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Brand Research: Employee Opinions Matter

By Kristy Gulsvig

If you’re a fan of this blog, you’re probably already convinced about the importance of brand research in creating a strategically supported brand. But in many cases, a brand’s internal audience — their employees — are often overlooked when it comes to strengthening the brand position.

Around here, we have a saying: “A brand needs to be built from within.” It’s not as cryptic as it sounds; it describes our firm belief that to be genuine, and ultimately successful, a brand needs to be built on existing truths and current perceptions. Most importantly, it must be true to the way your employees deliver the brand experience to your customers.

Your employees live out your brand on a day-to-day basis, directly to your customers. They are experienced and well equipped to answer questions about the state of the brand and current perceptions. Whenever possible or practical, we generally recommend polling employees as part of the brand research process. But besides providing valuable information, engaging your staff in brand research notifies everyone that the process is taking place, and signals that management values their opinion.

Additionally, polling your employees early in the branding process can serve as a benchmark to test the effectiveness of your brand implementation when complete. Testing alignment before and after a brand launch can reveal whether or not your refined brand is clear, and whether your employees are communicating it correctly.

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, there are two major buckets of research you can use to glean information from your employees:

  • Qualitative research is time consuming and can be difficult to interpret, but produces the most robust type of information. This kind of research can be performed if you have a small number of employees, or a key audience you are particularly interested in hearing from (i.e. sales, branch managers, etc.). Qualitative information can be gathered through personal interviews, focus groups, or online surveys.
  • Quantitative research is ideal if you have a very large employee base or limited time. A quantitative online survey can be deployed quickly and relatively easily, and is the most efficient way to gain broad-based insights from a large number of people.

All that said, one thing to keep in mind is that brand research is not an employee satisfaction survey. An employee satisfaction survey concentrates on the employee experience, and seeks concrete tactics to improve how employees feel about their workplace. Brand research, on the other hand, is much more exploratory. It seeks to uncover the subjective perceptions that surround your most important intangible asset: your brand. Those employee perceptions are one of the many aspects that help build a strong and successful corporate brand.

Here are some questions that can help draw out current brand perceptions and potential from your employees:

  • What do customers value most about [your brand/company]?
  • How do you describe what [your brand/company] does?
  • How do you want your customers to describe what [your brand/company] does?

Do you involve your employees in the brand research process? Please share how this has worked for you.

Tune in to a past Branding Business radio show: The Role of Research in Branding.