country, let alone the same planet. Looking at where companies were in 2008, they have evolved along with technology and their consumers.

With the right insights, brands can better predict which levers to pull to drive growth and strengthen their consumer relationships. As companies leverage data and insights to take a more customer-centric lens on the global marketplace, their consumers can guide them.

Key Takeaways:

  • While the economy may face similar hurdles as in 2008, brands’ access to data and technology is not the same — and they’re more empowered to face an unpredictable 2023.
  • The consumer has also evolved since 2008 and expects brands to have a deeper level of human understanding when engaging with them.
  • Having data on your consumer does not mean you have a complete picture of your consumer and can anticipate their need state and mindset — and ultimately what drives brand love.
  • In times of uncertainty, it is even more critical that companies take a dynamic and future-proof approach to tracking to drive growth.