There are two primary forms of research used to create a successful brand strategy: exploratory research performed before the strategy is created, and validation research performed afterwards. The two types of research are very different, but both are incredibly valuable in helping formulate a powerful brand that can interest and attract customers.
Step One: Exploratory Brand Research
Not many B2B companies conduct brand research on a regular basis. In some cases, a company may never consider brand-specific research until the beginning of a brand strategy engagement. In any situation where a company’s brand perception research is more than a year old, we recommend beginning any strategy engagement with exploratory brand research.
Exploratory brand research is much more than a typical customer satisfaction survey. The complex methodologies used are designed to determine a company’s brand perceptions among its target market: current customers, the prospective customers and other stakeholders as appropriate. The primary goal of such research is to pinpoint potential opportunities to expand current brand perceptions in a way that customers and prospects will find believable and compelling.
When performed before the creation of the brand strategy, exploratory brand research helps guide the tone and direction of the new brand. Without performing this type of research, the brand strategy must rely on the opinions of the leadership team, or past research. In some cases, this is enough to steer the brand in a safe direction. However, this can be dangerous. Without the benefit of an outside perspective and third party research, the brand may mistakenly rely on false assumptions or outdated information. This leads to a stale or unsupportable brand that customers will not be able to get behind.
The insights gained in exploratory brand research eliminate the guesswork behind building a brand that customers will find believable and that will be defensible against the competition. In essence, it’s a type of insurance that your refreshed brand will have some level of positive impact.
Beyond Brand Perceptions
When done correctly, exploratory brand research reaches beyond brand insights and provides valuable information about business opportunities. Through our partner, Socratic Technologies, RiechesBaird provides our clients with a proprietary form of exploratory brand research that often helps guide future business decisions.
Using detailed market mapping, our methodologies uncover market perceptions of the company’s brand and key competitors’ brands. While the primary purpose is to identify available opportunities for the brand strategy, those directions often point to strategic operational changes needed to meet a larger and more demanding brand promise. For example, the market map may point to a need for a renewed and stronger commitment to customer service, or uncover an unaddressed market need for a new product line. Our clients often tell us that this research is the most valuable strategic initiative their company has ever undertaken.
In part 2 of this article, we will discuss validation brand research, performed after the creation of a new brand. Does your company perform regular exploratory brand research? Have you done so in the past? How were those insights used?