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Brand Research: What it Means and What it Does

Know the first step in any brand-building strategy. Know these effective, actionable steps like surveys, focus groups, interviews, and more.

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Brands, as a whole, are developed, not created. It doesn't come out as something built to serve the company, but it is the accumulated perception of them by themselves and their audience. This means that every company always has a brand the moment you sell something to the public, whether you like it or not. A branding agency leads its development, which helps how your company wants to be perceived. And that involves creating an overarching strategy that develops brand elements like brand recognition, value proposition, and core values. 

But doing so starts at something other than a meeting table where executives think of ideas that best represent their brand; it involves research. Data gathering, audience analysis, market trends - these strategies are required to find that specific principle that isn't building a new brand but a brand that sets you apart from your competitors, which is why brands are developed, not created.

This part of the brand-building strategy can look intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. This blog will tell you the strategy we used, like when we worked with BIC, and actionable steps you can use in your company, no matter the size.

Let's get started!

What is brand research?

Brand research is a data collection and comparative analysis. The primary intent is to gain insights into brand elements and how they affect its reputation and target audience visibility. Moreover, it serves to measure the success of the current brand-building strategy.

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Brand Research vs. Brand Analysis

These two strategies may look similar, but they serve different purposes. Conducting brand research aims to gain insights from data and trends gathered on the brand-building strategies' success. This stage answers questions such as 'How do people see the brand?', 'What brand elements make people see negatively?' and others.

Brand analysis is the next step after doing brand research. It is the application of the gained insight from the audit to plan out the strategies and actions to:

Retarget: To change the brand-building strategy and set the sights on other opportunities.

Refine: To seek and fill the gaps in the current branding strategies

Recreate: To continue implementing the current strategy if it is deemed successful

The steps to take in brand analysis heavily rely on the outcomes of the brand market research; therefore, while the two aspects of brand strategy are different, they are closely connected.

Why is Brand Research Important?

 A good brand-building strategy always starts with understanding the brand's current role. Brand refresh, rebranding, or any strategy that sets a shift in any of the brand elements needs to have a start to determine if any further steps are proven successful. For example, a company might think rebranding is a good idea to keep up with modern technology. Still, insufficient brand research might cause gaps in the process, which make the rebrand unsuccessful (e.g., for this example, the core target audience prefers a traditionalist or handmade approach to products or services).

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What Scenarios Compel Brand Research?

Here are the following company scenarios which make brand research a good idea to start something moving forward:

When the Brand Has New Competitors

A new startup competitor, strapped with investor's cash and interest garnered through their one-of-a-kind arrival. This situation might induce concerns in companies, especially when new competitors address the market's missed pain points. Brand research helps you identify those gaps and allows your brand to keep up and lead the market.

When the Brand is Falling Off

Consistency is one of the core tenets of creating a brand, but sometimes not doing something new hurts the brand. If you recognize a fall in revenue or a lack of interest in your brand, proper brand research helps you figure out those issues and plan actionable steps to revitalize your brand.

When Trying to Make a New Name or Brand Identity

It is okay to think twice about the risk of rebranding, especially considering the inevitability of alienating your target audience. However, if you are willing to start something new with the brand, comprehensive brand research is required to easily transition your brand image and perception to your new brand.

After a Merger or Acquisition

One of the reasons for a rebrand is because of mergers or acquisitions. Major changes are made to the brand elements to tell your target audience that these two or more brands are now connected, but like any rebrand strategy, the risk of audience alienation comes. Some keep their brand, while others go through a rigorous process of ensuring the new look feels rightfully familiar to their customers. How you decide on these plans depends on the outcomes of brand research.

When the Target Audience Changes

But when the company's brand stays, yet its audience changes, brand research becomes valuable in any branding strategy. This is also useful when the company wants to scale up and look for bigger opportunities in its brand reach.

When the Brand Feels Old

Some brands stand the test of time and prefer to keep it that way(e.gCoca-Cola's logo), and some brands change their image to keep up with their audience preference (e.g., Google's logo). There is no shorthand method for whether a brand refresh is needed, but determining depends on the brand research results. 

When the Company Wanted to Hire Top Talent

The audience isn't limited to customers; having brand research also allows you to develop a branding strategy that attracts highly valued talents and keeps them in your company.

