Kristy Ihle of THINK Global Research explains the importance of understanding your brand before implementing research findings.
In theory, consumer research should be straight forward. Ask your target market what they want, listen to their responses, and make adjustments accordingly. However, executing changes without taking the wider brand related factors into account can do your brand more harm than good.
Not sense-checking the proposed changes to your products or services against your brand positioning may dilute your brand over time. In other words, trying to be “everything to everyone” to accommodate consumer feedback without taking your brand values into context can result in a loss of brand identity.
What does this mean for brands?
Aside from protecting the strength and integrity of your brand, aligning the proposed changes with your core brand values also makes it easy for customers to understand the reasons behind the changes. This was recently demonstrated in research projects with two of THINK’s clients.
Case Study 1: Framing the Change: “Necessary Evil” V.S. “Proactive Solution”
Being a brand that offers products which are seen as a “necessary evil” is not an easy task. An insurance client decided to offer additional free services to help members “proactively” manage their future requirements, rather than just being a brand which “reactively” fixes issues. THINK’s initial task was to determine the likely uptake rates for these newly proposed services. Given that members always request to receive “more value” for their cover, the expected reactions were positive. However, upon commencing the research we have uncovered a bigger challenge. Their members became busy worrying about the potential impact these services would have on their premiums to see the real benefits of these services. We quickly realised that we needed a new game plan.
This particular insurance brand prides themselves on being “proactive”. It is in their best interest that their members take proactive actions in order to minimise future claims, therefore they do everything they can to arm them with required resources. For the remainder of the research, all descriptions of the newly proposed services were tied back to their core brand value of helping members be “proactive”. The members’ level of comprehension increased immediately, as they were not only able to instantly realise the benefits of the additional services but also see how these services would also benefit the provider (hence not posing a threat to their premiums). In other words, aligning the product changes with the company’s brand positioning has helped clarify the “why” behind these changes.
Case Study 2: Providing the Context: Disrupting Routines for Long Term Gain
People travelling to the airport feel at times they are a captive audience paying for intangible services, instantly putting visitors in a negative frame of mind. A major airport needed to get an understanding of public reaction to proposed infrastructure changes, in order to identify the option that would best serve the public and the wider local community. While the public has been asking for infrastructure improvements for some time, new changes required removing the current systems in place. As anticipated, people were highly nervous and sceptical about these proposed initiatives benefiting the airport over the public.
The public knew that the airport’s current infrastructure was not sustainable; however it was what they were used to and changing established routines became the biggest barrier. The public also felt unclear “why” these solutions would be more effective.
Once again, it wasn’t until the proposed initiatives were framed upfront in the context of the airport’s brand values that the public realised and accepted why the airport needs to make these changes. Aligning the solution with the airport’s focus on the future has helped the public realise how the changes will benefit them as well as the wider community in the long run, compared to initially more favoured “quick win” solutions that were simply not sustainable. But most importantly, linking the proposed changes to the airport’s positive brand aspirations has helped communicate that the airport had the public’s best interest at heart.
So what do brands need to keep in mind?
Before implementing any changes in order to better cater to the needs of your customers, it is always crucial to sense check whether the proposed changes align with your brand values. The key questions to ask are:
- What are the core values of your brand – what qualities do you stand for (in terms of consumer perception)?
- Will the proposed changes be in line with the core values of your brand?
- Will the newly implemented changes disrupt any currently formed consumer habits or positive beliefs about your brand?
Taking the time to ensure that any proposed changes will align with your brand values and expected brand behaviour will give you the confidence that the final outcome will enhance, rather than impede your brand.