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Why Research Matters to Your Brand

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.  If you’ve decided that its time to review your brand’s performance and invest in a brand audit, then make sure you also invest in doing the research.  A good audit looks at both objective and subjective data and views the brand from a variety of internal and external angles to build a realistic picture. 

Collect the following data to assess your brand’s performance:

  • Strategic plan:  Start by closely reading your organization’s most recent strategic plan.  A good plan will describe what the brand value is and how it should evolve over the next five years and the main steps needed to achieve it.
  • Business results:  Nothing demonstrates brand performance like business results.  Changes in market share and penetration, revenue changes, sales enquiries and conversions, market engagement, web and social media analytics all reveal brand strengths, weaknesses and threats.
  • Competitors:  Brand positioning is always defined by competitors. Your brand’s distinctness and differentiated value depends entirely on those of your competitors’ brands.  Any brand audit needs to examine the competitive landscape to determine your brand’s positioning.
  • Perceptions of leadership and staff: The people in your organization are the ones responsible for delivering the brand and maintaining its reputation.  Use qualitative research such as interviews and group exercises as well as quantitative research such as surveys and polls to get a rounded view of how leaders and staff define the brand and its distinctness, how they perceive its reputation and how successful they think they are in delivering it.
  • Perceptions of external customers, clients, funders and citizens:  Your customers, the people you serve, and those who fund you are among your most important stakeholders.  Take the time to carefully probe this group to explore how they perceive the brand, its value and its position among competitors. Use a combination of different types of research to reveal different aspects, including interviews, surveys, public opinion research and social media listening.
  • Brand Expression:  Your brand is experienced by your internal and external stakeholders in a number of different ways.  One of the most visible is your brand expression.  As part of your audit, look at your brand’s identity.  Is it the right personality and tone?  Is it being used consistently and correctly?  Look at your social media, your website, your branded content.  Are you telling the right stories?  Are you using the right tone?  Are your images conveying the right impression?
  • Brand Touchpoints: Your brand promise must extend beyond your product or your service in order to be believable and resonant. If your brand promise is about simplifying business, then are you delivering simplicity across all touchpoints?  If you are a healthcare brand promising extraordinary patient care, then are you delivering an experience that is truly out of the ordinary?  Examine all your brand touchpoints and ask two basic questions:  1) Are we delivering the promised brand experience through this touchpoint? and 2) What can we do to deliver an experience that is more on-brand?
  • Benchmarking:  Awareness and association can be powerful indicators by showing how well a brand is broadly known in its marketplace and what it’s associated with.  Once a benchmark is set, repeating the research at regular intervals can reveal how well the brand is building (or not).

By doing the research, you’ll have the information you need to identify the answers to three core audit questions:

  1. Where is your brand weak?

  2. Where is your brand strong?

  3. Where are the opportunities to make it stronger still?

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