Brand Positioning Standards and Practices - Part 2: Brand Positioning Research

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Posted Nov 29, 2011
Susan Gunelius

In Part 1 of the Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series, you learned what brand positioning is. Now, it's time to learn about the market research you need to do in order to develop a successful brand positioning strategy. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series for details about brand positioning strategy. Now, it's time to talk data, analysis, and numbers!

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No brand positioning should ever be done without doing some research first. The reason is very simple. It's highly likely that where and how you think your brand should be positioned is quite different from what consumers want, expect, and will accept.

Why Conduct Research?

The first thing you need to do is understand why you need to conduct brand positioning research or you won't get the data and results you need to make the best business decisions.

Following are several things you need to learn in order to create a brand positioning strategy, and research can help you get the information you need to make the right decisions:

  • You need to understand the competitive marketplace with detailed competitive analyses. What do your competitors offer? What messages do they use? What positions do they own? What are their pricing, distribution, and marketing strategies?
  • Identify consumer perceptions of other brands, including strengths and weaknesses, promise, benefits, value, and features.
  • Define potential target audiences as well as differences between target segments' perceptions of competitor brands.
  • Determine gaps and opportunities.

Bottom-line, your market research should provide you with the information you need to fully describe the competitive environment as well as each competitive threat and your target audiences. Furthermore, it should reveal to you the benefits that matter most to each segment and consumers' perceptions of existing brands in the market. Next, you need to figure out how to get that all of that data!

What and How to Gather Market Research Data

Not only should you conduct traditional competitor research to analyze publicly available information and build profiles of each competitor, but you also need to conduct qualitative and quantitative consumer research to get a complete picture of the marketplace where your brand will exist.

toyota brand positioning

Your goal with consumer market research is to get beyond sales numbers and market share data to gather consumer insights, feelings, and perceptions. You need to develop questions that will reveal consumer emotions that affect their purchase decisions and feelings about existing brands. If you can find a space in their minds that is not yet filled by another brand, you can find your brand position (assuming you can effectively fill that open space).Start with focus groups and one-on-one interviews to learn about consumer emotions and reactions to competitive brands. Ask them to rate and rank brands, state what each brand is missing, and explain what the brand does well. Use these findings to develop a quantitative market research survey to gain feedback from a larger audience.

Your survey should be answered by a random sample of consumers who already purchase competitor brands and products as well as potential new customers. While you might not be able to steal a position in existing consumers' minds immediately, you might be able to attract new customers to the market with the right brand positioning strategy.

Ask questions in your survey that identify the most important brand benefits to consumers as well as how consumers feel about brands. Present images or videos describing a new brand (yours) message, image, promise, and position to gather feedback. Your goal is to determine what features and benefits of your brand differentiate it from competitors and then to translate them into emotional differentiators.

Once you complete your initial quantitative research survey, it's highly likely that you'll need to follow-up with a second survey with specific questions related to your suggested brand position. For example, create product or ad prototypes and gauge consumer reactions. Ask consumer respondents to rank your brand positioning message in terms of its believability.

Market research for brand positioning strategy development happens in a few cycles. The exploratory qualitative research phase gives you direction to create your initial quantitative consumer research survey, and the results from the first quantitative survey gives you the information you need to create your second, more focused consumer survey. If you take the time to conduct this research, your brand position will have a much greater chance for long-term success.

Up next in the Brand Positioning Standards and Practices series, you'll learn about brand positioning strategy. In the meantime, follow the link to read Part 1 and learn what brand positioning is. And if you'd like to learn more about brand research, read my 6-part Brand Research Fundamentals series.

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