Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge – Part 4: Competitive Positioning Research

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Posted Jan 27, 2012
Susan Gunelius

Brand positioning is critical to reaching your goals and building a successful brand. So far in the Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge series you've learn what brand positioning strategy is, how to create brand differentiators, and options for competitive offense and defense. In the final part of this series, we wrap it all up with a discussion of competitive positioning research.

What Is Competitive Positioning Research?

How can you create brand differentiators and messages that are meaningful to consumers if you don't know what your brand's current and prospective competitors are doing, might do in the future, and have done in the past? You can't. Just as professional athletes and sports teams research and analyze their competitors before a big game, brands must research and analyze their competitors in order to have a chance of winning. You can't walk onto the competitive field blind or you'll lose.

Competitive positioning research includes both formal and informal research practices. Using the freely available information found online, you can track down massive amounts of information about your competitors and your industry. You can also listen to conversations among consumers and your competitors. This type of information is a gold mine when it comes to identifying the best position for your brand within the marketplace.

Furthermore, by conducting consumer panel surveys to gauge the general consumer population's perceptions and behaviors related to your competitors' offerings and the market, you can collect the quantitative data you need to make the right decisions for your brand. Targeted surveys of the general consumer population can help you zero in on key opportunities. And of course, if your brand is not new, surveying your existing customers is another excellent way to gather data around perceptions, brand acceptance, and opportunities.

Remember, your research should not be limited to survey questions about your brand, product, and offering. Make sure you gather the competitive intelligence and insights you need to develop appropriate differentiators and launch the right offensive and defensive attacks. Your consumer panel research should help you identify gaps and opportunities where your competitors are falling short in consumers' minds.

Researching Consumer Emotions

In addition to researching brand perceptions and competitive offerings, you should also spend time learning about consumer emotions. How do they feel about other brands in the marketplace and how do those feelings affect their purchase behaviors.

It can be challenging to get survey participants to share their real emotions. Therefore, present questions meant to extract feelings from respondents in multiple formats. Use open-ended questions, ranking questions, and word association to reveal underlying emotions.

The information you gather through brand research can be used to create both hard and soft differentiators (as discussed in Part 2 of this series). In other words, don't take all responses at face value. Look at the emotional catalysts to respondents' answers to find opportunities to create those soft differentiators that are so valuable when it comes to effective brand positioning.

Remember, consumer opinions, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors change all the time. Competitive brand research isn't a one-time activity. It's imperative that you continually conduct research to ensure your brand is always well-positioned within the marketplace, and that you're prepared to proactively address threats and seize opportunities.

If you missed previous parts of the Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge series, you can follow the links below to read them now:

  1. Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge – Part 1: Competitive Positioning Strategy
  3. Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge – Part 2: Creating Differentiators
  5. Brand Positioning for a Competitive Edge – Part 3: Competitive Offense and Defense

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