It’s time to update your brand tracker

Here’s why.
Adelynne Chao

In our first post we explored how Jobs to be Done can be an effective tool for marketers. Our bold suggestion: de-prioritise your brand tracker. In this post we explore why we think it’s the right time for many businesses to update how their brand tracker is used and why a Jobs to be Done (JTBD) approach to insight is more likely to improve marketing effectiveness.  

A reminder of what JTBD is all about. In business, what we’re all trying to do (all of us) is sell products that customers want to buy. Better yet, to sell products that customers love to buy. Jobs to be Done is the most effective ‘lens’ we’ve found which provides a clear, predictable route to getting there. So far, it has been more frequently applied to innovation and bringing new products to market. But it’s equally powerful as a tool for marketers.  

If you’re not offering products and services that help customers make progress on their Jobs to Be Done, you’ll become quickly irrelevant.

Brand tracking is an outdated model 

I started my career as a young graduate at GfK, one of the big market research firms. Fresh faced and overly keen, I caught the tail end of what I now consider to be the ‘golden’ days of agency life. High rise office overlooking the Thames, weekly social events, jet setting to Canada for client debriefs, working on multi-million dollar accounts. Those days are gone, and if we’re honest, they probably should be.

One of the company's biggest revenue generators at the time: the brand tracker. We had a brand tracker for every client. What struck me was how similar all of these brand trackers were. Not only that, but how the questions we’d been asking people had stayed set in stone for the duration of the tracker’s life. For some clients, that was almost 10 years already. Keeping in mind that graduate days are long behind me, we’re talking about brand tracker surveys going out today that are almost identical to the ones going out to consumers 20+ years ago. 

Where brand tracking survey methods have changed little since the late 90's, the world around us has changed drastically. The way people browse, discover and buy has changed. High speed internet, smartphones, social media and apps have short circuited the old model. Some of the biggest brands of our time didn’t exist back then: Uber, AirBnB, Instagram and so on. The bar of consumer expectations about speed, cost, service and experience was a lot (A LOT) lower. 

The most successful brands are the ones that tie brand and customer jobs together to become well-known for serving specific customer jobs really well.

Consumer needs or ‘jobs’ come before brand 

Jobs theory says: customers don’t want products or brands, they want to achieve an outcome in their lives. Your brand may be helping them to do that right now, but if something better comes along they’ll eventually switch. This is a far more realistic lens for looking at customer buying psychology than through the lens of ‘brand value’.

Because, no matter how much customers ‘love’ your brand. No matter how many people know about it. If you’re not offering products and services that help customers make progress on their Jobs to Be Done, you’ll become quickly irrelevant. If brand ‘love’ really mattered we’d still be buying Kodak cameras, shopping at Woolworth’s and calling friends on BlackBerrys. And we definitely wouldn’t be flying on Ryanair in our millions (notorious for being one of the most hated low-cost airline brands).  

The reason why Ryanair does so well, is because for the majority of customers of low-cost airlines, the job is simply to ‘get to my destination cheaply and on time’. Ryanair is one of the cheapest and most punctual airlines out there. Some customers however may have a slightly different job - ‘get to my destination in maximum comfort’ - if money is not a concern they may go with someone else. 

This also explains how so many challenger brands manage to swoop in and shortcut the buying process, capturing sales and growing a decent following seemingly out of nowhere. They identify the customer jobs that are under-served by existing legacy brands. They create a seamless, digital, end-to-end customer experience which combines product and marketing to effectively target these specific jobs. They focus on cultural relevance within their niche. Glossier founder Emily Weiss credits much of their initial success on identifying where traditional beauty brands were letting customers down.

Customer insight has infinitely more power when used to inform strategy, rather than solely as a mechanism for monitoring performance after the fact.

Brands and brand tracking are valuable but misused 

Brands are a valuable asset. They are the mechanism for communicating how your business provides value to people’s lives. The most successful brands are the ones that tie brand and customer jobs together to become well-known for serving specific customer jobs really well. However, too many brand trackers are focused on tracking the performance of predefined attributes, values or statements against predefined competitor lists. These brand trackers fail to monitor your brand against the things that really matter to customers when they’re making buying decisions. This is why we often hear from clients who are struggling with brand tracker data because it (1) is hard to make sense of (2) rarely shows any changes (3) causes data overload (4) is under utilised and (5) doesn’t even reflect business performance. 

Brand trackers also struggle to reflect how people make buying decisions today. In the past, knowledge of brands was one of the primary ways for consumers to navigate the market. If you wanted to buy something, you relied heavily on your awareness of brands which offered that thing. Today, targeted social media marketing, google searches and an openness to disruptor brands has changed the path to purchase.  

Predefined competitor lists also pose problems. Thinking back to a brand tracker project at a previous agency for a struggling stationery retailer where the list of competitors included: other stationery retailers. In reality a huge amount of stationery sales were being gobbled up by supermarkets, non-stationery retailers (e.g. fashion stores) and Amazon. The convenience of picking up a birthday card during your weekly shop solved customers’ job most effectively. By focusing too much on other stationery retailers, the business was losing sight of the true competition. Not the competition for stationery, but the competition for the customer’s job. 

Brand insights must be linked to customer jobs 

As a business, you must know your customers’ Jobs to be Done. Ideally product, customer experience, marketing and brand all tie back to the customer job(s) of your target audience(s). Focused JTBD research can help you identify what these customer jobs are. Customer jobs are different from ‘needs’ - jobs work harder to cleverly articulate the progress that a customer is trying to make. Jobs focus on what drives a customer into a buying or switching moment. 

The brand tracker of the future will be stripped back and tightly focused on measuring how well brand and marketing performs at establishing and maintaining the link between brand and customer jobs. Where traditional brand tracking captures ‘top of mind awareness’, brand tracking using JTBD could capture a series of ‘top of mind’ responses for different customer jobs. Where traditional brand tracking focuses on predefined brand attributes, brand tracking using JTBD could take a customer-led approach to understanding and measuring the importance of different customer jobs.

Traditional brand tracking Brand tracking using JTBD
Top of mind awareness Top of mind awareness for a series of focused customer jobs
Predefined competitor list Any competitor that could serve this customer job (even outside the sector)
Brand attributes or descriptors Brand association with customer jobs
Importance vs. performance of brand attributes vs. competitors Importance vs. performance of serving customer Jobs vs. competitors

Repurpose budgets towards strategic JTBD studies

Customer insight has infinitely more power when used to inform strategy, rather than solely as a mechanism for monitoring performance after the fact. By taking your teams through a JTBD focused process you’ll be able to identify customer jobs, cultural context and competitor / market mapping. This will enable you to size and prioritise opportunities and optimise your product and marketing messaging to target customers’ most important and most under-served jobs. Unlocking new avenues for growth. 


Jobs thinking is the way forward for businesses that want to adapt to the way things are now (and are going to be) and the way people make buying decisions today (not how they did decades ago). We’re calling for the research industry and marketers to rethink the role of the brand tracker. Is it still fit for purpose?

For more information about our process or Jobs to Be Done, drop us a message in the chat or get in touch at


Untold is a growth consultancy specialising in customer-led growth strategies.

For more information about our process, drop us a message in the chat or get in touch at

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Untold is a marketing & growth consultancy specialising in customer-led growth strategies.

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