Relationship Brand Basics - Part 3

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Posted Jul 12, 2012
Susan Gunelius

Using Market Research to Build a Relationship Brand

To successfully build a relationship brand, you'll need to spend time conducting market research and managing customer relationships on an ongoing basis. That's the subject of Part 3 of the Relationship Branding Basics series. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you can follow the links to learn what a relationship brand is and how brands become relationship brands. Now, it's time to learn how to get started in developing a relationship brand by taking the first step and researching your market.

relationship brand basics

At the core of successful relationship brands is a deep understanding of the consumers who purchase, experience, and talk about the brands. To develop a relationship brand, you need to research consumers and identify not just segments but also niche sub-segments of customers. Doing so enables you to create messages and experiences which allow consumers to interact with and experience the brand in their own ways. At the same time, messages and experiences should be offered that enable consumers to experience the brand with other people in their sub-segment, across sub-segments, and with the larger brand audience.

Everyone doesn't like to experience a brand the same way, and successful relationship brands know that. These brands allow consumers to create their own branded experiences and these brands create branded experiences for consumers based on research data related to wants, needs, emotions, and experiences.

By definition, sub-segments are smaller groups of customers within a larger customer segment. Market segmentation typically involves collecting and analyzing demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and social data to create groups of similar customers. By sub-segmenting an audience into smaller groups, relationship brands can create unique brand experiences that allow members of the sub-segment to experience the brand in uniquely appealing ways.

For example, Macintosh customers could be loosely sub-segmented into groups based on how consumers experience the brand through their daily use of Mac computers -- graphic designers, students, families/home users, small businesses, and so on. Each sub-segment is likely to use their Mac computers a bit differently and therefore, is likely to respond to different messaging and experiences. Many of the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials focused on these niche sub-segments. A commercial that featured cheerleaders (watch it below) targeted the student sub-segment while others targeted families trying to organize family photos or small businesses trying to manage their daily business activities on a computer that consistently works and is easy to set up.

While this explanation is simplified, the process and its importance shouldn't be. In order to develop sub-segments, so you can create relevant messaging and experiences that drive results, you need to start by researching your audience. Research questions should cover topics like the dozen listed below:

  • Awareness: What is the awareness level of your brand?
  • Perception: How do people perceive your brand?
  • Distribution: Where do people purchase your brand?
  • Usage: Where and how do people use your brand?
  • Rational Evaluations: What are the functional and rational reasons why people choose your brand?
  • Emotional Evaluations: What are the emotional reasons why people choose your brand?
  • Competition: What other brands do people buy rather than yours and why?
  • Loyalty: How loyal are people to your brand?
  • Advocacy: Do people talk about your brand?
  • Guardianship: Do people defend your brand against naysayers?
  • Gaps and Opportunities: What do people think is missing from your brand?
  • Experience and Engagement: Where do people experience, share, and talk about your brand and how do they do it?

Using the information you collect through your research, perform cluster analyses to find similar groups of customers. Additional research is likely to be useful in gathering more information from particularly profitable, influential, or growing sub-segments. Once you identify your sub-segment profiles, you can create messages and experiences that those sub-segment audiences are likely to respond to. As mentioned above, this is not a one-time thing. Research and analysis is an ongoing process that is vital to the long-term growth and success of a relationship brand.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the Relationship Brand Basics series where you'll learn about relationship brand examples that you can benchmark. In the meantime, if you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of the series, follow the preceding links to read them now.

Image: Thomas Bush

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