Brands play a central role in our lives. We grow up with them. They provide warmth and a feeling of familiarity. They convey values and identity. They give us orientation and security in an age of oversupply. Strong brands and a forward-looking strategy allow you to hit the nail on the head with your marketing at the right moment.
Humans are rarely as cool and rational in their behaviour as is Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise. Instead of using systematic market analyses to make up our minds, we often decide quickly and intuitively whether to go with our usual product or to spontaneously try out something new. Even if “gut feel” or making intuitive decisions feels quite intangible, consumer psychological research shows how brands concretely affect our buying decisions and usage habits.
Even if “gut feel” or making intuitive decisions feels quite intangible, consumer psychological research shows how brands concretely affect our buying decisions and usage habits.
Consumers’ notions of products and services sometimes have a conscious, but mostly a subconscious effect on their perception, decisions and consumption habits. Disappointing experiences with products of a positively connoted brand are more likely to be forgiven. Innovations appear more interesting and convincing when they are offered by familiar brands. And finally, consumers are more willing to pay higher prices for strong brands’ products.
As a basis for your strategic brand management model, our Brand Canvas summarises all relevant aspects regarding the environment, target groups (persona development) and the brand itself:
- Your brand’s roots and origin (brand heritage)
- The relevant competitor brands (competitive environment)
- Your needs groups’ psychological profiles (personas)
- Your needs groups’ desires and inner conflicts (insights)
- Your brand’s value for the consumers (benefits)
- Facts, formulas and arguments that make the promised benefits credible (reasons-to-believe)
- Your brand’s unique and special feature (discriminator)
- Your brand’s values and personality (brand values and personality)
- The sense that your brand pursues and conveys (purpose)
Using these elements, you can map your brand positioning’s status quo or provide marketers and product developers an outline of the direction in which a brand should develop. The environment in which the brand operates and its “maturity level” are also important: Is the brand developing in a market niche that is not yet occupied or does it want to defend its position as market leader? Is it still relying on technical and functional strengths or does the brand image already offer the potential for emotional identification? Our tailor-made studies and workshops will help you develop a sound and sustainable brand model as a compass for your strategic brand management.
Depending on the level of brand knowledge in your organisation, the process comprises the following modules:
- Gap Analysis: A synopsis and analysis of brand management models used in your organisation at both company and product level reveal secured knowledge, contradictions and knowledge gaps. These are compiled in the individual brand canvas, then the next steps are defined.
- Brand Identity: Interviews with key stakeholders reveal the in-house image of the brand. How do we see the brand? What do we stand for? What benefits do we want to promise?
- Brand Image: The results of existing market research studies are compiled and analysed comparatively. Group discussions and brand workshops with different consumers (e.g. loyal / lapsed / potential customers) illuminate the brand image in all its facets.
- Development of the individual brand management model: By analysing the internal and external perspective and the competitive environment, the guidelines for strategic brand management are defined. Depending on your objectives, the complex findings from different perspectives are transferred into a brand model in one or more workshops. This illustrates the path from the status quo to possible target positioning with potential.
- Impact Workshop: Based on the desired target positioning, fields of development and possible marketing measures for the target-oriented brand evolution are elaborated with the help of agile methods.
Depending on your individual needs, I will support you specifically with individual modules or accompany you throughout the entire strategic brand development and management process.
Different methodologies are implemented depending on the sector, target group and exact research requirements:
- In expert interviews, employees and stakeholders are asked for their view of the brand. In business-to-business studies, expert interviews can provide valuable insights into the wealth of experience that the sales force, wholesalers and specialist dealers have – they are in daily contact with your customers. We only work with experienced business interviewers who are familiar with the specific terminology of the respective industries and who know the business etiquette.
- Qualitative in-depth interviews allow for a topic-centred but very open course of conversation. This enables an exploration of brand-loyal or change-happy customers’ perceptions of your brand with all its strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative experts use specific conversation management techniques to dig deep underneath the surface of first impressions and answers.
- Group discussions can reflect opinion-forming processes and reciprocal influencing processes, for example when brand loyal users meet less loyal brand users. They also offer a good opportunity to give creative impulses, for example when launching products of new categories under the brand umbrella (brand stretch) or developing ideas for new claims or logos.
- Projective and creative processes playfully offer projection surfaces to bring to light the subconscious ideas associated with a brand. What would the brand look like if it were a physical person? What kind of animal would it turn into? What kind of a party would she throw? The consumer-psychological analysis of such projections reflects important facets of the brand image.
Interviews and group discussions can be conducted in a direct exchange or online. The qualitative data are carefully transcribed and evaluated in content analyses, allowing for all important findings to be incorporated into your strategic brand management.
Areas of Application and Expertise
I have supported my clients’ strategic brand management through qualitative studies with the following objectives:
- Brand model development and optimisation
- Brand core analyses
- Qualitative brand image analyses
- Investigation of the brand architecture
- Evaluation of brand stretchability
- Further development of brands in the context of mergers & acquisitions (brand migration)
- Analysis of brand communication campaigns
“Dialogue in the Dark“ is a social franchise product with the aim of giving normally-sighted people a better understanding of the world that sight impaired and blind people live in. Blind people guide visitor groups through everyday situations engulfed in complete darkness such as a park, a cityscape or a bar – with all the smells, temperatures, sounds, textures and movement of air. The “Dialoghaus” also offers workshops for teams and senior managers. Experiencing darkness is an unusual way of making transparent communication in a team, role distribution or leadership behaviour.
I was interested in the possibility of also conducting focus groups in total darkness to yield richer and more creative ideas. This is how I came in contact with Dörte Maack, formerly head of the division “Team Building & Training” and Elke Theede, managing director of Hamburg’s Dialoghaus.
Together with students attending the International School of Management I carried out a pro bono project in which we examined its brand identity and brand architecture. Conducting qualitative interviews with the team and the client base allowed us to distil the strengths and particularities of “Workshops in the Dark” for human resource work:
- The competitive environment primarily consists of classic team building and training. Experience-oriented approaches (e.g. climbing park) are not considered as being relevant competition
- The most important customer needs are support in team building and team development. They demand stimulating training that helps them to recognise their individual strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to contribute more effectively to the team.
- By stepping out of the comfort zone, communication is improved and trust within the team is reinforced. This is perceived as the offer’s decisive unique feature.
- By using HR terminology and business vocabulary, communication can dock onto the target group world even more strongly and in so doing strengthen the persuasive power of their offer.
Comparing the team’s internal perspective of “Dialogue in the Dark” with their clients’ external view revealed important discrepancies between self-perception and external perception. We summarised the findings on brand perception in a brand key, which made the special features tangible – in the truest sense of the word – by means of a haptic model with different surfaces. After presenting and discussing the results, we conducted a training session with those team members of the “Dialogue in the Dark” who advise HR managers on which format is best suited to achieve their objectives. “The enormously professional and lively presentation really opened our eyes to essential aspects of our own products,” says Dörte Maack. “We can already use the results directly and are therefore very grateful for the work done.”
Prof. Ute Rademacher