How to Tackle Tracking. An Interview with W5 Quantitative Experts

The team at W5 is well versed on Strategic Tracking and has previously provided our perspectives on the State of Tracking and more recently updated our White Paper on Strategic Tracking. But to get a first-hand account of the methodology and W5’s perspective, read the interview with W5 Client Relations Consultant Grace Brown, Partner Andy Willard, and Senior Practice Consultant John Capps.

Before we get started, would you both give me a quick introduction, and why you enjoy quantitative research?

Sure, I’m Andy Willard, I am a partner here at W5 and lead up our quantitative practice which means I oversee all quantitative engagements. I enjoy quantitative research for the value it can provide clients and multi-phased engagements. We can establish a reliable representative foundation of insights from which all of the interpretation, projection, creative thinking, and strategic insights are then drawn from. The quantitative team at W5 is able to confidently provide a solid foundation or starting point upon which we can then do consultative, creative and strategic work.

I’m John Capps, and I am a Senior Consultant on our quantitative team and have been at W5 for going on five years now, alongside Andy on all of our quantitative engagements including a lot of tracking work. I enjoy quantitative work for the reasons Andy mentioned, but I also like that quant work is like a big puzzle. What I mean by that is that after fielding a survey we get these huge data sets back, and when you look at those you are able to get a big picture of how brands are doing in the category. But beyond the surface level of how brands may be doing, you are able to look a little deeper and understand the “whys” behind things. You can then connect the dots from the responses or maybe what is going on in the marketplace, and understand what elements are doing well, by fitting all the pieces together to tell a story that makes sense and is digestible.

Can you explain what W5’s approach to Strategic Tracking is, in a tweet character count or less?

JC – Well since Andy went first last time I’ll go first this time. On a really simple level in Strategic Tracking engagements, we track key brand metrics, including but not limited to: brand health, awareness, familiarity, consideration etc. but also as I just spoke to, we try and uncover the “whys.” Maybe something going on with a specific audience, or the category and marketplace. We then work to understand how these elements and factors affect the brand and its place in the category and larger marketplace.

AW – To echo what John said, we apply best practices for brand and advertising tracking but then we also customize all of the questions and possible answers to be relevant to our clients’ marketing initiatives.

What can be strategically tracked? Are there things that can’t or shouldn’t be?

For tracking a big one is brand health, and you can see that reflected in our White Paper in a brand funnel. Typically for clients we track Brand Health, Brand Perceptions, Brand Equity, Advertising Awareness, Advertising Effectiveness, and Consumer Needs and Motivations. Things that we have personally have seen that can get a little tricky in Strategic Tracking are when clients change ads or put them in channels that are different from a previous wave. When a client is changing ads, it’s hard for us to measure or explain why a different group of respondents may or may not have the same reaction to stimuli. The same goes for switching channels between waves. If a client has previously been using traditional channels like radio or T.V. but then goes to online, it can be difficult to fill in the gaps as to why or why not ads may no longer be resonating with the same audiences as previous waves because it is no longer apples to apples comparisons.

How can you track these things if you are starting from scratch in terms of understanding them?

If you are looking to get a complete understanding of where your brand is in terms of the marketplace, you can conduct a benchmark wave which provides a fresh perspective and starting place. You can then follow that up with a second wave of research that tracks things like brand health or advertising awareness, once you are in a good place to see the effectiveness advertising or other marketing efforts—which you can then compare to the previous wave or waves or research.

What are the benefits of Strategic Tracking research?

We see benefits of Strategic Tracking when clients are looking to keep a pulse on either their brand, marketing campaigns and initiatives, or their place overall in the market. Strategic Tracking can also help clients understand competitive contexts and establish a channel of insights on a variety of topics to help inform strategies moving forward.

Is there an ideal time of year to conduct Tracking research?

There is no right or wrong time to conduct Strategic Tracking research from a calendar perspective, but more so the timing depends on a client’s marketing and advertising efforts and when those shift within the marketplace.

Is Strategic Tracking just a quantitative practice?

Strategic Tracking can just be a quantitative practice but doesn’t have to be. One of the great things about tracking is how versatile it is, meaning you can periodically pair it with qualitative in-depth interviewing for example, or revisit Questionnaires each wave to add additional brand or advertising elements to track. The benefits of incorporating other research methodologies allows for planned and scheduled periods of additional discovery and exploration to complement shifting statistics.

Are there other quantitative research methodologies that pair well with Strategic Tracking?

It can be great to precede Strategic Tracking with insights gained from an in-depth exploratory research engagement, especially Segmentation. Additionally, if clients seek to conduct concept testing, it can be wise to then follow any initial research up with Strategic Tracking to further understand the impact of those concepts.

How does W5 approach continuous tracking reporting? Can there be nothing to report?

For Continuous Tracking engagements, W5 rolls up data on a periodic basis for analysis and reporting. When Strategic Tracking analysis and reporting result in static levels, we seek to add insight and value to the research by digging into the relationship between variables, expiring ad hoc questions that were asked in the survey, thinking about the data in new ways, and trying to visualize what we learn.

Additionally, as we learn and gain insights from wave to wave, we learn more about either the brand or their place in the market and are able add more questions to Screeners and Questionnaires that can probe further into things more that we wouldn’t have thought about before, which help to keep things fresh and useful throughout waves.

What is SWOT?

SWOT is a way to measure a brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When conducting SWOT analysis, W5 highlights these attributes through our analysis of all data and input throughout a survey. Additionally, SWOT is a macro-level analysis and perspective that’s gained from this type of research.

Can you tell me about a recent Strategic Tracking study and why it was successful?

We recently conducted a multi-phased engagement for a grocery retailer looking to better understand their place in the market, as well as how they compared to a major competitor within a specific geographic footprint. The benchmark wave consisted of qualitative shop-alongs and focus groups paired with a follow-up quantitative survey to validate insights. Following the benchmark wave, we updated the Screener and Questionnaire to reflect a few organizational changes that occurred in the time between the benchmark wave, which allowed for us to then gain additional wave-specific insights. This type of engagement is successful because the first wave was so beneficial, in terms of providing insights and direction, the Strategic Tracking becomes almost secondary in terms of being able to provide directional insights. Additionally, this engagement was interesting in that the client had a few hypotheses that we were able to test throughout the engagement, which then provided actionable directions they were looking to gain.

OK last question: What is a fun fact about the W5 Quantitative team?

We have a lot of great puns, or should I say we bring a lot to the table? Get it, like data tables?

Check out the full Strategic Tracking White Paper Here 

Check out all W5 White Papers here 

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