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How to conduct brand research to drive success

Brand research will provide useful insights to help your brand grow.

Brand research is a crucial part of diagnosing your brand health. By identifying opportunities for improvement, you’ll be able to differentiate your brand, identify weaknesses, and improve your branding. Let’s discuss brand research, what it will do for you, how to conduct brand research, and how to use the results to drive success.

Brand research is a form of market research that explores various components of your branding, such as brand identity, vision, goals, mission, and positioning, to gain insights into how your brand is perceived. It helps you find out whether your vision for your brand matches public perception and helps you identify areas for improvement.

Brand research includes comparisons to your competitors. It helps you discover where you have a competitive advantage—and where you have opportunities to improve. 

This research is an ongoing process. You know what you’ve set out to present as your brand, but perception is in the hands of the consumers. To find out what they think, you have to ask. And ask again. Changes to your brand, your target audience, and simply time can all cause a shift in how your brand is perceived.

There are several advantages to brand research:

  • Gain insights into how the public perceives your brand
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of brand communication
  • Identify areas of brand growth (such as in awareness)
  • Identify areas that are in need of improvement
  • Glean actionable insights
  • Avoid guesswork and assumptions for brand messaging
  • Align all teams in messaging that is supported by data

Brand research is not something you do once when establishing your brand. It is conducted frequently to ensure ongoing positive brand perception.

Examples of times to use brand research:

  • Establishing brand and competitive baselines: Find out what your target audience thinks of your brand and your competition. You’ll gain insights into what your competitors are doing that works—and what doesn’t. You’ll uncover things you should avoid and things you should improve. This comprehensive analysis will give you a place to start and a baseline to determine whether future efforts will have a positive impact.
  • Increase in advertising/marketing: Discover the public perception of your advertising and marketing messages. Are you hitting the right tone? Does it fit with your brand image? Test your messaging to ensure that your message is being received the right way and that it is considered consistent with your branding.
  • Launch of a new product/service: Find out if a new product, feature, or service makes sense in terms of your brand. Is it in line with your brand values? Will the public receive it well? Combine branding research with your product research to find out.
  • Growth has stalled: If your business growth is stagnant, brand research will help you identify why and provide actionable insights to reignite your growth.
  • Target audience has changed: This is especially important for established brands. If over time, your target audience has changed, you must reach out to your new target market to find out their perceptions of your brand. The answers will serve to inform any changes in your brand direction, values, and identity.
  • Considering a new name/identity: Before you take on such a big change, it’s important to consider how your target audience will respond. Name testing has a big role in this, but so does the response of your customers to the overall change.
  • Following a merger or acquisition: This situation is a massive change for your company. Will you keep your brand’s name? How will your identity change? Are your new values in line with the old ones? Brand research will help you measure how people feel about the merger or acquisition and how they view your brand in light of the changes.

All of these examples are pivotal moments in your brand’s life. They include major decisions that will result in significant gains or losses. Because of this, it’s essential to use the guidance of research to find the most effective way forward.

Before you get started with your research, there are a few brand research terms you should be familiar with.

Brand research often begins with brand awareness. This is the extent to which customers are familiar with your brand, product, or service. This measurement provides detailed information about how your marketing efforts are faring and how your business is performing overall. 

There are two types of brand awareness. Unaided brand awareness indicates that a consumer comes up with your name without prompting. Aided brand recognition questions mention your brand or provide an image of your brand in the questions or choices.

Measuring brand awareness is easy with our customizable brand awareness survey template.

A large part of brand perception is people's associations with your brand. These are the things that people think and feel when they encounter your brand. 

For example, do customers associate your brand with luxury? Do they equate you with sustainability? Are you known for your exemplary customer service? Associations can be positive or negative, so don’t be surprised to find answers on both sides.

Your brand perception is very important to research. Brand perception includes awareness, associations, and interactions with your brand. It is a key metric influencing sales, product or feature development, marketing, and advertising. Your brand perception is shaped by your social media presence, messaging, and customer experience. 

The additional value a business gets from high brand awareness is brand equity. It includes brand perception, the effect the perception has on your company, and the value of the effect. 

Brand equity is key in customer retention, launching new products, and building brand loyalty.

To measure brand equity, start with a brand awareness survey to determine if your target market is aware of your brand. Then conduct a brand perception survey to find out the current perception of your brand. If necessary, use the data to make changes that clarify your meaning and message. Follow these with a customer satisfaction survey to determine the positive and negative aspects of the customer experience. Finally, a brand loyalty survey will help you determine the value that brand equity adds to your brand.

Streamline the brand equity measurement with our Brand Tracker. Monitor brand health, awareness, competitive threats, perception, reputation, and more all in one place.

When a customer prefers your brand over your competitors, you’ve achieved brand loyalty. A loyal customer will always choose your brand, regardless of price or convenience, because they believe your brand meets all of their needs. They make repeat purchases and recommend your products. 

