How to bridge the gap between market research and brand development
Brand managers have a tough job of cutting through the noise to successfully position a brand, finding golden opportunities to create and sustain differentiation, and plowing through volumes of competitive mayhem — and we expect them to also digest and apply market research data with flair? Yeah, right.
Are you a brand manager?
For brand managers seeking to get better use from market research data, I have a tip for you: Work with your team. If you work in a company with $10M+ in annual sales/revenue, you probably have a market research department (often also called “customer insights” or “shopper insights”). These folks can help you quickly and objectively identify your best options for any business data needs.
They know how to collect data that your organization may need (e.g., using tools such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, ethnography, and more). Just as important, they know when and how to collaborate with your organization’s other data hubs (various analytics functions may include customer analytics, data analytics’, e-commerce data, etc.).
No matter how big or small your question is and if you want data to help inform a decision or craft a strategy, you can get unbiased advice on your best options from your market research team.
Are you a customer insights/market research manager?
For customer insights and market research professionals who work with brand managers, you have a challenge — these brand management types are usually working at 100 miles per hour. As much as they value fresh and high-quality customer insights, they are drowning in data.
So how can you help them make the time and attention to apply market research data?
You must make it easy for them. It may sound trite, but it is true.
The first big step to making it easy for a brand manager to harness the power of your amazing research is to speak their language.
You can help them engage with your research findings by using brand management language. Many market research professionals — like those in any specialty field — use a fair amount of jargon. We casually use phrases like “incidence rates,” “clusters,” and “significance” and expect the brand manager to speak our language. Why make them work that much harder in deciphering what the request is?
Instead, speak their language by communicating your key findings in the context of brand management job responsibilities.
To get started, here are two key responsibilities that nearly all brand managers have:
- Creating and promoting value propositions for the brand
- Creating and promoting marketing initiatives that will meet market share goals
There are other initiatives brand managers may have as top responsibilities, but these two are universal and are often supported by market research data.
Translating market research to the language of value propositions
While there are various definitions of “value proposition,” the essence is this: A value proposition is a statement that clearly describes why your target market would want to spend money with your brand.
For some brands, this might be about superior service; for others, it is about a unique product attribute. For some, the value proposition is simply about being the low-cost option. For others, it may not even be something that is “rational” — it may be a purely emotional trigger into which the brand taps.
Brand managers are often responsible for ensuring the brand’s value proposition is differentiated from the competition and currently viable. “Current” is important, as many product categories evolved rapidly; yesterday’s differentiated value proposition might become tomorrow’s ho-hum.
Customer surveys are often used to uncover or test value proposition assumptions and options. So, how does the market researcher speak the language of value propositions?
Here are two paths:
Seek to highlight brand attributes that are perceived as “unique.”
Does the data show that the proposed value proposition “is perceived as unique?” We are not talking about marginal uniqueness; the brand manager needs slam-dunk uniqueness. If your data has relevant key findings that can be used to identify the brand’s unique, defensible value proposition options, they will love you.
Conversely, if the research finds that the brand lacks a defensible, unique value proposition, your brand manager needs to know that too. It’s bad news, but it’s an important reality check for a brand manager who may need help getting an executive team to pay attention to “valid marketing challenges.”
Identify ways to optimize the value proposition by country.
Does the data show that the value proposition needs to be modified by country or region (“country-specific value propositions”)? Or can the brand effectively use a “universal value proposition”?
This last point turns out to be very common: if your client represents a multinational brand, they may very well face this challenge. In their 2014 article, “Designed with you in mind,” Scott Garrison and Jet Kruith of SKIM describe a case study of a cleaning product that was successful in the U.S. with an “easy” theme but succeeded in Italy with a cleaning “deeply” one — two very different value propositions, and a great demonstration of how value propositions sometimes vary by country.
Want to really thrill your brand manager? Identify value propositions that work both universally and find ones that may be country-specific: that gives them the best of both worlds from which to choose. For example, “Brand X has four unique, defensible value proposition options. Two are universal; two are country-specific” (followed, of course by your awesome data).
Translating market research to the language of market share goals
Market share goals can vary quite a bit, but usually are along the lines of, “Our goal is the be number one in our market, or a newer entrant might be aiming for “10 percent market share by 2020.” These are examples of the very precise, measurable goals for which a brand manager may have responsibility. And because many executive teams use market share as a KPI (Key Performance Indicator), this can be high visibility work for the brand manager.
To speak this language, any research that can be used to advance the stated market share goal needs to be explicit. Here are two research statements that use language a market share-driving brand manager would love:
- “Brand X has potential to gain market share from Competitor Y. Research results reveal that of the top competitors, Competitor Y has notable weaknesses that align with our strengths. Its customers already have high awareness and positive perceptions of our brand. Further, more than 50 percent of Y’s customers are frustrated by its product’s “ease-of-use” and “personalization features” — two attributes on which Brand X can objectively demonstrate superiority.”
- “We have an opportunity to boost our market share momentum by being the first of our competitive set to meet emerging need A. The research reveals a previously-unrecognized need for a product that does A. None of our competitors currently address A, and our best competitive intelligence suggests that it isn’t in current product roadmaps.” That’s a lot more powerful than “Our research has uncovered a new, emerging customer need for A.” Work in the phrase “first-mover advantage” and they will be delirious with delight!
One sentence at a time
Brand managers want to apply your fantastic market research data to their work, but if you want them to really use it, make it easy. Use the keywords and phrases that they use in their day-to-day work.
This article was written by Kathryn Korostoff, lead instructor and president at Research Rockstar, LLC.
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