O is for opinions

As a researcher I would say that O is the most important stop in your journey through the A to Z of branding!

If the core role of a brand is to ‘help the organisation differentiate their products or services from others’ (Dr Phillip Kotler) then it is essential that consumers have a clear, consistent and favourable opinion of it. Basically a brand will fail if the opinions of the intended consumers of that brand are not in sync with its intended purpose.

People’s opinions are therefore key to the creation, development, and ongoing management and strengthening of brands.

But whose opinions matter?

The obvious one is your beneficiaries or clients, but don’t forget your most important brand ambassadors, your employees and volunteers. Other key stakeholders could include donors, corporate partners, major funders, MP’s and policy makers and even the general public. Basically, any group of individuals you wish to influence or engage with.

I’m going to briefly outline the three best ways you can use research to find out what your audiences think:

1) Brand creation or evolution
Brand development calls for investment, and before you start to create, refresh or evolve your brand you really need to understand the space in which it will operate and the opinions of the audiences it needs to engage with.

This research can answer the following questions:

  • What other organisations are already out there and what space do they occupy?
  • What is your audience looking for from an organisation?
  • What values are important to them?
  • What are their current opinions of your organisation/name/logo?
  • How much do they understand about who you are and what you do?

The insights gained from this exploration are fundamental and should form the brief for any brand development.

2) Concept development
Once you have briefed your design agency and they have poured blood, sweat and tears into creating new design concepts or names for your organisation then, if you have the budget, it’s ideal to test them with your audience.

This research can answer the following questions:

  • Does it appeal?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it motivating?
  • Is it distinctive?
  • In essence, does the concept clearly communicate the desired brand vision and values?

Opinions of the visual look and feel of the brand are important but so are people’s reactions to what you say and the words you use so remember to check out proposed straplines and messaging too.

3) Ongoing management and strengthening
Once your brand or rebrand has launched it is good practice to keep an eye on how it is being perceived by its audiences. Generally known as brand tracking, this has traditionally been undertaken in a quantitative fashion, with respondents asked either face to face, over the phone, or increasingly, online.

This research can answer the following questions:

  • How aware are they of the brand and its key competitors?
  • Do they recognise your logo when shown?
  • What are their opinions (perceptions) of the brand?
  • What attributes do they associate with the brand?

Brand tracking can be undertaken on a regular or ad hoc basis but its main aim is to track people’s opinions of the brand over time to ensure they are still aligned with the vision and purpose.

I worked with JG Creative recently to conduct some brand tracking for Citizens Advice. Before developing a brand communication strategy to take the Charity forward into the next 5 years they needed to gain a clear understanding of current opinions of the brand, its strengths and weaknesses and how this changed over time.

Opinions were sought from a representative sample of the UK population, current clients, volunteers, local and national staff, major funders including Government departments and corporate partners. Boost were undertaken with the BAME community and those living with disabilities to ensure a truly representative view.

This is a great example of how brand tracking can be used as a starting point for any big changes in your organisation.

If you want to talk to me about doing some research to see what your audiences opinions of you are please email me or speak to Jo.

Now read P is for Purpose

Sarah Robson
Director, Matter Communications