Brand Research Fundamentals: Part 4 - Brand Perception and Equity

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Posted Sep 19, 2011
Susan Gunelius

What do people think of your brand? Is your brand equity growing? These are just two of the questions that you need to be able to answer about your brand and to get those answers, you need to conduct brand research. You can’t measure your brand’s performance without understanding what people think about it. Researching brand perception and equity are the focus of Part 4 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series. Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, so everything included in Part 4 makes sense and is instantly actionable for you.

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First, you need to understand a core truth of branding and business. A powerful brand is one of your most important business assets even if that power and importance cannot be precisely measured. A strong brand can overcome any macro-environmental problem, and in time, grow to be stronger than ever.

For example, Toyota owns the word reliable within the automobile market. That brand promise and position came under fire when a series of recalls that started in 2009 brought big questions about the actual reliability of Toyota vehicles. However, the Toyota brand is so powerful that the recalls ultimately registered as nothing more than a short-term blip in consumers’ minds. Today, the brand is as strong as ever.

Brand Equity Research

There are many examples like Toyota in history where companies made a mistake and brought much unwanted, negative publicity to their brands. A weak brand has little chance to survive such an attack. Similarly, weak brands lack awareness, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing. However, in time, any brand can raise awareness, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing that lead to sales -- i.e., brand equity.

Don’t believe me? Consider the brand equity in David Hasselhoff. How is this guy still getting work? The answer (whether we like it or not) is brand equity.

david hasselhoff

However, there is no way of actually knowing if your brand is making progress in meeting your brand equity goals unless you conduct research to gather real consumer opinions -- both your own customers and the larger population of people in your target market who aren’t your customers yet.

Following are some brand research questions that can help you track your brand equity over time among existing customers:

  • How important is this brand to you? (offer a scale of importance for respondents to choose from, ranging from not important at all to very important)
  • If this brand isn’t available, what would you do? (e.g., answers can include: look for it in another store, buy another brand, or buy nothing)
  • Rank this brand in order of preference from a list of competitor brands. (use responses to this question to learn if your brand is gaining or passing others)
  • How often do you purchase this brand? (offer response choices that enable you to determine a respondents’ degree of use and loyalty)
  • Have you ever recommended this brand to another person? When and where? (offer time frame and location choices as well as an “other” option)

Brand Perception Research

A preferred brand means something to consumers who buy it, and you need to continually research existing and prospective customers to understand how they perceive your brand. What if consumer perceptions of your brand are completely different than how you’re positioning it in your advertising and marketing communications?

If you don’t understand consumer perceptions of your brand, you can’t effectively market your brand and grow your business. Instead, you’ll hit a brick wall when consumers feel like your messages don’t match your brand’s perception in their minds. Confused consumers are a recipe for failure when it comes to branding. Therefore, make sure you always know how consumers perceive your brand by monitoring it through brand research.

Would your customers tattoo your logo on their wrists like the image below? You’ll never know if you don’t understand how they perceive it.

apple logo tattoo

Start your brand research with some of the following questions and learn how consumers perceive your brand:

  • What word comes to mind when you hear the brand name?
  • Why do you choose the brand over others?
  • What does the brand offer that competitors don’t offer?
  • If this brand were a person, who would it be?
  • What is this brand missing?
  • Why would you recommend this brand to other people?
  • Who would you recommend this brand to?

Notice that most of the questions in the Brand Equity Research section above focus on how, when, and where while the questions in the Brand Perception Research section address what, who, and why. As you monitor both brand equity and perception, you’ll get answers to these questions that can help you develop your brand for future success. Remember, brands, markets, and consumers are continually evolving, and that’s the topic for Part 5 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series.

Stay tuned to learn all about the research you need to do for growing and changing brands. In the meantime, follow the links below to read Parts 1-3 of the Brand Research Fundamentals series.

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Images: 1, SuperMac1961, Terry Johnston

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