Five Branding Mistakes Marketing Research Can Help You Avoid

brandingWho owns your brand?

You? Your customers? No one?

Branding can be a tricky business. Too many organizations leave their brand ownership and management unclear, hoping that they won’t do anything to hurt their brand. But that is a far cry from actually helping your brand. Brands, as much as buildings, machines, and people, are corporate assets you must actively manage. And that means having information.

Here are five key branding mistakes companies make, and how information through marketing research could help avoid them.

  1. All things to All People. Picking a target audience is often viewed as limiting the potential reach of a brand or product. But selecting a target audience can actually expand opportunities. By identifying the specific consumer you want to attract, you can focus your creativity directly at that market segment. While you may not reach those audiences you are not targeting, you will better appeal to those consumers you are targeting. Marketing research can help you figure out your best prospects, and how to appeal to them.
  2. Me Too Branding. One of the most powerful tools available to brand managers is differentiation. And yet, we are surrounded by a plethora of undifferentiated brands. Differentiation tells the world why you are different from and better than your competition. It tells the consumer why they should purchase you over other alternatives that might be available. And it can also let consumers know why they should pay more for your brand. It is not always easy to find a compelling differentiation, but it is certainly a worthy goal. Qualitative research is especially effective for exploring how your brand is different and why your customers prefer it.
  3. Too Much Change. Let’s face it. We get bored with our branding efforts a lot faster than our consumers do. And if your goal is to build a strong brand, longevity and consistency are key. Try this short test: How long have the following symbols been used to represent their brands?
    • Chick-fil-A’s Cows
    • Tiffany’s blue box and white satin ribbon
    • Nike’s Swoosh
    • Ronald McDonald

You can find the answers at the bottom of this blog, but the youngest has been in use for 20 years, and the oldest for more than 100 years. If it’s working, don’t change it! Marketing research can help you determine if your positioning and messaging are still fresh – or if it really is time for a change.

  1. Misaligned Promise and Delivery. Strong brands deliver what they promise. If your brand is making a promise to the marketplace, you’d better be delivering on it. If you are not, there’s an equal chance that you may be hurting your brand more than helping. For example, when an airline promises more comfortable travel, they have to go beyond what all the other airlines are doing in terms of keepig passengers comfortable. Evaluating customer expectations, as well as their experience of your brand delivery, can help you keep on target.
  2. Stepping Out of Your Brand Space. Every brand lives in a certain space in the marketplace. And that space is delimited by your customers’ perceptions of your brand and its capabilities. What happens when you step outside your brand space?
    • Levi’s Suits: Levi thought there were in the men’s clothing brand space and introduced a line of suits for men. The market quickly told them they had made a mistake. Apparently Levi’s is in the denim clothing space. In a great recovery, Levi then stepped back and introduced a new brand, Dockers to allow them to take advantage of the trend toward business casual dress in offices.
    • Gerber’s Adult Snacks: Gerber’s learned that college students were eating baby food, especially the sweet fruit and desserts, as snacks. Eager to take advantage of a new market, they introduced a line of snack foods targeted to adults. Not so fast, Gerber! Sales results were dismal, reminding them that their brand really doesn’t work for consumers over the age of three years.

Not sure where your brand space is, exactly? Marketing research can help you find the limits.

Brand management should not be a guessing game. Marketing research can give you a strong understanding of how your brand is positioned in the marketplace, why your customers select your brand, and whether the new products you are working on fit into your brand portfolio. Information from marketing research will keep you on target, and continually building and strengthening your brand.

“The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” John Russell, Former President, Harley-Davidson

Answer: Chick-fil-A Cows (1995), Tiffany’s blue box (1906), Nike Swoosh (1971), Ronald McDonald (1963)

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