Using Research to Inform Brand Strategy & Design

Research is key to brand strategy - allowing you to represent your company’s true functions, values and character from solid data.

By Rog HowPosted in Ideas

Good branding should be the perfect balance of representing your company’s functions, values and character. So the path to accurate brand development needs careful thought and a considered methodology.

One indispensable part of your method should be research, but research comes in many forms and can be used in many ways to make decisions. As a guide, I’ve outlined some that we use and how they might be useful to help grow your brand.

Quantity or Quality

All research generally falls into two categories: quantitative or qualitative.

A qualitative approach is on a smaller scale. This involves asking fewer people’s opinions, but spending more time with them in order to probe and discover. It is a quality over quantity approach that is designed to gain deeper insights.

Quantitative research is more data-driven — using bigger data sets and statistics. This is more about quantity over quality, and is not so good at answering deeper questions. Saying that, it can be useful either as an initial overview or to validate theories derived from the qualitative work. So still very useful.

Customer Interviews - Qualitative

Interviews are easy to conduct in person or on the phone, and generally cost very little. They can give deep insights, as you have more time to probe or rephrase questions to get the information you feel you might need it.

They should be structured, but also semi-organic and fluid to allow you to delve deeper. It helps if you do a bit of background research beforehand as this gives you room to fall back on some sort of factual foundation whilst you’re freestyling.

You can plan these interviews and record their outcomes by using customer personas. If it helps take a look at my post called How Do I Create a Marketing Persona for more information on this. Once you’ve established personas, you should have a better idea of the primary needs of your customers.

This involves trying to find out what do they want to buy from you; what values are important to them when buying and how do they feel at the point of purchase. In turn this can help you develop your company’s functional benefit, value benefit and emotional benefit. The fundamental building blocks of your brand.

Surveys  -  Quantitative

Surveys are good too if you either want a general overview or answers to a very specific question. If you want to know what people generally think of your existing brand, for example, it helps to have as many opinions as possible. They can be inexpensive, but you may need to add an incentive like a competition for people to be willing to fill in the form.

It’s generally better to stick to multiple choice questions on the form as it will make it easier for people to complete, as well as for you to compile the data. This means that it can be quite restrictive so you will either be asking a general question like, “How do you rate the website on a scale of 1–10?”, or you can ask a very specific question like, “What is more important to you: price, quality or convenience?”. This can be very helpful information, but sometimes frustrating when you can’t ask “why?”.

Web Analytics -  Quantitative

Web stats can be like diving down the rabbit hole. There is so much information it is difficult to work out where to start.

I’d recommend first setting up conversion tracking. This can be tracking when someone is buying from your website, visits a certain page, or calls you from a link on the website. Basically whatever constitutes a lead or a sale from your website.

This then means you can look specifically at the stats associated with leads or sales. You can tell the journey that users have made through your site, and where they are based. This is all incredibly useful information when developing your strategies. For more advice on analytics take a look at our interview with analytics analytics expert Phil Pearce.

Competitor Research

This is not really quantitative or qualitative, but is definitely worth a mention here. Looking at your competitors and how they are similar or different from you is really important when developing your brand. We do a lot of this in our brand consultancy with clients.

Knowing where you sit in terms of price or quality, for example, can help you to define the reasons your customers have to buy from you. Also, you may realise that you are the only one with a unique combination of characteristics. This in turn will help you decide what will set you apart if your market is crowded.

Ultimately, the purpose of branding is to create and build trust with your customers so understanding your customers is fundamental to your brand development.

Research is key to this understanding and where you should concentrate the bulk of your brand research. What are you trying to find out? Who your customers? What makes them tick and why and how are they buying from you? If you can find answers to these questions, then your brand decisions will lead easily from there, as you have the reasoning behind them to back them up. You’ll find, to your delight, that a lot of your decisions will already have been made for you.

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