Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Types of Research for Brands

I have spent the past 35 years conducting research on behalf of brands. Over that period of time, I have conducted hundreds of studies. In this blog post, I thought I would outline the types of research that you can conduct and the things you can learn from that research. One of a researcher's most important roles is to select the right research methodology given the business and marketing objectives and the action standards.

  • Though qualitative research - focus groups, mini-groups, depth interviews, online groups, etc. - you can better understand customer attitudes, beliefs, values, hopes, fears, concerns, needs, desires and perceptions of the category and your brand and competitive brands. 
  • Through conjoint analysis you can create the optimal combination of product/service attributes/features that deliver the greatest perceived value.
  • Price sensitivity research (projective) and price elasticity research (based on historical sales) can help you develop the optimal pricing strategy.
  • Brand equity studies will help you measure brand awareness, preference, associations, personality, relevance, differentiation, accessibility, perceived value, emotional connection and loyalty.
  • Brand positioning studies can help you identify the most powerful unique value proposition.
  • Brand asset mapping can help you understand what a brand's associations and most important assets are. 
  • Brand extension research can help you understand into what new categories a brand could be most successfully extended.
  • Brand emotional heat mapping research indicates the degree to which a large variety of emotions are associated with your brand.
  • Attitude and usage studies will help you size and dimensionalize the market for your products.
  • Customer segmentation studies can help you segment the market on a wide variety of demographic, geographic, psychographic, cohort, attitudinal, values, purchase behavior and usage behavior dimensions.
  • Consumer purchase and use diaries can be used to monitor thoughts, behaviors and purchases over time to discern patterns. Diaries on smartphones are an emerging version of this research.
  • In-store traffic pattern mapping including in-store heat mapping can help the the design of store layout and retail merchandising. It can also indicate with which categories, products and brands consumers spend the most time.
  • Customer journey mapping is a process that helps you understand the entire customer decision making and purchasing process. 
  • Anthropological research takes many forms but basically approaches customer research using anthropological methodologies. 
  • Customer service testing helps you understand all of the dimensions of your customer service delivery and how it was perceived by the customer.
  • Mystery shoppers help you experience the customer shopping experience first hand.
  • Logo research can help you develop the most powerful logo with the greatest recognition and recall. 
  • Concept testing can help you understand how unique and compelling a concept is, whether it be a business, product, service or brand concept. 
  • Advertising can be tested in a variety of ways. You can conduct a pre and post test to measure differences in brand awareness and associations. You can compare the results of two different creative approaches in an A/B test
  • In online marketing, you can measure click through rates, cost per click and cost per thousand. 
  • With CRM systems, you can measure the ROI of different lead generation sources and different sales approaches. 
  • Perception Analyzer research allows you to view the results of quasi-quantitative research in real time while also being able to stop and ask qualitative questions of the respondents. 
  • Eye tracking research can help you design better ads.
  • Using CT scanning and other medical technologies to measure human response to ads can make likes and dislikes very clear. 
  • Combining data mines with attitudinal research is very powerful. 

For more information on brand-related research, refer to the Brand Research chapter in Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Marketing Trends Today and Tomorrow

I am delivering a talk on the future of brand management and marketing next week. Things are changing so quickly in the marketing world that it is difficult for every marketer to keep up with all of the new approaches and techniques. While I do not have the space here to explain each one of them, I thought I would share my talk's outline to give you a flavor of the latest in brand management and marketing.

Today's Marketing Research Approaches
  • Big data analytics (including predictive analytics)
  • Combining data mines with attitudinal research
  • Attitudinal (and values) segmentation
  • Knowing when to apply which statistical technique regression analysis, ANOVA, factor analysis, cluster analysis and logistic regression
  • Eye-tracking technology
  • Using MEG, GSR, EEG, SST, QEEG, FMRI, PET and CT scanning to understand likes and dislikes
  • Better understanding memory encoders and triggers
  • Improved retail traffic pattern measurement and analysis
  • Drawing on the insights of behavioral economics
  • Measuring ROI
  • Identifying sales drivers
  • Anthropological studies
  • Conjoint analysis and AI
  • Emotion measurement tools
  • Online focus groups
  • Mobile research options
  • Color science and emotional response
  • Olfactory science and emotional response