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Types of Brand Research Focus

If your company is in any of the scenarios above, here are the following types of brand research you can do:

Brand Awareness

Also considered as brand recall, this element is one of the most important to focus on, which measures how to know the brand to the target audience consciously or unconsciously. A brand with good brand awareness comes up quickly in a person's mind when asked, "Can you give me a brand that sells this stuff?". The reach of brand awareness depends much on the target audience preferences and other factors like location,  industry, marketing efforts, etc.

Brand Positioning

Conducting brand research aims to determine how to differentiate the brand from the competitors, especially when such competitors have a market advantage. Therefore, one of the strategies in brand positioning research focus is to check the market trends and look for gaps in and unaddressed pain points, which serve as opportunities for the brand as its differentiator.

Brand Associations

This means what the brand is known for. This goes hand-in-hand with brand positioning, as brand associations are mostly factors in your brand that sets you apart. It answers example questions like, "If the customer thinks of aspects like low price or excellent customer service, do they think about us?" or "Is the brand known as an environmentally friendly brand?" and the like. Sometimes, the brand association is something that is developed unintentionally (e.g., a Gen-z centric brand because of one ad that uses memes, even though the intent was simply to give the brand a sense of humor), which is why the audit is needed to refine the brand association that serves a purpose.

Brand Perception

While brand awareness focuses on how recognizable a brand is, brand perception focuses on how it is recognized. Unlike brand association, brand perceptions are the brand elements' overarching positive or negative perception. This focus is crucial, especially if the brand-building strategy plans to do a rebrand, to recognize which part works and which doesn't.

Brand Loyalty

When a brand delivers well to its customers in factors like product satisfaction, brand messaging, core values, and others, it gets loyal customers. Much revenue is achieved through repeat business, so focusing on brand loyalty is important for companies, especially for brands looking to introduce new features, products, or services.

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the perceived total value of the brand, which is one of the deciding factors when customers choose a brand to purchase a product, even if the brands serve largely the same purpose. Implementing brand research focused on brand equity is important if the branding strategy is looking to scale up the pricing, for example.

Brand Advocacy

Customers who are loyal to a product will likely recommend them to their peers, relatives, and acquaintances. Brand advocacy research serves as the final stage of the buyer's journey, in which the customer now also serves as a promoter of the brand, which saves costs in marketing outreach strategies.

Brand Value

While brand equity is the perceived value of the brand, brand value is its monetary worth. Brand research strategy focusing on value is needed if there is an opportunity to sell the brand to merge with other businesses. Moreover, determining the brand value is needed if there is an opportunity to sell the rights of the brand's logo, identity, products, and such.

Brand Research Methods and Strategies

Once you have settled on the type of focus you are going to research, here is the actionable that you can do.

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Audience Surveys

Surveys are one of the strategies to conduct brand research as it answers some of the questions regarding whether the brand elements worked or not. It is straightforward, as it directly asks questions regarding where the brand stands. It is multi-channel, as surveys can be implemented via email, phone interviews, or a website. It is also appropriate in any stage of brand development, whether starting up a brand or considering a rebranding. Here are some questions that you can ask when implementing an audience survey:

1. How did you hear about the brand?

2. What brand comes to mind When you want to purchase a product?

3. What do you feel when you see the brand?

4. When was the last time you saw the brand's advertisement? Where did you find it?

5. What compels you to buy the product in any brand?

6. What compels you to buy the product from the brand?

7. How likely are you going to recommend the brand?

The examples above serve different aspects of branding but can be asked as supplementary information in the future. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when conducting a survey.

1. Keep it short - you are asking for time from your customer, which they'll never get back, so make sure that the survey is worthwhile and brief

2. Don't ask too much - only sparingly send survey emails or calls. Only send the survey mostly when it's within the context (e.g., when the customer just purchased a product)

3. Provide Incentives - offer discounts or any promotion as a reward for the survey. But make sure that the customers know that whatever they say in the survey shouldn't affect how much they get in their discount. Not only does it tell your audience that you are willing to take honest critique, which increases brand loyalty, but it also has the integrity to ensure that surveys are unbiased.

