Top Reasons for Brand Effectiveness

In a recent branding research study I conducted with more than 150 senior marketing and sales executives, I asked the open-ended question “What makes a brand effective?”.  If you have ever tried to analyze the answers to an open-ended survey question, you know it’s a bear trying to group answers into categories that do justice to participants’ (sometimes) lengthy responses, especially when answers touch on a number of areas.

Here are the most-mentioned areas in descending order of mentions:

  • Trust
  • Reliability
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Consistency
  • Differentiation
  • Clear Value Proposition
  • Customer/Prospect Oriented
  • Awareness
  • Recognition
  • Delivers on Promise
  • Simplicity
  • Memorable
  • Alignment
  • Positive
  • Relevance
  • Engagement
  • Solves a Need

This is a far ranging list and it does not include those items that were mentioned only once or twice.  You can use the list to judge how well your brand does in these areas. But the important question is: How do your customers and potential customers perceive your brand in these areas?  Clearly, not all the attributes work well as survey questions and different attributes may require different research techniques.

Here are some ideas on how you can gather information in these areas with a survey:

  • Reliability, Quality and Value can be measured with a rating question (On a scale of 1 to 7 how would you rate Company X in terms of reliability?).  Make sure you provide a write-in box to capture additional comments. Or if you have a limited number of competitors, you could ask “Please rate each company’s reliability on a scale of 1 to 7”.
  • Awareness, Recognition and Memorable can be measured with open-ended questions (When you think of products/services in X category what companies come to mind?  Have you heard of Company X and, if so, what do you think of the Company?)
  • Feelings about the company in many of the other categories can be discovered with open-ended questions (What three words would you use to describe Company X?).

Focus groups also are helpful in determining what buyers want and how your company stacks up against the competition.  And I have always been a big fan of one-to-one interviews.  Although they are expensive, they allow a skilled interviewer to gather information based on the participant’s previous comments.  These follow-up questions often get to why the participant feels the way he/she does, which can yield “a-ha” insights that can be further tested through traditional research methods.

But proprietary research is not the only way to uncover information about your company and market.  Many industries have syndicated research that gathers buyer behavior, perceptions and attitudes. This research offers a comprehensive view that emphasizes the purchase process and purchase decisions.  One of my employers sponsored a syndicated industry survey that allowed us to ask a proprietary question (only we received the responses) and we asked: What advice would you give Company X?.

Another analysis of the responses about effective brands found that they related to five broad categories:

  • Product or service offered
  • Value provided
  • Relationship with the customer
  • Alignment of all parts of the company with the brand promise
  • Recognition of the brand in the marketplace

By focusing your research in these areas, you can measure your company in absolute terms and relative to competitors’ performance to determine which areas are limiting your brand and need the most attention.


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