Building brand strategy starts with understanding what consumers think about your brand. That’s how brand strategy and market research fit together into a nice, cohesive package.
What do consumers think about your brand?
If you don’t know what consumers honestly think about your brand, your brand might be killing you — costing you valuable profits. It doesn’t matter that your managers think your brand is the best thing since stretch socks or your engineers know your new brand is very advanced and sophisticated. They’re not the ones buying your brand — consumers are. So, go find out what consumers think and do it FAST before you waste any more money on a marketing strategy that’s doomed to fail.
I once sat in a focus group with a client who manufactured a regional beer. The moderator had informants taste the company’s signature beer. They HATED it. Instead of trying to find out why, the client became so indignant, she almost went through the one-way glass to throttle informants into admitting the beer tasted good. She spent the rest of the focus group giving me reasons why the beer was superior to competitors. She didn’t get it. It didn’t matter what she thought, it didn’t matter what I thought, the only thing that mattered was what consumers thought.
Domino’s got it right. When consumers complained about their brand, they used consumer sentiment and modified the product to suit consumers’ tastes. They used it to fuel a very successful advertising campaign on top of using consumer sentiment as a tool for redesigning their marketing strategy.
Getting to know consumers
There are lots of tools for getting to know your customers — or marketing research. Focus groups, surveys, and experiments (such as taste tests) are traditional ways of doing consumer research. With the prevalence of virtual communities and social networks, the internet has become an important tool for marketing research.
You can use sophisticated listening posts to hear what consumers are saying about you online or you can lurk in chat rooms to hear what consumers are saying. If you have a strong social network strategy, you can use your Facebook fan page and other social networks to encourage feedback from consumers.
Tools for improving your brand strategy
Last week, I introduced perceptual mapping, which is a great tool for displaying market research in a format that’s easy to incorporate into your marketing strategy. Other tools, such as the BCG model and GE Matrix also help you understand how you should plan your brand strategy. Even simple tools such as cross-tabulating brand attitudes with consumer demographics can be very helpful in developing a strong brand strategy.
Building brand strategy
A few weeks ago, I posted a couple of strategies for creating strong brands including the notion of building iconic brands, as well as using branding as a tool in your marketing strategy. Today, I’d like to expand on the use of branding as part of your marketing strategy with 2 new branding options — co-branding and dual branding.
Co-branding marketing strategy
Co-branding means linking your brand with a complementary brand (usually one produced by another company). Co-branding can mean branding your product with a specific brand — in which case you get an increase in exposure by the association and the two firms usually share the marketing expenses, so you get it cheaper. You also get a benefit from the association — just like people may be seen as more attractive for the friends they hang with, so with brands.
Another option is to co-brand with a generic product. For instance, Rum and Coke is really a co-brand of rum and Coke — a generic brand and a branded product. In this case, you don’t get a company to share your marketing expenses, but you also don’t get the liability if something happens to damage the other company’s brand. You still get other benefits from the association, including increased sales as your usage occasions increase.
Now, if you’re Bacardi, you do exactly what they did and co-brand your product as Bacardi and Coke — 2 branded products. If you’re Coke, you get a marketing boost — increased exposure and increased usage opportunities which translate into increased sales of Coke. If you’re Bacardi, you may see a small increase in sales from the co-branding of rum and Coke, but you’ll see a big boost in sales from the co-branding of Bacardi and Coke.
As Coke, you are happy with either strategy.
Dual branding is a marketing strategy involving creating 2 brands for a single product. Now, on the surface, this might not make much sense, since you now have the headaches and expenses of maintaining 2 brands, but it might be a very valuable marketing strategy.
Let’s say you have a product that appeals to 2 target groups — let’s say, men and women. However, if the product is seen as “for men” women are unlikely to consume the product. By using a dual branding marketing strategy, you can reach both markets without the problem of seeming like your product is only for men or only for women. A good example of this is Rogaine, which was originally developed for male pattern baldness. The company has since adopted a dual branding strategy by producing a women’s version of Rogaine — the products use blue and pink packages, the marketing clearly distinguishes the two products, and even their website is separated into male and female sections.
The same works for geographics. For instance, I have a client whose brand is identified with a particular city as the city name is part of the brand name. In building a new marketing strategy to move into adjacent areas, they’re considering changing the name to something less identified with a geographic area. Unfortunately, that would potentially meet resistance from current customers or create confusion as to what this new company is and where did the old company go. Hence, we’re going with a dual branding strategy whereby they keep the old brand name in the existing market and introduce a new brand name in the new market.
Your brand might be killing you — or at least your company’s bottom line. In order to maximize returns you need to 1) know how consumers view your brand and 2) build a marketing strategy to maximize your brand. Two tools for building an effective brand strategy are co-branding, which involves branding your product with another, complementary brand; and dual branding, which involves selling your brand to two different markets.
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