Co-Authors, Sally Mildren of ClarityPX and Sondra Brown of MDRG
Have you heard the adage, “the shoemaker has holes in his shoes”? As the story would go, the shoemaker was so busy fixing everyone else’s shoes that he had no time to repair his own. It’s a reality I’m familiar with and one that has recently exposed itself in our agency.
But first, a little back story. Sixteen months ago, after a furlough of my corporate marketing position for a biotech start up, I decided to take my future into my own hands and transition my three-year-old side-hustle consulting work to full time.
As a marketing agency, we live to help other businesses grow. We spend every day evaluating and refining brands, messaging, looking at market research, developing strategies to help our clients accelerate their progress on growth, retention, customer experience. Then we optimize and refine strategies and ensure our clients are getting the best ROI. We help brands become extraordinary and help them accelerate their growth through aligned strategy, branding, and customer experience. We know exactly how to help clients achieve this success.
As a young agency, we are growing quickly and have had the privilege to help amazing healthcare organizations, non-profits, businesses, and mission driven entities to serve customers better.
#1 Rule in Branding – It’s NOT about YOU the Business Owner
Partway into our first year, we noticed a lack of engagement from healthcare organizations, a primary target in our work. As it turns out, when we dug in a bit and did some minor research, we learned that by and large, healthcare leaders, especially women leaders, were “completely turned off by our name” (their words, not ours…ouch!).
“Boss Lady” was an endearing term from previous staff members so of course I should name my business that. It was a heart-warming reminder of some amazing team members who have gone on to big and bold things. Well, turns out the name “Boss Lady” is either loved (there are many, but not in healthcare), or seen as an aggressive position or worse, patronizing to women in general. Not at all what we intended.
So, the lesson, one we encourage our own clients to do, is to conduct proper research and A/B testing BEFORE you invest into advertising, marketing, and design.
Which brings us to our #1 rule in branding – it’s not about me, it’s not about you, the business owner. If your business is positioned with any other intention than to meet the customer’s needs, you are spinning and spending a lot of wasted money.
#2 Rule in Branding – Do Your Research
So obviously, we know this. We do this with our customers, but again, as a business owner we are guilty of “huffing our own exhaust” and forgetting the basics. Do.Your.Research.
To help us in this conversation, Sondra Brown, CEO of MDRG, an agency focused entirely on brilliant research, will outline why brand research is a non-negotiable and the components of smart Brand research.
Why You Should Conduct Brand Research
Industry disruptions, technological advances, and start-ups entering the market are constant, especially in healthcare – knowing when to take a closer look at your category and brand is crucial. It can be hard to recognize that it’s time to re-evaluate your company’s position in the market when you have your head down in the day-to-day activity of running a business. Nevertheless, it is critical to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer reactions to your brand.
Brand is the personification of your company. Its purpose is to create an identity for your company that people can relate to. As Sally noted, her target consumer could not relate. In the best of times, your brand is your biggest asset. In the worst of times, it is your biggest liability. To identify and maintain a strong and powerful brand, it’s important to identify a relevant and unique positioning before rolling out the brand identity and to conduct regular on-ongoing measurement and tracking of your brand’s health.
To get and maintain a good pulse on your brand, your strategic brand tracking should include the following 3 health metrics:
Brand Awareness and Perception
Above all, brand research should uncover the current awareness levels of your brand. Tracking aided and un-aided awareness will determine an initial baseline you will leverage for all future brand research studies. In addition, it’s critical you get a pulse on how you measure as it compares to your competition. Beyond awareness, how is your brand perceived? How are your competitors perceived?
Exploring consumer perceptions of your competitor as well as identifying unique positive associations with your brand will uncover white space from which your brand can create a stronghold in the market.
Currently, with advances in behavioral economics and technology, we can uncover deep, emotional underpinnings of associations with your brand and category. We can understand how your brand makes a customer feel – and not just how they say they feel.
With methodologies like metaphor elicitation, facial coding, and biometrics becoming cheaper and more accessible – market researchers are able to tease out implicit feelings and attitudes that can be analyzed alongside the articulated emotions of a consumer. With this new metric, we can uncover even deeper associations and attitudes that a consumer may not be able to verbalize on their own adding depth and richness to our findings. Recently, MDRG won an award at Quirk’s The Marketing Research & Insights Excellence Awards for our work with Dish to build an emotional positioning.
Brand research should also provide intelligence around the role your brand plays in consumers’ lives. Traditionally, consumer journey mapping has been a study that brands commission separate from their brand trackers. However, what is a brand if not the products themselves and individual interactions with its customers?
To deep dive into the health of your brand, you must also dive into your customer’s experience.
Brand research is a standard and critical component of market research. Whether you want to understand the impact of your marketing strategies, uncover new insights, or develop product innovations around unmet needs, it all starts with a fundamental understanding of your brand’s role in its customer’s life.
Staying in touch with your customers’ perceptions and experiences will allow your company to focus energy on the future and creating pro-active growth strategies that align with your customers’ needs.
Bringing it All Home – Research is Essential to Creating an Extraordinary Brand.
So, you see the brilliance in MDRG’s approach to brand, market, and consumer research. To identify the baseline, your competitive position, and how you might align your strategy for market growth, requires insights.
In order to grow your business and ensure you are remaining competitive, relevant, and capturing market share requires using that body of insights to inform your strategy and campaign.