Monday, August 22, 2016

Brand Research

On occasion, I run into people who are confused about the different types of research that can be conducted on behalf of brands. Frequently, people confuse brand tracking studies with brand equity research and sometimes they confuse brand valuation methodologies with brand equity research. Here is a brief description of each type of research:

  • Brand tracking studies: These are repeatable studies that are conducted annually or even more frequently. Some companies run them on a continuous basis. Their purpose is to measure the brand's health against key metrics over time to see if the brand is improving, remaining stable or in decline. Typical measures include awareness, preference or favorability, market share, share of requirements and the brand's net promoter score (an attitudinal loyalty measure). Sometimes the studies include other measures such as brand personalty attributes. These studies tend to be high level and not very diagnostic. 
  • Brand equity research: This research is designed to measure all aspects of a brand's equity. Our BrandInsistence(SM) brand equity measurement system measures more than ninety different components of a brand's equity. Its primary focus is on the five drivers of customer brand insistence - awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection. These systems indicate overall brand health, but also should be diagnostic in that they should be able to pinpoint the components that are helping the brand and those that are working against the brand. This allows the brand manager to take the appropriate corrective action. Our brand equity measurement system also maps the brand's positioning against that of its competitors to identify brand positioning opportunities and vulnerabilities. Brand equity research can be repeated every year or every other year to measure progress against key goals and actions.
  • Brand positioning research: This research indicates how the brand is perceived in the customer's mind. It consists of scaled questions that can be mapped (benefit importance versus brand delivery) and open-ended questions (What makes this brand different from or superior to other brands in this category?) While this is often conducted as a separate study, we include this research in our BrandInsistence(SM) brand equity research. 
  • Brand valuation methodologies: Some brand managers feel the need to measure the value of their brands as assets. A handful of firms conduct this type of valuation. It is mostly conducted as a "black box" exercise. The outcome is a number - the value of the brand as a financial asset. These numbers can be quite large, especially for top brands whose values can be in the tens of billions of dollars.
  • Brand asset mapping: In this research, brand associations are identified along with the relative strength of their link to the brand. Product, usage, personality and a variety of other associations are explored. This is primarily used to identify brand extension opportunities. 
  • Brand emotional response mapping: Brands tend to evoke specific emotions. In this research,  a brand is tested against hundreds of different emotions and feelings to provide a map of the brand's emotional signature. 
  • Brand positioning statement research: In this research, we explore customer feedback regarding the brand positioning statement created by the marketer. Usually, several brand positioning statements are explored simultaneously. Each statement is tested against appeal/purchase intent, uniqueness and believability. We also ask for feedback on what people like and don't like about the brand positioning statement. This research is used to choose, refine and validate brand positioning statements. 
  • Brand identity research: There are several different types of brand identity research. Each one tests one or more of the following: congruence with brand positioning and promise, key brand associations, reinforcement of specific personality attributes and other qualities, preference/ranking, recognition, recall and emotional response. 
  • Brand name research: This research tests different brand names against the following criteria: preference/favorability, ranking (among other options), associations (especially to identify unintended associations), clarity and congruence with the brand's promise.
  • Brand tagline research: This research tests different brand taglines against the following criteria: preference/favorability, associations (especially to identify unintended associations), clarity, congruence with the brand's promise and likes and dislikes. 

I will stop here. I haven't begun to explain brand advertising research, which I will reserve for another blog post. 

For more information on brand research, read Brand Aid, second edition available here

PS - For you non-biology majors, the image is of a dissection kit. These research approaches are used to dissect and study brands.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Marketing Research

Not all marketing research is equal. Marketing research varies greatly in quality and efficacy. Here are the components of marketing research that can add to or detract from its efficacy:

  • The purpose of and objectives for the research.
  • The action standards for the research, that is, the actions the research results will influence.
  • The research methodology or methodologies chosen.
  • The choice and order of the questions.
  • The wording of the questions.
  • The rating or ranking scales chosen.
  • The research instrument design and its impact on what analysis can be performed.
  • The analytical methods chosen.
  • How open-ended responses are coded.
  • Who is selected as research respondents. Who is included and who is excluded.
  • How the respondents are segmented.
  • The sample size. 
  • The sample size for each segment.
  • How the respondents are solicited and what incentives they are given to participate.
  • Whether they are biased in any way prior to participating in the study.
  • How the results are presented.
  • How the results are interpreted.

I say this because I have seen outstanding, nuanced and highly insightful research leading to breakthrough marketing approaches and I have seen significantly flawed research leading people to the wrong conclusions and bad decisions. Be careful about who you hire to conduct your marketing research. It could make all the difference in the world.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Just for Fun - The Loudmouth Brand

Brands always try to stand out as being different. And increasingly brands serve as self-expression vehicles for their customers. Here is a brand that does both to the extreme. Introducing the Loudmouth clothing brand. These images will tell you all you need to know about this brand and its bigger than life personality. 

