How to Use Market Research to Redefine Your Brand

Ever run into a picture of yourself from high school and think — OH MY GOD!  What was I thinking with that hair or outfit or anything at all!  At the time, you considered yourself current and with it but when you look back at those pictures it’s clear that you have moved on in many ways; fashion trends being just the most obvious. brand iStock_000025816748XSmall

Your brand grows and changes with the times — too

Computer operating systems change, home design changes so why shouldn’t the look of your brand?  It’s sort of ironic that as much as we SAY we don’t like change, so much of our economy and our psyche thrives on it.

But how should our brand change?  When is it time to give your brand an update?  That’s what we’re going to discuss in today’s article.

Pay attention to subtle shifts in your market and customers’ minds

Your first clue will be a subtle shift in your mind and your customers’ mind about what your brand is “about”.  In the real world, this generally shows up as a shift in what’s important to you as a business, or what your customers can count on you for.  At first you don’t think these things shift, but they do.  Just think about it — if you’ve recently launched a new product or taken advantage of a new opportunity, these new additions to your bag of tricks make a subtle impact on your brand and cause a shift.  Over time, this shift becomes discernable to your customers and you want to track that and make sure that your brand image and message is congruent with what you want to be known for.

I’ve recently been through this process, so I’ll share exactly what these shifts looked like for me.

DIYMarketers was founded on the principle of being able to DO YOUR OWN marketing.  I created it because people were always asking me how I was able to look like a much bigger company than I was.  So I would share my tools and tricks and resources.  But over time — these tools and tricks and resources were everywhere and simply weren’t as relevant.

In addition to that, I started creating more and more educational resources to help small businesses get help with marketing — which sometimes means HIRING (and that is a shift from DIY).  SO — it was clear that the brand needed to shift a little bit to more closely resemble the brand promise.

Use market research to connect with your customer and collect insights

Of course — I am the master of my brand!  I mean this sincerely.  I get to choose how to create my brand and what it’s going to look like and stand for.  You get to do the same.  BUT — and this is a BIG BUT — your audience HAS to be included in the mix.  If you don’t take them on the journey with you, they will feel left out and simply shift away to another brand.  So you want to do some strategic market research along the way.

Start exploratory and qualitative research

This is where you just HAVE TO LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA!  The best and most powerful way to start running this research is to get into conversations about it on social media channels.  A word of warning — remember the rules of research don’t change —

  • Set an objective — what do you want to know?
  • What decision are you trying to make
  • What do you need to see in terms of data that will point you in the right direction i.e. at least 10 people use the phrase social media in a sentence.”
  • Outline your discussion questions

I think people think that as soon as you say social media that the rules of the game go out the window.  In fact, I think that’s what got professional market researchers’ undies in a bind about it.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  In fact, following good market research practices is even more important because the social media communication channel is rather disjointed and it takes a little time and organization to collect meaningful information.

This exploratory research needs time — so give yourself at least a few weeks or so to make sure that you’ve collected everything you need. With this information, you’re ready to start creating questions that you can use in a survey.

Create your online surveys

Notice that I said online surveys — as in more than one.  Whatever you do — PLEASE spare your respondents the agony of answering 25 questions.  No one has 25 minutes to spend on your survey.

Create a survey for each of your objectives or plan out a series of surveys with no more than 5 questions a piece that will engage your audience AND give you the answers that you are looking for.

Surveys have really mutated over the years.  Think of them as a conversation rather than an interrogation.  That really makes a difference and it will give you that human reaction to your brand that you are looking for.  I’m not sure that this is the best or most scientific way to do branding research, but for small businesses without a large budget, it will give you just enough of the data you need to feel good about your direction AND make a good decision.

Share feedback and encourage conversation

Keep your respondents in the loop and get their reactions.  Most importantly, get into conversations about their reactions.  Do your best to understand, not just the content of what they are saying but the context.  Context is critical because it’s that subtle underlying message that influences your brand.

As you can see, market research is a critical component of defining your new brand.  What you may notice is that it’s more of an interactive process than you thought it would be.  But in the end, you will come away with a brand that more accurately describes who you are, what you do and what people can count on you for — AND a brand that your customers can resonate with.

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers and the President of Third Force, a strategic marketing firm. She's the marketing expert and book editor for Small Business Trends and a frequent contributor to AMEX Open Forum.

Posted in Best Practice
One comment on “How to Use Market Research to Redefine Your Brand
  1. Ivana great post as per youzh. I love the suggestion of using social media to help test/prepare for a survey (which you can then promote/distribute back through social media). Meaningful research often requires a couple of steps to dial-in and make, well, meaningful! Great post!

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