Brand Management Today
  • Authenticity
  • Shared values
  • Community building
  • Using cultural symbols
  • Employer branding
  • Internal employee and system/process alignment
  • Brand co-creation with customers
  • Brand storytelling
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Customer experience design
  • Strategic partnerships and co-opetition
  • Game theory and competitive strategy

Marketing Today
  • Hyper-personalization
  • Geo-targeting and geo-fencing
  • Undercover, stealth or covert marketing
  • The poison parasite defense (to reposition a competitor’s brand)
  • Buzz (aka word-of-mouth) and influencer marketing
  • Creating influencer swarms
  • Content management, scaling content, creating viral content
  • Co-creating content with customers
  • Value-based community building
  • Proactive publicity as a primary tool
  • Unusual advertising media (crops, escalators, human tattoos, sidewalks, etc.)
  • Flash mobs and street team marketing
  • Authority marketing
  • Attaching pejorative labels to competitors’ brands (used mostly in politics)
  • Fully automated lead generation systems

If you are not familiar with any of these approaches, I would suggest that you look them up and become familiar with them. And I would be happy to hear from you if you think I have missed something. Please share your knowledge and insights with our readers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ethics in Marketing

Ethics is not a topic that I hear marketers talking about very often, however it is something that I think about frequently because I understand the societal impact of what I do. Marketers can often drive human desires and behaviors, getting people to buy things that they may or may not need, making them feel better or worse about themselves in the process.

Skilled marketers wield a lot of power because between data analysis and intuition, they know how to manipulate people's thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. A long time ago, one client approached me saying that he needed my assistance because I was a "master of the dark arts." This took me aback because I try to be completely ethical in my approach to marketing but I knew what he meant by the comment. It was clearly intended to be a compliment. 

So what are some of the ethical issues in marketing? First and foremost is using marketing to make a product that is clearly harmful more appealing to people - for instance, selling cigarettes by appealing to people at a deep emotional level.  This can be achieved by linking the cigarette brand to independence, rebellion, good times, coming into one’s own power, etc.

Next is getting people to buy stuff that they just don’t need. How many toys does one child actually need? How many pairs of shoes are enough? Or, how many homes are enough? Some salespeople are so skilled they can get a person to buy something that he doesn't desire and for which he does not have a use. 

Then there is using fear to sell something. As we all know, fear works really well as a motivator, however constantly using fear to market products and services only serves to create a more fearful society motivated more by avoidance of potential problems than by embracing that which is beneficial or uplifting.

Related to fear-based marketing is the practice of assigning pejorative labels to competitors' brands, repositioning them as undesirable or even repulsive.   

Making false claims is both unethical and illegal. I am personally not as concerned about what is generally considered to be puffery, for instance stating that one’s brand is “the best in the world,” because few people are going to take that statement at face value.

Certainly, an ethical dilemma that most marketing agencies face is whether to do (a) what is in the client’s best interest or (b) what the client wants (if you know that what they want is not in their own best interest).  In this situation, are you forthright with the client but then ultimately collect your fees for executing what they desire or do you walk away from the project or business if what you are being asked to do is not in their best interest?  Is the client always right or is the client sometimes wrong?

How about getting someone to pay a huge price premium for a product because your brand bestows status on that product? Is this just helping people climb Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or is it getting them stuck on one step in that ladder (at a hefty profit to the brand)? Anchoring the premium end of a product range with an outrageously high price can get people to trade up to a more expensive product in the middle of the range. And setting an artificially inflated suggested retail price allows for a much bigger price discount, leading to an increased perceived value. Realtors often use the trick of showing their clients properties with poor values first to increase subsequent properties' perceived values.

Knowing that brands can sometimes make people feel more appealing, loved, smart, accomplished, valued, etc. I want to scream to them, “You are already appealing, loved, smart, accomplished, valued, etc. You don’t need a product or brand to be that.”