For hundreds of additional men's and women's clothing design choices go here

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Products vs. Brands

I am always amazed by the confusion that even some marketers have between products and brands. While  both typically interact with each other in multiple ways, they are not the same. And while they may share some of the same attributes, again they are not the same. Products are tangible things that can be sold. Brands are the personifications of products and services. That is, they imbue them with human qualities so that they can makes promises, have personalities, stand for something, share values, create emotional connections, etc.

Here are elements that products typically have:

  • Physical components
  • Tangible attributes
  • Shapes
  • Sizes
  • Packaging
  • Prices
  • Functions and features
  • Specific uses
  • Functional benefits

While brands have these elements:
  • Visual identities (including names, logos, colors, type fonts, etc.)
  • Identities appealing to other senses (hearing, smell, taste, touch)
  • A heart and soul
  • Character and values
  • Archetypes
  • Personalities
  • Emotions and emotional responses
  • Experiential, emotional and self-expressive benefits
  • Promises

Products tend to be more physical and appeal to reason while brands tend to be more intangible and appeal to the heart. When researching, measuring and managing brands, please don't confuse them with products. Product research and brand research are different. So are product management and brand management.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brands as a Path to Self-Esteem

Everyone has an ego. Everyone wants to feel good about him or herself. A lot of us do everything we can to reinforce our image of ourselves. Many of us spend much of our lives trying to reinforce what we think will make us look good to others. 

Brands can win by helping to people express themselves in ways that reinforce their self-images. 

Observing this US presidential race, it is clear that Donald Trump views himself as a winner and wants others to view him as a winner too. This is his path to self-esteem, perhaps together with being perceived as successful and rich. 

But there are many paths to self esteem. Here are some of them:

  • I am a good mother/father
  • I am a good wife/husband
  • I am a good person
  • I am unique
  • I have high social status
  • I am rich
  • I am frugal
  • I am smart
  • I have a very high IQ
  • I graduated at the top of my class
  • I am an intellectual
  • I am pragmatic
  • I am funny
  • I am an amazing musician
  • I am an amazing poet
  • I am an amazing dancer
  • I am an amazing [insert your passion or expertise]
  • I am tough
  • I am resilient
  • I am beautiful/handsome
  • I am stylish
  • The way I dress turns heads
  • I am a CEO
  • I am a brain surgeon
  • I am a [insert your profession]
  • People really like me
  • People fear me
  • I am a very powerful person
  • I have an amazing physique
  • I am sophisticated
  • I am a foodie
  • I am well-read
  • I am well-travelled
  • I have raised amazing, well-adjusted children
  • I live in a mansion
  • I throw amazing dinner parties
  • I am a kind person
  • I am a compassionate person
  • I am very religious
  • I am very spiritual
  • I have a winning smile
  • I am very artistic
  • I am a scratch golfer
  • I won a trophy
And this list can go on and on and on...

The point is to determine who your brand's target customers are and, based on that, identify ways that it can reinforce their self-image and self-esteem. Good luck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When The Buzz is Gone

How can you tell when a brand is vital and on the rise? Conversely, how can you tell when a brand and its equity are fading? Buzz. That's right, buzz.

Remember when was first launched? Remember all of the buzz around Jeff Bezos and And Jeff Bezos still receives a huge amount of buzz. Fortune magazine featured him as Lord Vishnu on its January 2016 cover. Or how about Elon Musk and Tesla Motors? And then there is Donald Trump. Commentators frequently talk about how he sucks all of the oxygen out of any room in which he speaks. And news networks have been blamed for focusing the vast majority of their political news on him. Wegmans gets endless free publicity as towns and municipalities beg to have one of its stores located in their burgs and especially when one does arrive in their communities. Dove received endless free publicity with its "real beauty" campaign. Google continues to receive a lot of buzz, as does YouTube. Apple is still up there as is Samsung and Android.

On the flip side, have you heard anything about these brands lately? OfficeMax. Dress Barn. BlackBerry. Nokia. Volvo. SAAB. LivingSocial. MySpace. Sony. Sears. Radio Shack. A&P. Quiznos. Old Milwaukee. Michelob Light. Quicksilver.

I didn't think so.

Do you want a quick read on the strength of a specific brand? Think about its buzz. Does it have any? Is everyone talking about the brand or have you not heard anyone talk about the brand in years? Perform a Google search on the brand's name. How many entries does it have? Are they recent? Have major publications written substantial stories about the brand? Has it been featured on their covers? Are news networks talking about the brand? Have you talked about the brand today or in the past week?

Buzz is a simple indicator of brand strength.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Breaking Customer Compromises

In 1996, Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Breaking Compromises, Breakaway Growth." In it they cited many brands that built successful businesses by identifying compromises that resulted in customer frustration and latent customer needs. By studying and then addressing those compromises, those brands were able to achieve industry distinction and noteworthy growth and profitability. 

