Building brands with input vs. feedback

One of the most critical steps in building and growing brands is proactively seeking input. Identifying pertinent preferences, needs, behaviors and attitudes can help determine how best to differentiate your brand in a manner that it will be most valued.

Budget can often be a regulating factor in determining the extent of research conducted. It is important, however, not to let cost dissuade you from soliciting unbiased input. Brand research does not always have to take the form of focus groups or exhaustive quantitative research (although the more information the better). Often online questionnaires and one-on-one interviews can provide the insights you need.

Seeking input of key constituents allows you to solidify your strategy, mold your messaging and inform your creative. It’s less about what colors or key words resonate, and much more about what it will take to meet an unmet need in the market.

An important factor when building your brand is balancing the needs of your customer with what you have to offer within the context of the competitive landscape (your brand objective). Part of your brand research must include how potential competition is positioning itself and communicating. Your customers will have defined preferences, but they will not always be approaching their needs from your business perspective. This is why a balance is so necessary.

Another issue to consider is the value of seeking feedback. Brand builders often want to test creative approaches for their brands. This process can be executed simply; however, many times the results can be complex. We all have personal preferences and biases. I like a color that you abhor. A key word that has positive connotations to me may hold a negative meaning for you. Likewise, a conceptual image may convey very different feelings to a group of individuals, even one with common interests or needs. So how can creative be expected to survive this scrutiny and emerge from the process intact? Too frequently, marketers are left holding the disparate pieces of a puzzle that once fit together, wondering how best to make something cogent from what remains.

Ultimately, this reinforces the importance of knowing what to test, how to interpret responses and moreover, the indisputable value of input. Again, it’s not small, but big picture that matters. Let the input you collect shape how you approach the market. Let it guide your decision-making in how to communicate the brand. And let it have the impact it should on your creative (messaging, design and execution). Not creative for the sake of being creative, but creative that emphasizes your point of differentiation that is valued – the greatest common denominator across your target audience.

Within healthcare branding, so much is driven by data. What can the brand claim? It is essential to remember that within the branding process, we must place things within the context of the needs of our customers. We must seek their input up front and establish channels for creating an open dialogue. And we must make sound judgments when provided feedback. The key is context and maintaining a perspective that enables the most panoramic view of your brand, the market and your opportunity.

by Jonathan D. Katz

06/25/2013