You can build brand loyalty by providing an exceptional customer experience, engaging with customers on social media, and establishing a rewards program. Measure brand loyalty with metrics for customer satisfaction and NPS.

Brand preference is closely tied to brand loyalty. It’s the tendency to choose one brand over another consistently. They may have tried products from other brands, but they’ve decided your brand is the best. Brand preference adds to your brand equity.

For example, some people always choose Coke over Pepsi, Starbucks over Dunkin, or Apple over Android.

Now that you understand how beneficial brand research is, it’s time to start executing it. So, how do you conduct brand research?

Surveys, especially when conducted online, yield a lot of information quickly and efficiently. It will show you where your brand stands today and provide you with a guide for future research.

While it’s easy to send online surveys, that doesn’t mean you should send random questions out to anyone. There is a science to surveys. You’ll need a group of participants from your target market. SurveyMonkey Audience can help with that. Then you’ll need to formulate your questions. We have a variety of survey templates and market research solutions available to help you. 

SurveyMonkey also provides you with an easy-to-use, customizable dashboard with real-time results and analytics tools.

When conducting interviews, you must have an experienced interviewer administering your questions. This interviewer will ask your questions, formulate logical follow-up questions, and redirect participants if they get off track. Interviews are interactive and can often reveal information you aren’t expecting. People tend to provide more information in a conversation than in a survey.

Interviews provide great insights and can be more thorough than a survey, but there are some issues to consider. Interviews take more time, require trained interviewers, include participants traveling to a location for the interview, and incur costs for an interview location and facilitator compensation.

A focus group consists of a group of people in your target market gathered together with a facilitator to discuss your brand. The conversational style of this type of research may reveal unique and compelling perspectives.

It is possible for the focus group to fall victim to groupthink or to have one participant with a dominant personality override other participants’ contributions. A trained facilitator should be able to redirect and maintain a productive session, but sometimes it is difficult. 

Interviews or surveys of stakeholders, including employees and management, will reveal the internal perceptions of your brand and culture. Are your employees living your brand message? Send out a survey asking employees:

  • Why do we exist beyond making money?
  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What values are our driving force?
  • What single message does our brand communicate to consumers?

Questions like these encourage an honest assessment and will tell you if your employees truly understand your brand. 

In addition, interview customer-facing employees and ask about their experiences with customers.

Discussions of your brand in social media can be very illuminating. It’s valuable to monitor for brand mentions, reviews, and discussions because you can learn what your customers think and share when they are unprompted. Review social media metrics and look for trends, deeper insights, and conversation topics. 

What kind of questions should you use in your brand research? The following examples are for informational purposes. Your own questions would be customized and personalized for your products or brand.

Brand awareness survey questions:

When you think of this product type, what brands come to mind? 

Which of the following brands have you heard of? 

How familiar are you with our brand?

How likely are you to recommend our brand to a friend?

Brand association survey questions:

When you think of our brand, what comes to mind? 

What three words best describe our brand? 

Survey questions for brand perception:

How would you rate this brand on a scale of 0-10?

When you think of this brand, what is the first thing that comes to mind? 

How does this brand make you feel?

If this brand is not your first choice in this category, what brand do you prefer?

Brand equity survey questions:

The following is a list of brands that provide (product or service). Which ones have you heard of (choose all that apply)?

You indicated you are aware of (brand). What word or phrase do you think of when you think about that brand? 

When you look at (brand), is your impression positive, negative, or neutral?

Note: Remember that brand equity also includes awareness and perception.

Brand loyalty questions:

Based on your most recent interaction with our team, how satisfied are you with our customer service?

How likely are you to purchase from us again?

Why did you choose our product over a competitor’s product? 

On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?

Brand preference questions:

How satisfied are you with current product offerings from (brand)?

Rate the importance of each factor when considering the purchase of a (product type)?

When you’re shopping for (product category), which brand fits each description below? (note: provide choices including your brand and your top four competitors)

  • Lowest price
  • Best reviews
  • Best brand
  • Best quality
  • Best promotions
  • Recommended by family and friends

Brand research is one of the keys to driving success. It should be the first item on your list as you create your brand strategy. Gathering information from both stakeholders and customers will provide you with the data you need to make informed decisions about your brand identity, mission, promise, values, positioning, messaging, and experience.

There is no one perfect way to conduct brand research, but we can offer this advice: 

  1. Don’t make assumptions. Ask what you need to know, even if you think you know the answer. This protects your research from any bias.
  2. Look for both emotional and rational responses. You can uncover information about your customers’ motivations that is crucial to your success.
  3. Present your findings to management and stakeholders. This shows management that your branding strategy is clearly based on hard evidence and data. Sharing this data with employees and customers shows authenticity and transparency. You’ll gain trust, which is an important part of brand loyalty.

Find out what customers really think and feel about your brand. This information will reveal new areas for growth for your brand strategy. A strong brand is the first step in your success. Start with the SurveyMonkey Brand Tracker to find your current brand status and to measure the success of your efforts. Need more help? Our market research solutions are available to help you gather and analyze all the data you need. 

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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