December 2, 2016
So you’ve read my post “Four Signs You’re Ready to Rebrand” and answered “yes” to one or more of the questions. Time to design a new logo, right?
Wrong. The first step in the process, and the most important, is conducting brand research.
What Is Brand Research (And Why Should You Do It?)
Before you can embark on the exciting and sometimes painful process of re-branding, you need to go beyond theory and acquire actionable knowledge- game-changing insights that can steal market share and drive sustainable business results. That requires brand research.
It’s safe to assume that in your personal or professional life, you don’t make important decisions without doing due diligence, so why should your brand deserve anything less?
Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid. Don’t rely on a one-rat lab study. Put together a solid plan incorporating some of these tried and true techniques:
1. Qualitative Research (aka “Qual”)
Bring in a small sampling of the “right” types of people and do a focus group, or in-depth interview, online or as a telephone campaign. The questions are open-ended and the answers are subjective. A trained moderator (like me) will probe for deeper perceptions, opinions, and feelings about your topic. Emotional drivers, not rational ones, are what we’re zeroing in on since branding is all about creating emotional connections. We recommend 360 branding that involves both external (consumer) and internal (employee) elements, so you’ll want groups of consumers, vendors, employees, and senior leadership in the mix.
2. Quantitative Research (aka “Quant”)
This is most effective when used to validate the findings of your qualitative study. It’s much more objective because well-crafted questions deliver unbiased answers. You can conduct some quantitative research surveys through online tools like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. But the trick is getting the right analysis from the data. Make sure that you get a good sample pool by surveying across geography, age, incomes, and skill sets (for employee research).
3. Ideation Workshops
These are useful in creating corporate mission and purpose statements, launching new products or product extensions, or simply taking research findings to the next stage of development. It provides a structured forum for collective brainstorming (where there are no bad ideas!) and can be augmented with trend-panels and outside thought-leaders. Invite 10-20 of your closest multidisciplinary stakeholders for an off-site retreat and let the brand games begin.
Don’t Try This Yourself
I recommend bringing in an outside party to conduct any type of research. For qualitative, it helps to have an outsider who isn’t afraid of the truth, and who can turn negative discussions into positive opportunities without feeling personally attacked. For quantitative, it helps reassure both internal and external participants that the results are anonymous. Conducting the research off-site also helps persuade subjects to be completely honest instead of just reciting the party line.
Evaluating It All
Since it’s more art than science, analysis is where real branding experts really shine. (There are three sides to every story.) Agencies like Brandemix use the latest tools and technology to analyze the data to create unique messaging and marketing plans that resonate with fragmented groups. It takes experience, insight, and creativity to turn research into tangible business results.
• The first goal is to simply get to truth. How do people really feel about your brand?
• The next goal is align the findings with your company’s mission, vision, and values. If it’s an employer brand, you want to align it with your consumer brand.
• The third goal is to find your niche, your “white space,” where you can deliver something that no one else can. Again, this applies to both internal and external branding.
• Another goal is to look at your “As-Is,” your current situation, and to find what opportunities are available to you. Also, what can you learn from your “wannabe’s”? If you “wannabe” like Starbucks, in what ways can you emulate their successes?
Brand research professionals have more tools available now than ever before. There is no best way to craft the perfect research plan. It’s through careful consideration of objectives, timeline, and budget that a sensible plan emerges. The answers can be painful, and every answer can lead to two more questions, but every question can lead to new opportunities to capture market share in ways never before considered.
That’s why we do it! Let us do it for you.
December 23, 2013
As 2012 comes to a close, let’s take a look back at the year’s most popular blog posts. The topics range from telling your brand story to embracing new technologies to engaging your employees. I hope these articles will help you become an employer of choice and attract top talent — and avoid some of the biggest social media mistakes.
Here are the BrandeBlog’s six most-read posts of 2013.
Employer Branding: Recruiters Help You Tell the Right Story
One of the biggest recruiting trends of 2014 is employer branding: the promise your company makes to its employees. And one of the biggest trends in marketing is brand storytelling: the use of content and experiences to bring your brand to life. Combining these trends can bring a powerful presence to your talent acquisition. Here’s how to do it.
How to Become an Employer of Choice
A recent Gallup study found that only 47% of American workers are completely satisfied with their jobs. A MarketTools study found that 21% of employees had applied to another job in the past six months. Clearly, many employees are ready to look elsewhere for the next step in their careers. To attract the best of these workers — and make your current employees stay with you, follow these steps to become an employer of choice.
Create Goodwill for Your Small Business with Community Involvement
For any small business to succeed, it must build goodwill with the surrounding community. You can have Facebook fans or catalogue customers all over the world, placing orders by phone and email, but if locals aren’t walking in the door, you’re doomed. Branding your business as a “hometown hero” can make a huge impression on your customer base and serve as an important differentiator in the marketplace.
