When most people think about doing research for their product or service, the first thing that comes to mind is market research. They want to learn about their competition, where they can position themselves and, therefore, how they can make the most profit.
Sounds great, right?
Well, yes. We’re big believers in the power or market research as a tool for improving your business. However, we also know that it simply doesn’t give the whole picture.
There are many types of research that often get forgotten about and neglected. To name a few, user research, user experience research and, what we’ll be focusing on today, brand perception research.
What is brand perception research?
Unlike a lot of other types of research, brand perception does not focus on the product or the service itself, nor on the user needs as such, but on exactly how that user views a product, service and company.
It looks at the brand as a whole: A company’s “Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”
So, brand perception research focuses on the image that you are portraying to your customers and potential customers. That includes things like visual design and written voice, for example, and then assessing the effect that they have.
Why your business needs brand perception research
The impact of having a strong, effective branding within business cannot be understated.
As Susan Gunelius notes, “A powerful brand is one of your most important business assets even if that power and importance cannot be precisely measured. A strong brand can overcome any macro-environmental problem, and in time, grow to be stronger than ever.” (source)
Whilst Susan accurately points out that the impact of branding cannot be “precisely measured”, creating a good brand and implementing powerful branding generally leads to growth in profits.
This can be explained through brand equity, meaning the value that is derived from a company or product being recognisable, in comparison to a more generic competitor.
At its most basic level, building brand equity means growing the chances of somebody picking up your product, or purchasing your service, based on recognisability and trust.
And how can you grow brand equity? Through brand perception research, of course!
By talking directly to your customers about how they view your brand and branding, you can truly understand the image that you are portraying to the outside world. Therefore, you can begin to grasp whether your brand is recognisable, or has some work to do.
A huge benefit of the research is that it also allows you to get rid of any assumptions that your brand is based on: Whilst you might assume that a colour, tagline or logo perfectly represents what you do, this simply might not be the case. Therefore, by talking to your customers you can identify these incorrect assumptions that are built into your design.
Essentially then, it allows you to learn how to more effectively communicate with your customers.
But how can you conduct brand perception research?
Who should you be talking to?
Short answer: Customers and potential customers.
The longer answer, though, is highlighted by Attest, who suggests talking to different people in order to glean different insights.
For example, new customers are brilliant for assessing why people are investing in your brand, whilst lost customers can help you to understand why people have been convinced to no longer invest.
Similarly, talking to long-term customers will give you a solid idea of who is fully buying into your brand and why, whilst non-customers can help to understand levels of brand recognition with little bias.
For the most part, this type of research is qualitative. It’s often best performed in-person and with face-to-face interviews wherever possible.
We recommend using a 50:50 interview technique, whereby the first half is focused on understanding your customers current behaviour (their current perceptions of your brand and other brands). The second half should be focused on testing each part of your brand collateral. That is, “the collection of media used to promote the brand and support the sales and marketing of a product or service.” (source).
Whilst focusing on current customer perceptions, it is helpful to position yourself within the branding landscape. It is most valuable to understand how your customer views and interacts with your brand in comparison to that of your competition.
XM Marketplace recommends listing all of the attributes that you wish for your brand to portray, and then showing your interviewees your brands, alongside other brands. Then, ask them to list which brand they feel best reflects those attributes.
Using this information, you can see what percentage of people consider your brand the strongest in relation to each of those attributes.
Not only does this give your research a clear goal, bit it also gives you a measurable way to assess whether the brand building activities which follow your research are effective.
In the second part of the interview, you can then focus in on individual aspects of your branding and discuss them. At this point you can ask open-ended questions about why the interviewee has the perception that they do, giving you a basis for improving your materials.
Whilst surveys are not recommended for the totality of your research, they can be helpful for understanding brand perception on a wider scale after your interviews. This will allow you to see if the insights gleaned are representative.
Josh Braaten recommends the following questions as a good starting point:
- How Does <Brand> Make You Feel?
- How Likely Are You To Recommend <Brand>?
- Which Brand Do You Prefer?
To learn more about conducting surveys, sign up to our completely free email course, “First Steps to User Research”! You’ll get plenty of free resources and it will get you one step closer to truly knowing your customers, allowing you to create a more profitable brand.
Using your brand perception research for happier customers and larger profits
Unfortunately, like a lot of research within business, brand perception research is often seen as a box to tick.
When considered in this way, the research is simply a waste of your time and money. Instead, businesses must go into the process with an open mind and a willingness to adapt their branding based on the insights that are uncovered. Only then can you truly build a strong brand.
Use your research to iterate your branding materials. Because, trust us, it’s extremely rare that you won’t find anything that you can improve!
By committing yourself to ongoing and in-depth brand perception research, you will grow your brand equity and give your company a competitive edge.
What’s not to love?
The 5 ways to nail brand perception research
Now that you know the importance of this type of research, and how you can conduct it, here are the 5 key takeaways!
- Talk to different people, to find out different insights on your brand: Decide whether new customers, non-customers or lost customers are the right people to research, in order to find out the information you need.
- Start with current customer perceptions: Begin your research by studying what your interviewees already think about your brand. This will give you a starting point from which to measure improvements!
- Focus on individual branding elements: Once you’ve got a general idea of what your interviewees think of your brand, focus on your different bits of brand collateral in order to asses why they feel that way.
- Conduct your interviews in a neutral environment: By heading to somewhere that isn’t heavily branded (and certainly isn’t your offices!) you can help to prevent any unintentional biases whilst conducting your research.
- Always be willing to pivot: If you’re not willing to listen to the insights from your brand perception research and adapt your branding, it’s simply not worth doing!
If you’re interested in conducting brand perception research, but would like our team of research experts to take the stress out of it for you, drop as an email to [email protected].
The Snap Out Team