Bad Research

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

21 November 2011

Branding Research. Beware of some

Branding research is important to do right. I don’t usually comment on competitors, but a recent survey by Siegel + Gale caught my eye. Because, it demonstrates the dangers that lie in some branding research.

According to the survey, consumers would play 4-6% more for brands that they believed offered a greater degree of simplicity. I do believe simplicity is a valued brand value in today’s world. But, brands should not take the results of this survey as gospel.

“What the “Simplicity Index” does not demonstrate is that consumers choose brands for emotional reasons.”

Opinions are like ass holes. Everybody has one

If you ask a question in branding research, you will get an opinion. But it doesn’t mean it is the most important opinion, especially when it comes to brand preference.

branding researchLet me provide an example: Recently, we did work for a client in which the values most highly rated in open-ended questions were things like ease of use, innovation and location. Therefore,, if you took them as gospel, you would decide your brand must be built on those things.

Most branding research stops there. And, it’s why you see so much meaningless marketing. Marketing in which all the competitors in the market are saying the same things and messaging has no resonance.

However, when we tested numerous other values that were not returned in the open-ended questions, we found much higher emotional intensities. Intensities from other values. In fact, when respondents were asked to compare those values, ease of use, innovation and location were simply crushed in terms of importance.

Bad Branding Research

There are two things to note here.

1, You can only find highest emotional intensities in your category if you ask for them. That’s why you need brand strategists and a process  such as our behavior modeling. A means to uncover them, then test them in quantitative research that’s projectable to your larger target audience) .,

2, The values uncovered in Siegel + Gale’s “Simplicity Index” are what we call table stakes. They what you must have to JUST play in the game.

Respondents may want them, but don’t ever confuse them with creating preference. Or, being true switching triggers.

It’s like pointing to someone’s carpet and saying, “I like that.”

But you don’t know if they’d actually put that carpet in their homes. Not without testing that carpet against other carpets. Or, more importantly, understanding what belief systems drive their choice.

Being more direct in your communications, which the survey defines as ease of understanding, transparency, caring, innovation and usefulness of communications, is certainly important in having a strong brand.

Have REAL Purpose in your Branding Research

However you must be single-minded and diligent in centering your brand messaging. Center it around the highest emotional intensity you can claim in the market. Valuing simplicity is not enough. Because, you have to have some degree of simplicity in your brand to be viable. This PASSES for branding research. Siegel + Gale should be ashamed.

What the “Simplicity Index” does not demonstrate is that consumers choose brands for emotional reasons. Then they backfill it with the rational reasons (such as simplicity). It is those emotional triggers that produce great brands.

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