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Are You in a Dysfunctional Brand Tracking Relationship? A Quiz

Two hands unjoining from broken relationship

The very nature of an ongoing brand tracking study requires that the client and their insights partner be in a relationship. At best, these relationships are true win-win partnerships. At worst, they become borderline abusive situations in which nobody wins.

To promote the former and avoid the latter, both the client and their supplier need to commit to a mutually shared vision for what their relationship can, should, and will be. And then, both parties need to ensure that their behaviors facilitate and enable that vision to become reality.

If you’re reading this, chances are good you’re either a brand tracking client or may be one in the near future. This piece is devoted to helping you avoid a few of the traps that lead to dysfunctional relationships with your tracking supplier. And no, we’re not here to be judgy; we really do want to help. Though we also cop to being a bit snarky along the way. Consider this as a life-altering path to Maslow’s ideal of self-actualization, which to us at Material, is shamelessly self-serving given all the brand tracking studies we run.

A story from a dysfunctional brand tracker relationship

First, an illustration of what we’re trying to avoid. On one of the brand tracking studies that  Material runs, we recently had a situation in which our client requested that the final report be delivered several days ahead of schedule. A tough challenge for us, but a request presumably made for important reasons. We went all in, committing to the new date.

The request required our project team to work until 10 PM or later for three consecutive nights. Yes, a tough challenge, but one we took on and achieved. We delivered the report a week early as requested. The project team felt great about being there for the client! After sending the report off, we heard nothing back from the client. Follow-up e-mails we sent and voice mails we left went unanswered. Crickets.

In the age of COVID and the duress of 2020, we naturally hoped the client was OK during these complicated times. We confirmed that the e-mail containing the link to the report was in fact delivered. We finally got in touch with the client a couple of weeks later and did ascertain that everything was OK. But when we asked about how the report was received by the client and his stakeholders, the client replied that he hadn’t seen it at all and asked if could we re-send it. Yikes! So much for the importance of accelerated delivery. Our team ended up feeling unappreciated and deflated. They rose to the occasion to meet the need, but the response fell far short of commensurate with the effort.

Big picture, whether you are a client or a supplier, you have probably had your share of bad experiences on tracking studies. The data point that didn’t make sense. The tabs that were wrong. The client was unreasonable – or nasty. The supplier was unresponsive – or arrogant. The client from hell! The supplier from hell! We’ve all been there, but is it really the best way to live? We think there’s room to create anabolic, high-energy partnerships on tracking studies even under the most demanding of circumstances.

Quiz: Are you contributing to the brand tracking dysfunction?

Much like no reasonable person ever wanted to fly in or out of Newark, way back when we still flew, no reasonable insights professional running a tracking study really wants to be the proverbial “client from hell” either. In the spirit of minimizing dysfunction, we have prepared a self-assessment for you, the tracking study client. Don’t worry. We’re preparing a similar quiz for suppliers, but that will need to wait for a future article! So, here goes:

1. Have you ever asked for a “one-off, urgent special data request” more than twice in the same week?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

2. Have you ever asked for additional regional reports with the assumption that there will be no incremental cost, even though it’s not in the SOW?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

3. Have you ever demanded that a complex multivariate analysis be completed as quickly as a standard set of cross-tabs?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

4. Have you ever insisted that your 30-minute survey be programmed, even though the budget is built for 20 minutes?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

5. Have you ever received a final report from your supplier, only to then realize that “it needs to be put into our template?”

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

6. Do you routinely identify urgent requests on Fridays, which are then due “first thing Monday?”

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

7. Do you harbor grievances that really need to be discussed and worked through?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

8. Do you believe that the only reason for junior tracking employees to exist at all is to work on your and only your project?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

9. Do you become angry when there’s not a single, silver-bullet answer to why a trended measure is going up or down?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

10. Do you believe that a sense of humor has no place when conducting a tracking study?

[     ] Yes – give yourself 1 point [     ] No

That’s the survey. The scoring model is straightforward: 0 points – you are likely a gem of an individual and a beloved client to all 1-3 points – you exhibit occasional behaviors that may undermine the health of the client/supplier relationship 4-5 points – you may just be a little bit of a tyrant More than 5 points – you may be the proverbial “client from hell”.

Why you need strong partnerships with brand tracking companies

Successful tracking study partnerships require commitment from all participants over the long haul, particularly in challenging times. It’s not easy, and we all have opportunities for improvement. But once achieved, healthy relationships provide energy, momentum, and a means for good things to happen for our businesses and our individual careers.

Bottom-line, tracking suppliers are like all other business partners. They do their best work when their clients:1) know what they want and need, 2) are respectful and responsive, and 3) value the supplier’s work.

And, from the supplier side, tracking clients are like all other business partners. They do their best work when the supplier 1) is thoughtful and attentive, 2) delivers high-quality data, analysis, and insights, and 3) is always there for them in times of need. Together, with the right mindset and actions, we can all do our part to make brand tracking study partnerships better!


About the Author

As EVP of Material's Insights Division, Eric leads strategic insights needs for clients across several verticals. He has been a marketing and insights professional for over 30 years. He joined Material in 2000, following stints on the client side and with other research and consulting firms. Over the course of his career, Eric has enjoyed roles in strategy development, market research, and competitive intelligence. He holds a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in organizational management.

Profile Photo of Eric Asch