Focus Groups

When conducting qualitative research, another great way to conduct interviews under an audience survey is to have focus groups. The discussion space can be a room or a digital space like a Zoom meeting. Here are some tips when conducting a focus group discussion:

1. Organize the focus group process. Ensure there is a notetaker so the interviewer can focus on mediating the discussion. Ensure that appropriate forms like the consent forms and their rights are recognized, and the room is comfortable for the participants (unless using a digital meeting).

2. Recruiting participants might be challenging, especially when people rarely do things for free. Consider discounts or promotions as an incentive when people join your focus group.

3. The process must be conversational, not transactional. What we meant is that one question shouldn't have only one answer. Have everyone introduce themselves first to start. Ask open-ended questions, and ask them in a way that encourages discussion around it. For example, you can ask, "What brands do you think of first when you buy a product?" This way,  people are willing to respond based on their personal experience.

4. Make sure that every voice is heard. A diversified demographic of participants is an excellent strategy as it allows you to get a broader range of results to analyze. Moreover, keep in mind some participants who seemed to be quiet and allow them to have time to answer the question or participate in an ongoing discussion.

5. Set expectations on when to end the discussion. For example, if you have a participant who is too willing to share their opinions, give them ample time to talk and politely ask them to wrap up when nearing their turn.

Ensure to thank everyone for their time after the interview and give timely incentives.

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Competitor Research

You can also set your data-gathering efforts to your competitors as well. Competitive analysis allows you to determine your standing in the market by comparing your brand to theirs. It should answer questions that will be useful in your brand-building strategies like:

1. What are they doing that makes them lead the market?

2. What is their main selling point?

3. How do people feel about them?

Online competitor research can be automated by online tools (Ahref, Semrush, SproutSocial, etc.), which provide data like website traffic and rankings in search engines.

Here are the steps that you can use for your competitor research process after you have your list of your competitors:

1. Check their online presence - many brand-customer interactions happen online. Check the user experience of their websites, like responsiveness, customer support, ease of access, purchase process, etc. You can see what their marketing campaigns are like. Do they write blogs? Do they connect with their customers through social media? How useful are their newsletters as a visitor?

2. Check their brand elements - create a spreadsheet to organize your data—things like the brand logo, motto, value proposition, story, personality, etc.

3. Check how people feel about them - you can check for their online reviews of their products and services. You can also check the comments on their social media platforms.

Once you can gather valuable data, ensure they are sorted and prepared for analysis for your brand-building strategies.

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Employee Interviews

Employee research is particularly useful if your brand research focus serves your employer brand. Like how you conduct your interviews and focus groups, you can do the same thing with your employees. Ensure they are not intimidated not to give positive feedback to the brand as a company, employer, or product - one way to do this is to ensure the surveys are anonymous. 

Here are the types of employee research that you can do for your company:

  Satisfaction - This is gathering employee morale data and finding factors that increase or decrease them. Surveys like this ask questions like:

How satisfied are you with your current salary?

How willing are you to stay in your role?

What do you think about the company policies?

Engagement - It determines their motivation for productive work within the organization, how the employee sees the changes, etc. Ask these questions:

What is your role in the company?

How confident are you to accomplish the task given to you?

What do you think about your leader?

What do you think about your coworkers/team?

Company Culture - It is to audit the team's understanding of the brand mission and core values. There are the example questions:

How consistent are the core values with the work culture?

What does the brand mission mean to you?

What does the company do to make it successful?

Business Process.- This is the survey that serves as feedback and suggestion on how the business processes can be improved. You can ask questions like:

How can you improve the management aspect of the business

What do you think about the recent decision of the company?

Final thoughts

Remember, conducting brand research only serves as the strategy to gather information from employees and customers about the aspects of your brand for your branding strategies. Brand analysis is another part, which can be more difficult, but with Evolve, we can help you gain insights from your gathered data and help to build a stronger brand that leaves a lasting impression on your customers.

Evolve is a team of experts with experience working with successful companies like Deep Structure, and we are fully committed to working with you every step of the way.

You can check our past work to see how we help companies build their dream brand. You can also check your blog page for the latest trends and news about building a brand that leads the market in this tech-driven age.

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About the Author

Carl Undag

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Evolv's dedicated copywriter, blending storytelling prowess with business acumen for impactful results.

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