The Branding Process: 1. Conducting Brand Research
My previous post talked about the branding process being a combination of investigation, strategic thinking, project management and creativity and it listed the 5 stages in the branding process as:
- Conducting research
- Developing/clarifying strategy
- Designing identity
- Creating touchpoints
- Managing assets
So, in this post, we will look at the first stage, conducting brand research.
Research is essential to examine the current position of the brand and investigate which direction the brand should go in to maximize its potential.
Conducting research allows you to:
- Clarify the vision, strategies, goals and values of the company
- Ask key management their vision for the brand
- Research stakeholders’ needs and perceptions
- Conduct a brand audit
- Conduct a competitive audit
So the first priority is to understand the company’s mission, vision, target markets, brand values, personality, strengths, weaknesses and its USP. This can be achieved by asking key management and the key stakeholders a number of questions. For many of these, you can directly ask what they believe the company’s vision, markets etc are, but for others we tend to ask indirect questions. For example, instead of asking ‘what is your brand personality?’, we might ask ‘what 3 words would you use to describe your brand/company?’, as you will build a much broader overview of the brand.
A similar approach is given to the research of stakeholders’ views and perceptions. Questions may be asked of staff, customers, suppliers or the community, to obtain their views. As above, the questions will be more general, such as ‘why do you choose…’, ‘what is most important to you’, ‘how do you rate…’ and ‘choose 3 words to describe’. The answers from these can analysed and put together with the other research to determine the brand strategy.
The brand audit is also an important part of conducting brand research, as it allows you to look what currently works, and what can be improved. The brand audit looks at the brand identity – the logo, the tagline, the colours and fonts, and at all marketing materials and the online identity. More often that not, there will be some elements that will want to be retained to allow some continuity and to keep a sense of history and longevity for the brand.
The competitive audit is a data gathering process that looks at competitors’ brands, their visual identity and the way they are perceived. The aim of this is to be able to say ‘why should customers choose our products/services over theirs?’ and ‘how can we look and feel different?’
Once the research phase has been completed, a report can be put together to inform the development of the brand strategy moving forwards. The research does not often result in an epiphany for the brand, but those experienced in the branding field, can read between the lines, make connections and identify opportunities.
Next time we will look at the second stage of the branding process – developing/clarifying strategy.
Thanks for reading,