How to Use Brand Research to Unlock Your Company’s True Identity

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Your brand isn’t just a logo and a few colors – it’s what people think of you. Done well, brand research can help guide you to your true north. We’ve worked with happy clients across a handful of industries on their brand research and development over the past year – helping them discover exactly who they are and where their aspirations lie – and, from that point, helping them course-correct their brand so that all stakeholders are pulling in the same direction. Whether you enlist outside help or choose the major undertaking of a DIY brand research project, the benefits are clear. Here, we outline the main steps and our approach:

Become Familiar with the Current State of The Brand

First, we seek to understand the company and its existing branding through qualitative research. We look at their website and other materials, conduct employee and customer interviews, review competitors, and comb through customer reviews and surveys to gather information about brand perception. It’s important to not make assumptions about why we think customers value the brand. Instead, we need to hear it straight from them, and several others.

Interview Stakeholders

We conduct interviews with numerous key stakeholders including senior leadership, employees, current and lapsed clients, and vendors and partners. Ideally, these are 1:1, in-person interviews to try to get as much in-depth information as possible. When we interview a client’s senior leadership, we try to get a sense of how they see the company. What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses? Who are the competitors? Then, we pose similar questions to lower-level employees. Interviewing people both high and low on the org chart gives us a good sense of how the brand is seen internally. Interviews with clients allow us to see how their answers track with what the internal stakeholders said. We love to talk to past clients, but they can be tough to pin down, so often we’re able to interview just current clients.

Organize and Analyze the Data

By this point, there are usually commonalities in stakeholders’ answers (if there’s a big difference, then there’s a problem we need to address). We take all the interview data (plus any other data we’ve gathered) and quantify it. What words and phrases (whether positive or negative) are often said about the company? How can we piece those together and see patterns? What are the top themes and descriptions? What verbatim interview responses really resonated? Soon we get a real sense about what the company’s all about.

Establish Brand Identity

After distilling and analyzing the information gained via interviews, competitive research, and customer reviews, we establish the brand identity. Here’s where we determine the brand differentiators and the core pillars the company should stand on and carve out the following core components of the brand identity:

Discovery #1: Brand Attributes & Core Values

Understanding stakeholders’ views and the company’s aspirations, we develop a list of brand attributes and group them under core values. Core values are the guiding beliefs and behaviors that the company strives to identify with.

Discovery #2: The Positioning Statement

The positioning statement is what you want your clients to think and feel about your company. It defines your core value proposition, target audience, and competitive position. It’s not a mission statement or a vision statement – it’s rooted more concretely in fact. It’s about where you stand in the market.

Discovery #3: Brand Essence

The grand finale. Your brand essence is the simple phrase that defines the heart and soul of your brand. It’s your fundamental nature or quality. It’s the ultimate distillation of everything we’ve learned and should guide you in every client interaction, decision, or piece of work. It takes many hours to arrive at a brand essence, but clients cherish the clarity that it brings.

Then What?

Clients take the findings and deliverables from our brand research and use them to give their website a proper makeover, improve their social media presence, update old photography, create a new template for their proposal document, or intelligently revise any other pieces of marketing collateral.

So, Why Do It?

How long has it been since you’ve really thought critically about your brand? We urge you to consider it. Not just because developing the right marketing collateral will be easier – though it will be – but also because all stakeholders, both internally and externally, will better understand where your company is positioned in the marketplace. Just as it would for a person who takes the time for self-reflection in order to better himself or herself, companies that take the time to reevaluate who they are will be able to pursue their mission with more clarity. Interested in working together? Click here to learn more.

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