Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Brands Require Research

We are occasionally approached by entrepreneurs or smaller businesses to help them figure out their brand, product or business model strategies. We are working with one such brand now. In these situations, often the entrepreneur creates a company, product or brand around personal intuition and insight. But maybe that entrepreneur or company is stumped about how to grow the brand. They are not sure in what direction they need to move next to take the brand to the next level. 

Usually, this is because they do not understand what it is about the product or brand that most appeals to the customer. They are not sure of its primary benefit, its purchase triggers or what sort of person is buying it and for what reason. Sometimes, the product or brand is so innovative that it is difficult for them to even articulate what category it is in. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to decide how to tweak the product or brand to take it to the next level. It also makes it difficult to understand in what ways the brand can be most successfully extended to generate additional sales. Sometimes, they need to drive down costs to make the product viable in the long run but they don't know which features they can eliminate without harming sales. At other times, they may not know how to convert impulse sales into repeat purchases. Some worry that their products or brand are primarily selling as a novelty and they are not quite sure about how to guarantee a lasting revenue stream. Sometimes the brand and the product work very well together. At other times, they are sending conflicting messages.

All of these problems can be solved through customer research that leads to customer insight. One must begin with deep qualitative research to uncover purchase motivations, brand perceptions and an understanding of what needs the brand fulfills in people's lives. This should also uncover how the brand makes people feel, when they feel compelled to purchase the brand and what are some of the brand's purchase triggers. The quality of qualitative research moderators varies hugely. Some merely sit at the end of a focus group table and ask questions, while others have a very large box of tools to stimulate deep insight. The latter are often more expensive, but they are almost always worth the extra investment. A lot of valuable insights can be garnered through well thought through deep qualitative research. This can then lead to quantitative research design. The quantitative research might be an attitude and usage study, a customer benefit segmentation study, a brand equity study (if their is high enough brand awareness) or a study that leads to customer targeting and volumetric forecasting. 

Here are the questions that need to be asked:

  • Who is buying our products or brand?
  • Why are they buying our products or brand?
  • What triggers them to buy our products or brand?
  • What can we do to get them to repeat their purchase of our products or brand?
  • Are our products and brand congruent with one another or are they working against each other?
  • What are the most viable paths for extending our brand to generate incremental sales?
  • What is the essence of our brand?
  • What deep needs does the brand fulfill?
  • What does it promise to its customers and potential customers?
  • Who are our brand's most viable customers?
  • What are our brand's most promising customer need segments?

Taking your brand to the next level might require deeper customer insight. Research to uncover that insight can have a huge payoff if designed and conducted properly. 

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