I think it is time to address that concept again. In every industry, there are dominant business models to which most or all brands subscribe. Those business models sometimes leave something to be desired from a customer perspective. Perhaps, the businesses are only open 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. Or perhaps the prices are prohibitive for a large number of customers. Or there is no financing readily available for purchases. Or the products are not intuitively easy to use. Maybe quality is not up to par. Or perhaps assembly is time consuming, frustrating or even nearly impossible. Perhaps there are safety or environmental concerns. Maybe the sizes or quantities are not optimized. Maybe the products do not feel good in a tactile sense. Maybe the look or colors are wrong. Maybe the batteries run out too fast. Maybe certain customer uses are not well understood or addressed. Maybe customer or technical support are abysmal. Maybe customers cannot easily find answers to the questions that they need to have answered before they can decide on a specific product or brand.

Brands that carefully listen to customer complaints through online product/brand rating websites, customer service departments, technical support departments, salespeople, customer research and other methods are able to identify areas for improvement. Instead of ignoring areas for improvement because "it is just not possible," "our business model would not allow it," "or production methods cannot support it" or "no one else in the industry is doing it," perhaps the right approach is thinking through how your products and brands can break those customer compromises to create a super solution. 

It great to get positive brand feedback. It is even better to receive negative feedback because that is the feedback that might result in breakthrough solutions and highly differentiated products and brands.

For more information on this topic, read about it in Brand Aid, second edition, available here

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Key Elements of Successful Marketing Campaigns

Today, I want to step back and think about marketing at a fundamental level. What are the key elements of a successful marketing campaign?

  • Knowing who you are targeting
  • Understanding their beliefs, values, attitudes, fears, anxieties, hopes, needs and desires - deep customer insight through marketing research
  • Being very clear about the marketing objective(s) - What are you trying to accomplish? What attitudes or behaviors are you trying to encourage? 
  • Picking a brand message that is unique, believable and purchase motivating to the target audiences - brand positioning
  • Building emotionality into the brand and the message
  • Identifying the most effective and efficient ways to reach the target audiences - choosing the right mix of media and communication vehicles
  • Building viral qualities into your communications 
  • Repeating the message often enough to finally register with the target audiences - frequency - generally people need to hear something seven to twelve times for it to "break through" to them
  • Measuring the results of your efforts - Did they accomplish what you hoped they would  accomplish? Did your marketing investment create a positive return on that investment?
Sponsored by Brand Aid, available here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Repositioning RCI

Part of Wyndham Worldwide, RCI is a global leader in vacation timeshare exchange networks. Interval International is its primary competitor. While smaller than RCI, Interval International had successfully positioned itself as the “quality” vacation timeshare exchange network. RCI retained us to help reposition the RCI brand. After poring over the research, it became clear that the category’s primary benefit is choice. People who invest in timeshare exchange networks do so to expand their choices. It also was clear that RCI offered significantly more choices in more places around the globe. Furthermore, RCI offered many more different types of properties not available through competitors. We helped the company see that “maximum choice” was the benefit to own in the industry and that it had unmatched proof points against this claim. We knew that “maximum choice” would trump “a smaller number of high-quality properties” for most people (and affiliated resorts) when selecting a vacation timeshare exchange network (partner). We also worked with RCI to identify ways to expand the company’s choices and to rectify system and process barriers to offering greater choice.

© 2015 Brad VanAuken
Brand repositioning case study reprinted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Phrases that Sell

In creating brand copy, it is useful to be aware of words and phrases that sell. In a previous blog post, I listed some words that sell

Here are some phrases that sell: 

  • An exclusive assortment
  • From our exclusive collection
  • Collector's Edition
  • In a class by itself
  • A modern classic
  • Hand crafted
  • Bespoke quality
  • Locally grown
  • Easy on the eye
  • Handles the most difficult and complex situations
  • Made to order
  • Only from [us]
  • A bold new look
  • Understated elegance
  • Lots of bling
  • A refreshingly clean look
  • When you want to impress
  • Always appropriate
  • A [product] you will treasure
  • Here's the best part
  • Maintenance free
  • A dream come true
  • A once in a lifetime opportunity
  • Unleash your wild side
  • Why wait?
  • For those of you who just can't wait
  • Bring out your inner child
  • A delicious gift
  • Creating lasting memories
  • Perfectly enchanting
  • Available 24/7
  • It's an original
  • A rare piece
  • A world apart
  • Will stand the test of time
  • Be the first
  • In a completely different league
  • Designed for the sophisticate
  • Don't settle for the ordinary
  • Putting your mind at ease
  • What the insiders are buying
  • No two are exactly alike
  • Great for everyday wear
  • Highly versatile
  • Simply joyful
  • A true blockbuster
  • A turnkey operation
  • It is the NEXT thing