Quantitative and qualitative research are crucial tools for building a brand strategy. Discover the four steps to effective research that finds insightful data.
When it comes to developing a cohesive brand and marketing strategy, the process should always start with a healthy amount of research. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are crucial for getting a lay of the land before delving into strategic planning. So how do brands use both to their advantage?
Below, we’ve outlined the importance of brand research as the foundation for an impactful strategy that captures attention and builds value for your company. Along the way, we also thoroughly review our recommended four-step brand research approach.
The Importance of Brand Research
When beginning any strategic branding process, it’s easy to assume that you know exactly what your client or audience needs or wants. But there’s a high chance that you have certain blind spots, knowledge gaps and things that could be leveraged that you’re unaware of.
When beginning a brand assessment, it’s important to go in with as broad a perspective as possible to vet and validate your assumptions about your brand.
You may discover that those outside your organization perceive and experience your brand differently than those inside the organization. All of this is crucial information for developing an effective brand strategy.
When it comes to using qualitative research versus quantitative research, both are valuable tools in your arsenal for understanding different dimensions of your audience. Many organizations jump straight into quantitative (or data-driven) surveys without taking the time to interview customers one-on-one to understand the emotions and experiences behind the data, which is the qualitative part of the research puzzle.
By using both, you can paint a more complete picture of the way people react and interact with your brand. Qualitative research provides a gut feel for what seems most important to your brand, while quantitative research tells you to what degree those things matter, allowing you to understand the depth and importance of the variables associated with your brand.
The four steps below help lay a foundation of knowledge upon which you can build a more-informed brand strategy and methodology that speaks to your brand’s mission and the needs of your customers.
Step #1: Identifying Key Issues Qualitatively
Qualitative interviews that capture common experiences, perceptions and sentiments about your brand are the first step towards a well-founded brand strategy. But to do so, you need to cast a wide net to capture the whole picture of what your brand represents to all stakeholders.
Start by taking a cross-section of your entire organization. Many organizations make the mistake of only interviewing the C-suite executives, but it’s crucial to interview employees from different departments, tiers, regions and branches. This is going to engage the organization and allow you to culturally align it. It also helps your interviewees buy into the brand because their voices are being heard, and helps you gather a healthy set of perspectives from the organization, top to bottom.
Customer engagement is the other side of this process, but don’t forget to talk to more people than just existing customers. What about past customers? What about lost customers? What’s a good customer? What’s a bad customer? What is their perspective going to be like? How do they think and talk about the brand? These questions will help provide insight into what your brand represents to different sectors of your audience, identify gaps, and likely provide opportunities for improvement.
Then, there’s often a competitive analysis factor to your qualitative research. Try to gather an understanding of what the marketplace is doing and saying, and how other brands might be organizing their products, services, their value-added benefits, their claims, their warranties and their service/product promises. This will also influence the survey design that you’re going to put together for the quantitative side of your research later on.
This step will begin to paint a broad picture of your brand from different perspectives. Remember: your brand exists as an idea in the minds of your employees, customers, competitors and onlookers. The qualitative research aims to understand that idea and begin to solidify issues, opportunities and recommendations that can be addressed in your brand and marketing strategy.
Step #2: Developing Concepts & Ideas
With your qualitative research in hand, you can begin to distill your findings into test concepts. Think of them as a kind of hypothesis about your brand: “people react well to our messaging about X product/service,” or “people don’t believe our claims about our value proposition.” This gives you something to test when you begin your quantitative research.
Whatever your test concept is, it should be founded in the research you performed in step 1. Comb through your interviews and identify common themes or similarities in responses to determine where your brand has issues or opportunities to address.
If your goal is to determine a design direction for a rebrand, this stage might be where you think about a few creative updates to ask about during the quantitative research. That will give you testable ideas to learn how people respond and react.
When you have your test concepts ready, it’s time to move into quantitative testing.
Step #3: Quantitative Testing
Now it’s time to put your hypotheses and themes found in the previous two steps to the test. Surveys using the ideas you developed in step 2 allow you to see what customers prefer: do they respond better to a personable, down-to-earth brand voice, or do they prefer a more elevated, professional approach? The same kinds of tests can be run on visual brand identities, taglines, and brand names.
The important benefit of quantitative research is that it confirms or denies the hypotheses you’ve developed from your qualitative research. You can then confidently say, “50% of the customers prefer this while 80% of the customers prefer that.” It strengthens your decision making with data that is more generally applicable to a wider audience.
The other benefit is that it provides hard numbers that can help increase buy-in for branding or marketing recommendations. An intensive brand strategy can take a lot of investment, but if you have data to back it up, it’ll be easier to more confidently prove the benefits of going in one direction over another. It’s a method of reducing risk by providing some insurance that this decision is backed up by solid research.
If the quantitative research indicates that your concepts and ideas are missing the mark, then you’ve learned early on that your findings are misaligned with broader trends. This could indicate an unintentional bias in your research, or show that it’s time to go back to the drawing board with a new concept that better captures your qualitative findings. Either way, you’ve saved yourself the trouble of finding this out after implementing the strategy, and can reset to find a better solution.
Step #4: Analyzing Data
In many cases, the biggest mistake organizations make happens after they have done the quantitative research and are equipped with their facts, figures and pie charts: Forgetting that those graphics must be interpreted in light of all the qualitative learning that went into creating them.
When evaluating the statistics found in your quantitative research, it’s crucial to remember that your qualitative findings help provide deeper context and insights into every quantitative finding. In order to transform your data into meaningful strategies and implementations, you have to fully understand the complete picture around the numbers.
When analyzing, try to look at the data, take biases out and think about what the numbers say. For instance, “How does that number correlate to what we heard in interviews?” You need to be able to put that emotion with the factual information as it allows people to buy in. It allows people to truly feel invested in the work you’re doing.
Connecting the dots between your quantitative and qualitative research is the biggest source for productive conversation and analysis. Try to keep your own personal assumptions out of your analysis and focus on what your team members, stakeholders and customers are saying. This can serve as a catalyst for your organization to make real change that speaks to your audience effectively and builds value for your company.
Take Your Brand Research to New Heights
Use this four-step plan to push the limits of your brand and truly understand the needs of your audience. If you’d like to learn more about how to upgrade your brand research process, explore methods of audience strategy. Or, contact BrandExtract to consult with an expert strategist and level-up your brand.