Insights Versus Data: Research In The Brand Development Process

We’re often asked about the process of getting audience feedback during brand development. Typically companies want to know if the audience likes the brand or not, if the logo is appealing or if the brand colors are favorable to the target audience. These questions take both the brand and audience completely out of context and therefore the results are irrelevant. Oftentimes, brands are trying to define a new category or reposition themselves in a crowded market. Does it matter if your audience likes blue best if all the industry competitors are blue too? Of course not. You’ve become lost in a sea of preferable blue.

Liking the brand is not necessarily the desired result you are trying to get from the audience. While it is important to understand the needs and wants of your audience in order to create a brand and message that will resonate, it is also critical to look internally and ensure the brand is authentic to the company you’re building. Your brand should be a reflection of three foundational components: the company mission, the audience need (which ideally the mission is addressing) and the marketplace where they are competing. Rarely do these align with what your audience “likes”, because, hopefully, they are not the same as what your audience experiences every day.

When leveraging research at the brand level, we believe it is critical to use secondary and qualitative research methods. Rather than a prescriptive feedback loop – scales, rankings, multiple choice selections – we focus on creating a free-flowing conversation to hear the words and phrases people use unprompted and unrehearsed to shed light on the inner considerations and motivations that drive their behavior. Deriving these authentic, spontaneous audience insights requires depth and flexibility that surveys and polls do not allow for.

Today’s audiences value authenticity. This means it is also important that internal stakeholders within the company are interviewed – using the same conversational method – in order to understand their true desires, beliefs and motivations in terms of contributing to the success of the company. These interviews also help identify conflicting goals and opinions internally, allowing a consensus to be reached before the brand development process begins. A lack of alignment internally about who the company is or what they do will undermine even the greatest brand in market. But, when everyone is on the same page, the brand becomes the connection point between those goals and the audiences’, delivering the authenticity so desired in addition to the company benefit.

Quantitative research is an excellent tool for gaining insights on the size of the market, demographics and socioeconomic details of the audience or the spending habits of the audience. It is also a great way to test campaign concepts and messaging across different audiences. But quantitative research is, by nature, reactionary. You’re asking someone to react and give feedback on something you have already created, oftentimes in an unnatural environment. Any feedback you get at this point is simply validating or disproving your opinion so that it can be optimized, not inviting your audience to tell you what they want.

Surveys and message testing are great tools in a marketer’s arsenal, but you need to build the brand on insights and grow the business using data. If you’ve already created your brand without seeking the qualitative insights, you’ve missed a critical component to developing the brand itself.