Build an Employer Brand Fortress by Integrating with Your Corporate Brand
One question that gets asked in every employer branding workshop we hold is, “Where does our employer brand fit with our corporate brand?” Some companies create an employer brand slogan that lives only within recruiting or HR. That’s often against best practice, as it has no bearing on a true employer value proposition. A strong EVP is based on the unique elements of your culture and workplace, resonates with the people you would like more of, and integrates with the same value proposition to your consumer base. Integrating the two brands isn’t always easy, but it’s crucial to success.
Social Media PR Disasters: Applebee’s Wild Night
If it’s true that you can learn more from failure than from success, then there’s a lot to learn from Applebee’s mysterious midnight meltdown. After the restaurant chain’s controversial firing of a waitress, critics took to Applebee’s Facebook page to complain. In the early hours of Saturday, February 2, someone from Applebee’s tried to fight back. What happened next is a perfect example of what not to do in a PR crisis.
Recruiting with Google Glass
Google’s new wearable technology may change recruiting forever. Why? Because, as the economy improves and the competition for talent increases, Google Glass will allow organizations to show a job listing and a corporate culture instead of telling. From talent acquisition to employer branding, here’s how this amazing visual device can be used to engage job-seekers in several new and exciting ways.
What do these posts’ popularity tell us? That there a lot of people with an interest in – and a need for – social media trends, marketing, and branding. As it so happens, they are also specialties of ours!
August 26, 2013
Recently, I demonstrated how small retailers can improve and emphasize their competitive advantages over national chain stores. This week, I came across an interesting research project that took this philosophy to the next level.
20 secret shoppers conducted 200 site visits of at least 15 minutes each to five national chain stores and their local equivalents. The breakdown:
Starbucks vs. Jo’s Coffee
Nordstrom vs. Maya Star
Panera Bread vs. ThunderCloud Subs
Barnes & Noble vs. South Congress Books
The Apple Store vs. Austin MacWorks
Verrill looked at three metrics:
- Did employees up-sell, cross-sell, or tell customers about a deal?
- Did employees create an emotional or personal connection with the customer?
- How long did it take for an employee to create an emotional or personal connection?
The results were surprising. Four of the five national chains performed better in the up-sell category than the local shops, while all five smaller stores did better in creating a personal connection. The time for the connection was split 3-2 in favor of the boutiques.
So even though employees at smaller shops were interacting more (and more quickly) than at the national chains, “the small businesses simply didn’t take advantage of these opportunities to up-sell at the same rate as the national stores,” Verill writes.
Verrill drew some conclusions from this research and also brought in customer service expert Shep Hyken for his take. They both agreed that great customer service starts with employee training and a culture of service.
“Let’s operationalize customer service. You train it, you reinforce it, you recognize people when they’re doing it right,” says Hyken in his video interview with Verrill. “You try to get them to recognize themselves when they’re doing it.”
I absolutely agree. Independent stores may not have the selection or low prices of a national chain, but they have the intimacy to create personal connections. While such “people skills” can be found in many retail workers, it’s much more effective to train them to “ask really specific questions,” as Verrill advises, and to “be consistent with deals at the register,” where a lot of up-selling occurs.
And that may be why national chains outscored the smaller stores in the up-sell category: their scale requires training manuals and consistent procedures, ensuring all employees are trained the same way. At smaller stores, customer service training can be much less formal — if it occurs at all.
Of course, customer service goes beyond training. Hyken says that once an owner or manager sees an employee providing great service, “you recognize that and you celebrate the success with them. That might mean having a meeting with all the employees and…everybody applauds everybody for doing a great job.”
I’ve often said that employee recognition is a great way to engage employees, which itself leads to higher productivity and profits. It can also create better customer service as well.
Customer service gives a smaller store a competitive advantage, offers a path to a more engaged and productive workforce, and leads to loyal and higher-spending customers. I thank Ashley Verrill and Shep Hyken for providing such valuable insights.
Want to learn more about employee training, recognition, or engagement? Write to me.
May 22, 2011
What the new demographics mean to branding.
According to the recent Census findings from over 20 states, the concept of the average American is over. As a nation, we are becoming a more diverse population and in fact, in our 10 largest cities, no one segment forms a majority.
Throw out your cookie-cutters because the impact of this information to marketing, branding and talent acquisition is significant.
· The concept of a value proposition, which by definition means creating a targeted strategy aligned with the wants and needs of your audience, is expanding in direct proportion to our audience segments.
· Adding complexity is the fact that for the first time in history, we have four generations existing side-by-side in the workplace.
· Social networks have fragmented our audiences even further, creating smaller clusters of niche groups with fewer members.
In today’s world, building relevant and authentic messages that appeal to multicultural and multigenerational professionals means more market research and message testing. The good news is that the internet has provided us with a greater variety of ways to launch these plans.
Sites like GutCheck and Quantcast bring innovation to qualitative research. And survey tools like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang make Quant a breeze.
Sadly, these tools and technology will not help in analyzing the data and creating truly unique messaging and marketing plans that resonate with fragmented groups.
That can only be accomplished by people with experience, insight and creativity. Fortunately for you, I know a few of them.