brand tracker surveys

By Tavis McGinn (Honest Data Founder and CEO)

In an ideal world, advertising would work immediately. People would see your ad on television and then drop everything to rush out to a store (or a website) and purchase your product as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, advertising does not work this way. It can take weeks, months, or even years for an advertising campaign to deliver results. 

So why does advertising have a delayed effect? There are three main reasons: trust, differentiation, and the length of the purchase cycle. 

In our personal lives, we build trust through familiarity. We rarely trust strangers. Instead, if someone wants our trust, we spend time getting to know them as a person. We study their actions and their words to get a sense for their values. We decide whether or not they are worthy of our trust. 

Brands face the same challenge as people. They have to earn trust before they can sell products. Brands have to prove to consumers that they are worthy of consideration. First impressions are critical. The first impression needs to educate the consumer (let them know you exist) and it needs to carefully avoid anything that could cause the consumer to immediately reject your brand (wacky ads). 

One of the most popular frameworks in advertising is called AIDA. It talks about the psychological journey that consumers follow as they go from “unaware” of your brand to “interested” to, finally, becoming a customer. “A” stands for awareness. “I” stands for interest. “D” stands for desire. “A” stands for action. This framework effectively describes a relationship between the brand and the consumer and the brand has to build trust over time. 

Advertising doesn’t always drive immediate results if the brand is still too new and has yet to drive significant awareness and trust in the marketplace. Sometimes, a brand will focus on advertising that drives awareness followed by advertising that drives purchase. Like any relationship, you usually can’t skip any steps, you need to go stage-by-stage to close the deal. 

The second reason that advertising fails to work immediately is differentiation. A consumer might learn about your brand (awareness) and believe that you are a reputable company (trust), but they may already have dozens of other “acceptable” options from your competitors. For example, when Dyson started selling vacuum cleaners, there were already plenty of other high-quality vacuums available in stores. Sure, Dyson seemed reputable, but how were they different? Why should a person abandon the brand they’ve been using for years (such as Hoover) to try something relatively new (Dyson)?

Marketing doesn’t work overnight because simply driving awareness and trust is not enough. Brands have to also drive differentiation. They have to explain in no uncertain terms what makes them different. What is their unique value proposition? If their advertising promotes the same six features that everyone in their industry offers, then they will never be able to stand out from the crowd. So advertising often needs to hyper-focus on what makes a brand special or unique (especially in a crowded marketplace). 

Finally, advertising fails to work immediately because of purchase cycles. There are some products (like deli meat) that consumers might buy every week. If you can introduce your brand, earn their trust, and differentiate – they might buy your product next week. But for many product categories – such as cars, homes, and vacations – purchases don’t happen on a weekly basis. People only go on a major vacation once a year, they only buy a car once every couple years, and they only buy a house once every decade or so. 

If you are advertising a new car brand (such as Tesla), you can drive awareness, trust, and differentiation for a particular consumer (let’s call her Susan)… but still have to wait years to see a payoff. Susan may decide that her next car is definitely going to be a Tesla, but she may not feel the need to replace her current car for several years. So a brand has to “plant the seed” with advertising and then wait. 

A brand tracker survey helps brands measure whether or not they are advancing their relationship with consumers. Sales might not happen overnight, so brands need to understand whether or not their advertising has, at least, moved consumers a few steps closer to the purchase decision. If a campaign successfully drives awareness and consideration in the short-term, then the hope is that it will drive sales and retention in the long-term. Brand metrics are an early indicator for sales metrics. 

Brands typically do brand tracker surveys on a monthly basis. This helps them measure the effectiveness of various campaigns (advertising, press coverage, customer referrals, organic growth, etc.). Some brands will also do brand tracker surveys is specific markets (DMAs) before and after an advertising campaign (in both test and control markets) to identify the incremental lift in brand health associated with a focused investment in advertising. 

The typical questions asked in most brand tracker surveys come from the AIDA model and other marketing frameworks. The most common questions are as follows: 

Unaided Awareness

Aided Awareness



Intent to Purchase


Ad Recall

For our clients, we may add other questions related to perceived differentiation, relative rank versus competitors, overall positive versus negative impression, buzzworthy, logo recognition, jingle recognition, tagline recognition, spokesperson recognition, brand distribution, and other topics. 

Most of our clients that do brand trackers watch their performance closely, but they are also watching the performance of their competitors closely. If they know (from other sources) that a competitor just spent $20 million on an advertising campaign target Millennials, for example they might look at the brand health data for their competitors brand within that particular consumer segment. 

We love brand tracker surveys but they require a ton of data quality control to ensure that each wave of the study is apples-to-apples with the previous waves in terms of methodology, demographics, timing, survey experience, and reporting. Some of our startup clients will focus on driving sales in the first five years, sales and awareness in the next five years, and then sales and a full battery of brand health metrics in the next 10+ years. 

If you have questions about brand tracker research, feel free to email our team. We love to talk shop! Reach us at