Before and After the Brand: The Value of Brand Research (Part II)

By Kristy Gulsvig

In my first post as part of this series, I covered exploratory brand research. In this post, I will talk to brand validation research.

Brand research is an invaluable piece of the brand strategy puzzle. It helps inform the direction of your strategy and ensures that your brand story will resonate with your audience. Last month in part I of this series, we talked about some of the complex and informative Exploratory Brand Research that you can conduct before the creation of your brand positioning. In this article, we will discuss Brand Validation Research, which confirms the effectiveness of your brand strategy once you have begun to build it.

Step Two: Brand Validation Research

Many times, Validation Research is what first comes to mind when thinking of brand research. The process of vetting a brand with key stakeholders is an easy measure of its effectiveness and impact. It can also help pinpoint problems with your brand – will customers buy into your new promise or is it too good to be true?

Focus groups are commonly used to validate a new brand; however, when it comes to in-depth brand strategy and the foundational elements of positioning, Validation Research can go much deeper than a controlled conversation between a handful of customers. In reality, Brand Validation Research can take many different forms, ranging from interviews with internal or external stakeholders, to detailed surveys with broad groups of potential customers.

Technology allows us to gather deep insights from a large sample of almost any target audience. One particular methodology we find particularly insightful is our research partner, Socratic Technology’s Copy Markup tool. This tool allows us to test blocks of brand positioning copy for resonance – much like a traditional focus group – with hundreds or thousands of individuals in our target market. This CopyMarkup tool allows individuals to indicate words and phrases that they like or do not like, and provide comments to explain. See the tool depicted below.
copy markup tool

Through the CopyMarkup tool, participants are asked to react to positioning language and provide direct feedback on points that they do or do not like. This type of Brand Validation Research can reveal whether the target audience finds the brand promise believable and relevant, or if particular words or phrases evoke positive or negative feelings. This can be incredibly helpful in refining the positioning direction.

Before or After – Which Research Is Better?

In reality, both Exploratory Brand Research and Brand Validation Research are incredibly valuable in creating and refining your brand promise; but in some cases, limited timelines or budgets make it difficult or impossible to perform both.

If time or money is limited, the particular situation determines the type of research that will best serve your company. For example, if the brand strategy has already been determined or simply needs a simple evolution, Brand Validation Research may be sufficient to simply confirm the brand direction or identify small adjustments. If your company’s brand is experiencing a more significant change – a change in leadership, a merger or acquisition, or an unforeseen industry shift – Exploratory Brand Research will be necessary to identify the brand’s foundation going forward.

Do you have experience with either type of brand research? Which methodologies do you find the most helpful?