It is useful to perform exploratory brand research for relatively new brands whose markets are not yet fully understood. It can also be useful to perform this type of research for brands that need to be repositioned. Further, this type of research can inform brand and line extension decisions.
In exploratory brand research, one is trying to understand how the brand is perceived, purchased and used. Further, one is trying to understand the brand's competitive frame of reference and potential substitute products.
This research is qualitative and is almost always conducted in focus groups or mini-groups. Here are the areas that I explore in this type of research:
- What do you think is in this package?
- How do you think the product works?
- Who buys a product like this?
- What would cause them to buy this product?
- Where do you think they are most likely to find a product like this?
- Where would they never find a product like this?
- Where in the store would it be located? Next to what other products? Why?
- How much do you think they would have to pay for a product like this?
- How often do you think they might buy this product?
- How would they use this product?
- How do you think using this product might make them feel?
- If this product were not available, what do you think they would purchase instead?
- Are there other similar brands? What are they?
- What do you think this brand stands for?
- What other types of products might be offered under this brand name? Why?
- What types of products would never be offered under this brand name? Why not?
- Do you think this is a good quality product/brand? Why or why not?
- Do you think this brand delivers a good value for the price paid?
- How might you change this brand to make it more appealing?
- What do you think the name means?
- Why did they pick those colors?
- Why did they package the product the way they did?
- Is there a better way to package it?
One can use dozens of other similar questions. The point is to understand how the product and brand are perceived by its customers and potential customers. One can use a variety of stimulus to explore brand extensions, substitute products, alternative product category definitions, alternative branding approaches, other names, competitive contexts, different uses, varying distribution approaches, etc. One is seeking to understand what resonates with customers, what is puzzling or confusing to customers and what creates cognitive dissonance for those customers. All of this helps in positioning the brand properly and understanding the extent to which the brand can be expanded in its meaning and across different product categories.
For more information on brand research, read Brand Aid, second edition.