Brands for People
Humans are rarely as cool and rational in their behaviour as is Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise. Instead of relying on cold market analyses, they often make quick and unconscious decisions about which product to choose or which button to click. Brands play a central role in this process. They accompany us from childhood, providing warmth and a sense of familiarity. Brands convey values to us and contribute to our identity. They act as signposts, offering guidance and security in an age of oversupply. Through strong branding and a forward-thinking strategy, you can hit the nail on the head with your marketing at the right moment.
Research shows how consumers’ product perceptions impact their decisions and behaviours, whether consciously or unconsciously. Even disappointing experiences with products from a positively regarded brand are more likely to be forgiven. Innovations appear more interesting and convincing when offered by familiar brands. Ultimately, consumers are more willing to accept higher prices for sustainable products from strong brands. This highlights how profoundly brands influence our perception and actions and highlights the importance of strategic brand management for business success.
The Brand Canvas summarises all relevant aspects regarding the market context, target groups (persona development) and the brand itself:
- Your brand’s roots and origin (brand heritage)
- The relevant competitor brands (competitive environment)
- Your target groups’ profiles (personas)
- Your target 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 your 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 qualitative-psychological studies and workshops inspire developing a robust and resilient brand model that serves as a guide 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 offer 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 ‘Dialogue House’ 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.
In a pro bono project with students, we examined the brand identity and 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. We summarised the findings 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, formerly head of the division ‘Team Building & Training’. “We can already use the results directly and are therefore very grateful for the work done.”
Prof. Ute Rademacher