If you are beginning to solidify your brand strategy before you have done your research, you might be getting ahead of yourself. Let’s take a few steps back, and get REAL curious. We’re going to guide you through the key pillars of research every founder should familiarise themselves with during the initial stages of the brand-building process.
First thing’s first, whether you’re building a brand for someone else or for yourself一it all begins with a vision. Your job at this point is to understand this vision as deeply as possible. There are many tricks you might use to better understand a brand’s internal compass, but here are some of our favourites.
A helpful way to take the temperature of the brand is to do an audit. Review the overall strategy, and dig into all communications channels and marketing materials一any verbal or visual branding you can find. What is working and what could be improved? Where is there consistency or a lack thereof?
Secondary research is all about trying to soak up as much knowledge as you can about a brand by way of existing research. Listen to podcasts, scour the internet for relevant articles, review every little bit of information you can find about the brand and its customers.
Interview the people steering the ship. This might be founders, upper management or project stakeholders; anyone who has a stake in the vision of the company.
Immerse yourself in the brand’s customer experience. Perhaps it’s a trip to a retail shop, or navigating your way through a mobile app. Try to understand what is working vs. what is missing from the experience.
Now that you’ve uncovered all you can about the brand from an internal POV, it’s time to turn towards the customers一arguably the most important people in this whole picture. Your goal at this point is to understand who your customers are, what their needs are, what pain points they might encounter with your brand, and why they would choose your brand over any other available options.
Secondary research wins again. This time, try to find as much information as possible about the specific demographic(s) you’re interested in learning about.
Surveys are a nice tool to begin research. You won’t be able to gleam complicated behaviours, but a survey can help you nail down demographic data (i.e. age, gender, job, and so on) as well as ask straightforward questions like ‘what’s your favourite eyewear brand?’
Similar to our stakeholder interviews, in-depth interviews aim to understand customers on a deeper level. We tend to conduct at least 10 of these with our core audience to get a good grasp of common themes. When selecting candidates for your interviews, think about both typical customers as well as the ‘outliers’.
If you’re too strapped for time to conduct an in-depth interview or would like to gather many opinions at once, think about conducting a group interview.
Last but not least, we look to the category. What competitive brands are our customers using? Which brands inspire us? We now have a good understanding of our brand vision and in-depth knowledge about our customers, so we can get creative about selecting which brands we want to analyse. We save this part for last so that we can explore without getting off track.
What's happening in the space culture-wise? This area may overlap with your audience research. Are there any noteworthy macro trends? Any niche trends picking up speed? This will help you to future-proof your strategy.
In the same way you've conducted a brand audit of your own company, identify key competitors (i.e. brands who share your customer’s mind space) and audit them from a general strategic, verbal and visual POV. What are they doing well? Where is there room for improvement?
This is the fun bit. Think of brands you might learn from, both in and out of your obvious category. Get creative 一 you might find inspiration in unexpected places. Observe the key strategies and behaviours that drive success. This will allow you to employ lateral thinking and can inspire new strategic moves.
Finally, use white space mapping to define and understand your position within the market. What gap(s) can you fill?
Your brand strategy sits somewhere at the heart of these 3 pillars.
Time to get to work.
To learn how to define your brand strategy, stay tuned for our next instalment of this series, Brand Building 101: Exploring Brand Strategy Frameworks