Towards A Smarter Brand Positioning Study

3D chess set from Star Trek

Last week the good folks at Quirks and Toluna posed a serious question: Can we as an industry make our brand positioning studies more intelligent?

Peter Shafer, SVP with Toluna, presented interesting work that they are doing that combines brand positioning in the broader context of marketing automation. The movement toward automation of marketing activities produces an opportunity for researchers to conduct brand positioning work in near real-time.

The debate between speed versus research quality has become a moot point. The speed at which Big Data is available to marketers is creating the need for high-quality research at a pace that was unheard of even a few years ago. More data to be analyzed means more insights can be generated, to drive more intelligent marketing decisions. The advent of mobile devices and their increasing relevance in the consumer’s life are a key driver of this trend.

Instant access to information has empowered the consumer, and has led some to declare that customer loyalty is on life support. How does this impact our research efforts? First, we can no longer simply test preference for items on a store shelf, but we have to consider how those items appear in other purchase settings, such as an Amazon display of competitive products side by side, along with consumer reviews.

Automation and the access to technology is opening the doors for market researchers to study brand positioning not only with traditional customer groups, but with a much wider slate, including potential customers all in shorter time frames. Talking to segments outside of those who are pre-disposed to our brand allows us to minimize the bias inherent in speaking only to the converts.

Two case studies were presented to highlight Toluna’s approach to streamlined positioning research: one at the product level and the other at the brand level. The Apple iPhone was paired against two other phones (Samsung and Blackberry). At the brand level, Mercedes was compared against two other high-end vehicle brands. In both cases, the streamlined approach showed key driver analysis (both stated and derived importance) in a visual format that would allow researchers to present a cogent argument for potential changes to strategy.

The amount of data, and the speed in which it is collected and analyzed, has also led to the need for streamlined ways to visualize the data. Infographics are becoming the norm for presenting complex data. These one-sheet presentations make use of colors and icons to display the data in a story-like fashion.

The key takeaway is that research for brands and products needs to keep pace with changes in the broader marketing world. We no longer have lengthy timeframes and large budgets to work against. Tying research efforts with marketing automation presents an opportunity to pick up that pace.

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.


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