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How to use market insight and research to build your brand (Article 4 in the series)
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How do I use Market Insight and Research to build and support my brand? And what are myoptions and how to decide what is most appropriate? (Marketing Mix February 2010)

"Market research, deeper understanding, consumer insights, drivers, needs, perceptions"...all jargon often tossed around in the brand and marketing world, yet so few have a deep and meaningful understanding of the market that they serve and the real needs and passion points of the people that hand over their hard-earned cash to purchase your goods or buy your services and keep you in business.

You may ask: "Why should I bother, as long as people keep buying my products?"  Well, the age of digital has created a truly empowered market across all spectrums of society. Cell phone and other technology platforms are rapidly breaking down boarders and enabling smart, informed choices for everyday people.  The consumer (or customer) of today is no longer blindly led by marketing gimmicks and fancy advertising in making their purchase decisions.  If only we could relive the simplicity of the 1920's, when all advertising was seen as Gospel Truth and brands could tell no lies...  But today there are a whole host of things that influence modern buying behavior and brand loyalty - and market insight is the key to unlocking your brand's ability to impact the decision process at exactly the right time, to achieve a sale.  Complacency is unlikely to see you reaching your goals.

When should you use research to build your brand?

Well, the most critical point at which research should play a role is when you define your brand or develop your brand strategy.  Typically you would want to have the information to be able to complete the following statement: For people who..., my brand is... because... 

For people who...?

It is critically important that you have a thorough understanding of the market, in order to pinpoint exactly who you are targeting.  It is extremely hard to be all things to all people, so the tighter you make your audience definition, the more effective your brand will be in reaching the most profitable market.  This is best achieved by knowing:

  • What does your market look like demographically i.e. age, gender, household profile, education, employment etc?
  • How do they feel about the category?
  • What do they ideally need or want from the category?

My brand is...? 

In defining your unique selling proposition, you need to understand what the market wants, that your competitors don't or can't deliver on.  This means that you need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What does the market think about the competitor brands?
  • What are the shortfalls in delivery and/or unmet needs?
  • Is my brand able to meet these needs in the minds of the market? (credibly and relevantly)

Because...?

Now that you have the most important cornerstones of your brand in place, you need to give the market reasons to believe you.  To help you decide which areas are most important to highlight, you need to know:

  • What things are important to the market e.g. price, distribution, advertising presence, brand promise, ingredients etc?
  • How do they make their purchase decisions i.e. what is the order of importance ascribed to each of these decision influencers?
  • Where am I able to positively influence those decisions, through actions that I can control?

If you have used fresh and insightful research to inform your answers to all of these questions, then you are likely to have built a brand that will resonate with your market, be differentiated from your competitors and make a meaningful difference in their lives.

When should you use research to support your brand?

Once your brand is established, keeping a finger on the pulse of the markets helps to keep you abreast of changes in behavior, perceptions, needs etc.  So any brand should essentially find some way in which to stay connected to the people that it serves and thereby stay ahead of the competition (or at the very least, keep up with it).

In addition to staying in touch with your market, research also provides a useful forum for testing potentially big brand changes e.g. new products, flavours or variants; advertising campaigns; new packaging etc.  It is always wise to find out if your market thinks your big idea is equally appealing and meaningful, before rushing off and making changes.

What are your research options?

Modern market and marketing research has come a long way in terms of methodologies and approaches - you are bound to find something that will meet your needs in terms of time, money and information needed. 

At a basic level, research is split into qualitative and quantitative techniques and within each of these you will find an array of options using traditional and contemporary platforms to engage with markets.  Qualitative research is typically used to answer the question "why", whereas quantitative research is better suited to answering "how many".

Some of the more popular qualitative options at the moment include:

  • Focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Panel interviews
  • Observation research (either using technology tools or personal interaction)
  • Diaries
  • Cultural immersions
  • Blog & forum mining
  • Online discussion panels

The most frequently used quantitative techniques are face-to-face interviews and telephonic interviews.  However, with the increase in access to technology in SA, this is rapidly expanding to include online surveys and panel research as well (in Europe, USA and some of the Orient, online surveys are the most common form of obtaining market feedback).

How do you decide what to do?

You should be led by your brand and marketing information needs, in deciding what kind of research to embark on.  If you need depth of insight, then qualitative research is your best solution.  For broader opinion surveys or measuring behavioural criteria, quantitative research is the better option. 

Having said which, at the end of the day your research solution will be dependent on how much time and money you are willing to invest in connecting with your market.  Ideally you should consult a professional to assist you in designing a project, although there are many ways in which you can gather informal insights to assist in your brand and marketing decisions.

Just remember, that the insights can only be as good as the tools and expertise used to build them.  


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