Opportunities for Brands Today (Part 1)

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When we started Keen nearly 3 years ago, we had the burning belief that 1) traditional research and analytic methods available for marketers were falling short and 2) the world did not need another consulting firm. So we set out to find new and better ways to help drive growth. In doing so, we immediately focused on brand equity as one of the first challenges to tackle.
p1For years, marketers have had to rely on murky insights: be it qualitative nuggets from focus groups, which we all fear are anecdotal at best, or the almighty attribute tracker, which has always left us with more questions than answers. In both of these situations there are fundamental flaws that need to be addressed. In this post I’ll focus on one of the most prevalent misconceptions:

It’s the marketers, not the consumers that define brands
I am not sure when or how it became accepted, but we (marketers) all do it… we all sit around a table and pontificate on how to describe the brand(s) we are responsible for managing. Then we design surveys or discussion guides to test our hypothesis. This has always been the accepted model because nothing else existed, until now.

Think about how a brand is defined–it is defined in the consumer’s mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions and imagery). If we flip the existing model on its head and ask a consumer what comes to mind when prompted with the brand, we can unearth a truer picture of what really matters. Now go out and ask a thousand consumers the same question for your brand and then for its competitors.

What you will end up with is an exhaustive category dictionary with all the variety you might expect. In doing so, we have found that this method is the best way to understand a category and individual brand. However, it’s important to also be aware of potential negatives—in many mature categories we have seen the degradation of brand building and brands that are described with words such as “boring” or worse yet “yuck”. The truth is, while no marketer in the world would have tested these attributes, it is imperative to know and understand. Doing so allows us all to get back to building real brands rather than trying to win on a marketer-derived attribute scale.

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