We have worked with a variety of clients over the years, from Fortune 100 companies to new venture start-ups. They have ranged from very entrepreneurial, risk taking organizations to very cautious, mature organizations. And, they have ranged significantly regarding their interest in and ability to invest in consumer insight through marketing research.
Successfully positioning a brand requires consumer insight. Brands are owned in the minds of consumers so unless you know how consumers perceive your brand and those of your competitors, you will not know which brand position (or unique value proposition) is going to be most advantageous for your brand. At a minimum, you should know which potential consumer values or benefits achieve ALL of the following:
- Relevant to the purchase of your brand’s products or services
- Unique among competitive alternatives
- Emotionally compelling
- Purchase motivating
- Protectable over the medium- to long-term
One can identify potentially advantageous brand values and benefits through qualitative research (focus groups, mini-groups and one-on-one depth interviews). Then, through quantitative research, one can evaluate the top brand positioning options against each of the evaluation criteria listed above to identify the most advantageous position to select.
Some clients error on the side of no consumer research, often because they do not think they can afford it and sometimes because of arrogance (“I know what our customers want.”). Occasionally, a brilliant entrepreneur with an excellent understanding of the consumer can arrive at a strong brand position without the help of research, however more often, the person just thinks he or she has an excellent understanding of the consumer and chooses an inferior position. Some organizations legitimately do not have the budget or cash flow to invest in consumer research. But can one afford to not invest in something that could result in a significantly higher market share and profitability over the long term?
On the other end of the continuum, there are a significant number of clients who suffer from “analysis paralysis.” That is, they conduct one research study after another “just to be sure.” These are usually larger, more established companies with significant profitability and cash flow and a risk adverse culture. There is less downside in this approach other than spending more money than is required and being slow to take action. At least these organizations have invested in consumer insight.
Ultimately, brand positioning is a strategic decision based on imperfect information. Marketing research can help one discover a highly potent, emotionally compelling brand position however. And, this can make all of the difference in the world.