As leading marketer Amanda Jobbins succinctly puts it, “brand is a shortcut to a decision”.
Brand opens the door for the product to be sold. High band awareness, familiarity and consideration with buyers will increase dramatically the likelihood of them buying from you. When your prospective buyer experiences one of the triggers for purchase, yours needs to be the first brand that comes to mind, and they need to know you already tick all their boxes and can overcome their barriers.
To lead a market you need high brand awareness among your buyers and their influencers.
To know your market, your brand’s position in it and the opportunities to grow sales, you need good brand research. This will direct your marketing efforts and track performance.
I recently caught up with Stephen Cheliotis, Chief Executive of The Centre for Brand Analysis and Chairman of UK Superbrands & CoolBrands Councils. His credentials speak for themselves, really. We reflected on how to run good brand research. These are some of the ground rules we agreed on – so this is my ‘note to self’ for the next time I lead this kind of research. There are many ways to approach this and I’d love to hear yours.
What you should measure
Start by researching and questioning things that Marketing can change. In fact, what you measure must be actionable for marketing to drive sales growth. Never forget, the goal must be to improve the performance of the business.
You may think you need to know about issues such as trust or quality. It terms of brand these are hygiene issues. Take trust as an example. There is no actionable insight in knowing you are trusted. As Steve pointed out, there is always a correlation between being a leading brand and being trusted, but it doesn’t mean that people buy from you (think about M&S for example).
If you must explore these issues; do it in qualitative research and probe for the underlying attributes that drives them, then test those in quant.
What you need to know
These are the things we agreed that you do need to find out because they lead to actionable insights. For each of your buyers you need to know:
- What are the rational and emotional triggers for purchase? What priority order do they put them in?
- What do they need the product to do?
- What barriers do they need the product to overcome?
- Where is the ‘headspace’ for buying your product? How and when do they buy your product?
- What is the buyer journey? How do they do their research? Who influences their decision? How easy is it to buy?
Running the research
Steve and I agreed on the right approach to conducting brand research.
- Start with interviews with knowledgeable colleagues to answer the questions above.
- Once you’ve consolidated that input, run sessions with wider, yet informed, group of colleagues to prioritise and fill in any gaps. [See side note at bottom of this article.]
- Do a small number of qualitative interviews in the key countries with the key buyers.
- Only then should you run a quantative survey based on all you have learned. Keep the survey short and tight. Do promoted and unprompted awareness of your brand and competitors at the end. Ask respondents whether they know or buy from your competitor set and why.
It takes about 20 weeks to do it properly. Allow a month for Steps 1 and 2, a month for Step 3 and a month for Step 4. You can’t write the survey until you’ve completed Step 3 and it’ll take another two weeks if the survey needs translating. You will need a month for analysis, and another month to walk the findings round the business.
What you are trying to find out is which triggers will lead to the most consideration. This is about relevance and differentiation.
Start with your list of triggers in priority order. Which of them are you not currently perceived as being relevant for? These triggers are an opportunity to grow your market share.
Of these, which ones have the least competition for mental market share? There will be little reward in going after the triggers competitors are already relevant for. Focus your efforts on triggers that are less contested.
Take all the triggers named by respondents, and look at their frequency, and which brands they are linked with. You can get to not only which triggers are most important, but also which brands are first choice for which triggers. This gives you a mental market share for your brand.
Improving brand awareness and consideration, closing the sale
You want your brand to be first to mind in connection with a trigger. So that your brand becomes a shortcut to a decision. Focus on one trigger or a related series of triggers at a time. Devise your campaign to tick all the buyer’s boxes for that trigger and make clear that with your brand they can minimise the barriers.
As Stephen puts it; “The art of success is both in interpreting the results and pulling out the right insight to drive the strategy, but then it is also in actually crafting the cue appropriately into the creative.”
The messaging should be rolled out across all your marketing and communications. Consistency is king here. Line it all up. Spend a period of time running this campaign. You might find you can layer in another trigger, or mix multiple triggers in one execution, or choose to really, truly own one trigger. That’s the art and decision you’ll need to take based on the results.
Remember, the goal for brand awareness and consideration is to improve perception among buyers so they buy from you. When they experience one of the triggers for purchase, you need to be the first brand that comes to mind. You want unprompted awareness and high levels of consideration.
Those two indicators tell you the brand has opened the door for the product to be sold. Now, you must integrate your brand campaign with your product campaigns. Otherwise, the brand campaign is a waste of effort.
Make sure the messages line up, the creative is from the same family, and the retargeting is done cleverly. Use the journey you have mapped to provide the information your buyer wants in the right place for them. Join the conversations they are already having between themselves and with their influencers. The rough rule of thumb is 60% of your budget on brand awareness and 40% on lead generation and conversion.
The first research will give you a benchmark. You will see lots of indicators coming through in marketing metrics of whether there is traction: increases in website visits and dwell, product trials and conversions. By the way, brands always set their targets too high and imagine the results are going to be quick. Don’t make that mistake.
Commit to annual research. And commit to long term integrated campaigns. You will be able to layer the triggers until you are top of mind for all those you can own.
Then you reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.
*A side note: the first few times I ran brand research I looked at customers versus non-customers. This was a monumental waste of effort (cleaning customer databases, mobilizing marketing to get the survey out, chasing customers to answer it, having the data analysed, selling in the findings to colleagues). It told us nothing about how to attract new business from competitors. If you have a strategic issue with cross-sell/up-sell to customers, then run a customer survey specifically on that, but don’t do this as part of your brand research.