Why deep research builds stronger brands

Brand building. It’s one of the most significant levers a company has to drive business growth.

According to McKinsey & Company, strong brands perform better financially, consistently beating other brands year after year. They also help companies achieve their strategic, financial, and growth goals, and provide more opportunities for their employees.

Despite the advantages a strong brand brings to a company, many companies don’t commit to the rigor that’s required to build a relevant, compelling, and well-differentiated brand. Why? Because they think it will be expensive or take too long—neither of which have to be true if you work with the right partner. And more often than not, many companies also don’t do deep research because they think they know their market and customers best.

But conducting deep, rigorous, quantitative research often dispels long-held beliefs. It can also open new doors and provide a solid foundation for fact-based decision making and brand building. In fact, deep research among your customers, prospects, and employees is what differentiates a great brand from a good brand.

We’ve seen this firsthand. For one mortgage brand, our deep, actionable research led to a brand positioning that helped to increase their revenue by 70 billion in two years. For an engineering brand, our research-led brand strategy helped foster a 62% revenue increase in a down market. When research leads, a brand’s growth follows.

There are many reasons why. One is that research helps you understand what matters most. But it’s not about what you think matters most, or about what the company thinks. It’s about what matters most to your current customers—and to those you are trying to attract. Maybe you want to attract a younger generation but maintain the core customer. While you may understand many of the rational drivers in each audience’s decision making, very few people understand the emotional drivers of their customers and prospects. Deep research will tell you both rational and emotional drivers. And that can make all the difference.

To determine what matters most, it’s crucial to identify the market’s critical drivers, delighters, and table stakes in decision making. Through a combination of asking and empirically deriving importance, your organization will understand what truly matters most in decision making, and the potential differentiators on which to stake a claim.

Then, after you determine what matters most, research can help you understand how that compares to your brand’s reputation in the marketplace today. It’s essential to prioritize what’s most important to the market, but it’s also critical to quantitatively understand both your and your competitors’ brand reputation on what matters most. This will give you insight into potential white space, short-term believability, and significant gaps to be mitigated in order for your brand to stay competitive.

In addition, by understanding your brand’s reputation, you can begin to pull together a strategic roadmap that identifies the specific strategies and tasks that the organization will need to undertake, both in the short term and long term, to fully internalize and operationalize the brand.

Deep research has another benefit too: once you know what matters most and what your brand might stand for, research helps you understand how to communicate that reputation in a way that’s compelling—and with language and tonality that resonates with your target audience. It can also help you prioritize the messages that are most important by audience too.

One of our clients, a women’s shoe brand once known as “your grandmother’s shoe,” wanted to target a younger audience. So they redesigned their entire line of shoes to be more fashionable. Luckily they didn’t stop there, despite the company being adamant that fashion was going to drive everything they did. Instead, they conducted research to determine how to communicate their refreshed brand. Research revealed that continuing to talk about their “fashionable” shoes was a strong negative and actually turned off the younger audience. The younger generation thought “fashionable” sounded expensive and dictatorial. But they liked the concept of “stylish.” In fact, to them, “stylish” meant affordable and good looking, rather than an unobtainable fashion.

After subsequent quantitative research, the shoe brand decided that style would drive everything going forward—product placement, product development, retail stores, and more. Thanks to research, what sounded like a synonym was anything but. The shoe company now knew how to bring style to life and it was very different than how they would have brought fashion to life.

Deep research matters because what customers think matters. They do not make decisions only rationally. So deep research that can uncover both the emotional and the rational, and then allow your company to understand the best way to covey a reputation that will matter to your audiences, can be the difference between a brand that flourishes and one that flounders.

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