Friday, April 13, 2012

Brand Differentiation Research Strategy

A simple means of uncovering and identifying brand positioning and marketing strategies

I’m going to share a short example of a method I use to help identify brand positioning and message strategies.  It’s a bit of a hybrid between the improvement gap surveys I conduct (see link to post here: improvement-gap-analysis-method) and the brand definition (see link to post here: defining-brand) I’ve outlined in previous posts.  A good place to start is conducting a primary study that uncovers what’s most important to consumers when they choose a store or business.  In my example, I’m going to use the grocery industry.  All my numbers are strictly hypothetical.  Collecting responses to areas of importance spanning 20 to 30 areas can help give greater focus for the business in the results obtained and context for the survey respondents.  If you have access to an internet based survey mechanism that places your anchor scale on an interactive sliding scale you can reduce the time the respondent spends on the survey.  The typical 0 to 10, or 1 to 10 radial buttons used can look rather daunting and add additional unwanted time to a survey.  After you’ve obtained what’s important, you’ll have something that can be extremely valuable to businesses… a basic hierarchy in brand messaging elements. See Exhibit A for a hypothetical example of results. 

If your messaging is focused on areas that are not important to consumers, you’re likely leaving a lot opportunity untapped within a given market.  Focusing on areas most important should yield stronger response.
A “Greater Depth Analysis Note”:  If you want even more valuable information from the importance measures, adding a question about which store you consider shopping or buying from first, second and third before the importance questions can help delineate the differences in what’s important to each stores potential customer bases (where analysis plays an important role).  This analysis can be helpful in developing customer retention and conversion strategies.
Asking follow-up questions regarding how consumers perceive each store in areas most important to them can help identify brand positioning strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  See Exhibit B for example results based on the four most important areas to grocery shoppers. 

Depending on where a respective business falls, this can help identify areas for improvement and competitive threats/alignments in the market.  Including a basic standard deviation analysis for the four brand attributes can help identify areas of greatest and smallest differentiation.  In Exhibit C, fresh/quality baked goods had the widest variance in scoring, meaning consumers feel there is a clear difference between the competitive set measured.  This brand attribute may be more challenging to change perceptions. 

On the other hand, fresh/quality meat had the smallest variance in scoring, which may be an opportunity for a specific store to make a bigger difference in separating themselves from competitors.  Obviously strategies would be dependent on the specific store analyzed, its ability to delivery on key attributes and the objectives they want to achieve.  I’ve found studies like this to be a real eye-opener to businesses and helpful in steering branding and messaging strategies.