There is also this question: Does the relentless pursuit of more and better products, services and experiences lead to improved lives with more leisure time and a higher quality of life or does it just constantly raise the bar for what will satisfy while depleting natural resources and placing more demands on peoples’ lives?

Some people medicate themselves with "retail therapy." Each purchase feels good for a while but then more purchases are required to maintain that good feeling. 

How about those huge purchases that marketers can get people to make, for instance luxury cars, luxury boats, fine art, expensive wines, etc. Some people can easily afford these things and very much appreciate even minutely incremental improvements in quality. Others however may be stretching their budgets to “keep up with the Joneses.” This second group may experience immediate post purchase remorse after such a large purchase. Is it ethical to market to these people based on aspiration?

And, related to that, if people experience buyer’s remorse immediately after a purchase, is it a good thing or a bad thing to create a post purchase touch point that relieves their anxiety and makes them feel better about the purchase?

Then there is competitive consumption. I am a sailor. In the boating world, it is a relatively common practice to keep trading up to bigger and bigger boats. Heck, among the one tenth of one percent, they are trading in 100 foot yachts for 200 foot yachts and 200 foot yachts for 400 foot yachts. Then it gets even crazier. "My yacht has two helicopters, four jet skies, four personal submersibles, two tenders and bi-level swimming pools. How about yours?"

And what about selling functional substance, a real solution to a problem, versus good feelings? Many brands (and salespeople for that matter) are masterful at selling good feelings without really delivering much else. I often feel this way about motivational speakers. Is something tangible really more valuable than something completely intangible?

And, is it better to market to and deliver on a need or a desire? Is one better than another? What if one desires something that is not good for him or her? Is that the marketer’s problem? Is it another person’s right to judge what is good or bad for another?

So how do I see that marketing can be truly helpful to organizations, brands and their customers? First and foremost, brands can help organizations focus on how they can best add value in the market, especially in unique ways. A brand’s unique value proposition can become the organization’s internal rallying cry, energizing employees and mobilizing them to deliver on the brand’s promise. Marketing can also highlight a particular brand’s unique advantage over competing brands, helping consumers to make more informed decisions. If one includes marketing research as a part of marketing (as well they should), there is a huge advantage to understanding what the customer actually needs and wants so that the organization can deliver it to him or her. Identifying and determining the best ways to meet human needs is a noble endeavor.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Brands and Tribalism

While many people consider tribalism to be a bygone adaptive effect in the evolution of human culture, many forms of tribalism exist today. Modern tribalism recognizes that humans feel more safe and comfortable in smaller groups of people with whom they share similar values. Tribes can also lead to a sense of belonging. And research has shown that the human brain can only process up to 150 individuals as fully developed complex people. After that, stereotypes, hierarchical schemes and other models for clustering people must be used to make sense of things. This is why organizations of 150 people or less tend to feel more inviting and personal. 

While tribalism has the advantages listed above, it also has its downside. Tribalism tends to lead to ethnocentrism and often to ethic or racially motivated conflict. Essentially, people in a tribe recognize each other as familial individuals who have value, while others outside the tribe are often demonized or at least dehumanized or ignored. 

While tribalism leads to greater cohesion and loyalty, it can also make understanding of a broader world and quick adaptation to changing conditions more difficult. 

Brands can become important to people by linking to their tribes. Tribes can be based on any set of values, beliefs or interests. This offers brands many opportunities to align with tribes to create greater emotional connection and loyalty. The key is to understand the underlying hopes, fears, beliefs, values and shared interests of tribal members. 

In the USA, the most visible tribes are political tribes, religious tribes and socio-economic tribes. But there are also geographic tribes, racial tribes and special-interest tribes. But any organizational affiliation can act as a tribe from Rotary clubs, Boy Scouts and veterans groups to hiking groups, equestrian groups and sailing clubs. Even university affiliations and sports teams can act like tribes.

Again, for a brand to appeal to a specific tribe it needs to know what beliefs, values and interests hold that tribe together and further, the brand needs to understand the tribal language, symbols and rituals. 

Alignment with a tribe can create staunch devotion to the brand. In fact, the brand can become another outward manifestation of tribal membership. I wish you great success in aligning your brand with one or more tribes.