Brand Building Step-by-Step – Part 4: Market Research for Brand Building

In the final part of the Brand Building Step-by-Step series, you learn about how market research can help you build a brand successfully. If you missed the previous parts of the series that discussed the three fundamental steps of brand building — consistency, persistence, and restraint — follow the preceding links to read them now and catch up. You’ll need to understand the information in those articles before you can develop and launch effective market research programs.

brand buildingMarket Research

There are several areas of market research that you should focus on for brand building. First, ongoing brand and competitor research is needed to ensure that your efforts to consistently and persistently raise awareness, recognition, trial, loyalty, and advocacy are working and driving the results your business needs.

Using a combination of online reputation management techniques to keep track of conversations happening around your brand on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, review sites, and so on, you can stay on top of consumer perceptions and expectations for your brand. Tools like Monitter.com and Google Alerts provide easy and free ways to track online brand mentions giving you the opportunity to jump into conversations, nudge them in the right direction, clear up erroneous information, and build relationships that lead to brand loyalty.

At the same time, you should conduct market research to identify the potential for growth opportunities and consumer acceptance levels of new initiatives. The information you gather from both your existing customers and consumer opinion panels can help you make the best business decisions to ensure long-term brand and business growth.

However, you have to be prepared to dig deeper than simple yes-and-no research questions. Remember, the strongest brands are rooted in consumer trust and emotional connections. Don’t just take consumer opinions at face value. Instead, you need to ask probing questions that allow consumers to reveal some of their subjective thoughts.

For example, use word association, sentence completion, ranking, sorting, and analogies to gather more information about consumer perceptions and feelings than standard multiple choice questions provide. When it comes to brand choice, brand loyalty, and purchase decisions, there is usually a lot more going on in a consumer’s mind (whether or not that consumer consciously realizes it) than a simple yes-or-no question can reveal.

Your goal for brand building research should be to learn why consumers think the way they do and why they make the purchase decisions that they do. Often, consumers don’t even realize why they make the brand and purchase choices that they do. Probing questions can help you identify the real reasons that motivate consumer purchasing decisions. This is the type of subjective information you need to gather to be able to make the best strategic decisions for long-term brand growth.

netflix envelopesFor example, it wouldn’t have taken a significant amount of research data to learn that Netflix customers would not be happy with increased prices and a separation of Netflix’s DVD mail-order business from its streaming content business. However, such research either wasn’t conducted or the collected data was ignored earlier this year when the company disastrously did both of those things. Loyal consumers were outraged. They left Netflix in droves, and the brand was tarnished publicly. What was once a brand that its loyal customers trusted and advocated is now a brand that is in big trouble.

The lesson to learn is simple. Don’t make big brand building decisions without the data to back them up. Brand research is an important step for brand building success.

If you missed previous parts of the Brand Building Step-by-Step series, follow the links below to read them now:

Image: stock.xchng, Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.