Coca-Cola did not become the powerful brand that it is today just because. From Coca-Cola to McDonald’s to Nike, all of the companies with some of the most powerful and memorable brands in global history became so memorable precisely because they engaged in a careful and well-planned out strategy of branding research. If you want your company to become a recognizable brand, you can’t just sit back and let it happen. You need to get out there and make it happen.
A brand is more than just a name. In order to make sure your company can not only attract customers but maintain long-term customer loyalty, you need to thoroughly investigate your product’s competitive advantages in the industry. And, in order to do that, you need to make sure you have a firm handle on what makes your competitors different from you.
What kind of branding strategies are your competitors engaging in? How are they seen by customers, and by which customers? Different markets will perceive a brand differently, thus affecting its effectiveness. You need to determine your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses before you can determine your own.
After you have conducted an in-depth analysis of your competition, the first step in your branding research strategy, you need to turn the lens back on yourself. What is your target market and what could make your company different and stand out in their eyes? Here, it’s important not just to focus on your product’s benefits, but on the relevance of those benefits to your targeted consumers.
In order to asses your value to customers, you need to know some things about them first. How much are they willing to spend on products like yours and how will that change in the future? What is the frequency with which people turn to your company and its products? Is there any company loyalty and if so, what is it based on thus far? Finally, you also need to know some things about your customers in terms of their lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviours. You need to know not just what they like, but how to approach them.
Once you’ve determined what your brand positioning will be you need to make sure that that message is a consistent one throughout your company’s entire operations. For instance, if your company has been positioned as convenient, yet a store clerk never answers the phone until the afternoon, your brand will have little value.
One final and important component of any successful branding research strategy is to measure the results of your actions thus far. You may have analyzed your competition and your customers and put out your ads accordingly, but branding is a cycle that is never complete. You need to measure how attitudes towards your brand change over time, and how that affects consumers’ buying habits.
Remember that the most important feature of any brand is its long-term consistency. If a company is changing its public perception every year, its brand will have little value, and will do little if anything to generate customer loyalty.