Conventional market research fails to meet the needs of small organisations
One question that has challenged me over the years is ‘how do you really identify the attributes that are the most important?’, given what we know about the potential unreliability of the answers from conventional market research. The market research industry has devised ways to address this, but these tend to be beyond the reach of small organisations.
Before the advent of the online world organisations would explore and measure their brand strength using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. A typical approach would be a combination of focus groups, for understanding, and a survey for measurement and comparisons. Both elements of this approach would inevitably be long and detailed – and consequently costly. As a result small organisations rarely undertook such research, if ever, and thus had a partial, biased and potentially misleading understanding of their brand strength.
Because of its reliance on direct questions, this conventional approach can emphasise the rational over the emotional, the conscious over the sub-conscious, and also requires respondents to accurately recall their decision taking processes. Admittedly good moderators can use projective techniques to uncover emotional associations with brands. And there are more specialised market research techniques that can overcome this, at least in part, but their cost and sophistication generally mean that small organisations don’t use them.
Its emotional feelings that matter most
As part of the recent Festival of NewMR John Kearon, of Brainjuicer, advanced the notion that instinctive, emotional and social factors hold sway over rational ones when people take consumption decisions. Which, in truth, is something that good advertising people have known for years. In the structure provided by the Aaker model emotional considerations equate to categories five (brand : customer relationship), four (brand persona) and three (brand symbolism), in descending order of importance for many markets.
John also referred to the recent work of Byron Sharp that suggests that Brand Strength = Fame x Availability. Irrespective of whether or not this is correct (and I find it quite easy to reconcile brand fame to the Aaker model, but wonder what the conditions are that define when it truly applies) it poses the question of how ‘fame’ is best defined so that it can be understood and measured.
So all organisations need to understand the emotional profile of their brand that people hold, if they are understand how strong it is. The particular challenge for small organisations is to find a way to achieve this that is affordable.
In the third section I’ll cover how social media enables small organisations to overcome historic ‘barriers to information’.