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positioning research, advertising research, marketing research, marketing strategy
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Brand positioning research uncovers potential high impact brand and market positions. Effective brand positioning research requires understanding the positioning concept, the marketplace, and the process needed to generate brand impact.

We conduct brand equity and positioning studies in B2B, channel, and consumer market environments.

positioning research, advertising research, marketing research, marketing strategy

Positioning Research Process   

brand positioning research

Our brand positioning research approach and goals...

Positioning Base Research
Prior to conducting primary positioning research, we first take time to gauge your brand landscape. For client companies, we evaluate positioning assumptions and prior market structure studies, market segmentation information, branding research, client and competitive advertising, and competitive brand name architecture.  We build hypotheses regarding the strength of comparative brands, their brand equity, acceleration of brand power, and how the market decision-makers -- consumers and B2B decision-makers and firms-- view the marketplace. 

As a part of the Positioning Base Research, we conduct far reaching interviews with client management, field sales, product development and customer service staff.  We talk to sales people in the channel about their own brand preferences and their perception of customers.  We cap off Positioning Base Research with qualitative market research where we reach a small sample of client customers and those competitor-loyal customers.   The purpose here is to refine hypotheses about how customers see and define the marketplace.

Positioning Qualitative Research
We employ a unique qualitative methods. Our typical starting point is a small sample round of depth interviews.  In the beginning stages of a positioning study, this is an optimum method of qualitative market research.   Here, we use a non-directive design and style, combined with projective interviewing techniques to uncover buyer perceptions of the brand choices, and their differentiation qualities. We do not bombard respondents with a laundry list of questions, but rather, let them talk freely in a wide ranging manner about their buying and use experience, and market perceptions.  The focus here is to uncover the language about the choice dimensions on which buying decisions are made.  Positioning relies upon a solid segmentation and market definition analysis.

Positioning Quantitative Market Survey
Brand Screening Survey:   
  • Test hypotheses developed from the Positioning Qualitative Research. These pertain to segmentation, strength of segment dimensions, and category perceptions and buyer attitudes. 
  • Screen positioning concepts using concept statements and appeal ratings to assess qualities of positioning distance, or differentiation power.   (See... Concept Testing)

See our Strategy Newsletter article discussion about finding and owning a market space as the basis of successful brand positioning. The issue is "How do we find and own a market space and build or rebuild a brand?"

Positioning Research Methods Discussion

Qualitative Research: Online Depth Interviews...

Once hypotheses about brand positioning and market opportunities are articulated from our initial limited round in our Positioning Base Research, and initial depth interviews, we may expand the qualitative exploration to a broader set of Time-Extended Online Depth Interviews. This method engages each participating respondent over a period of one week or more thinking about and reporting their perceptions in a running dialog. We have successfully used this innovative tool and process with many high profile clients. While primarily qualitative, our online implementation has some important quantitative features for segmentation and attitude measurement.

The Value of the Qualitative Step

We believe sound qualitative research is a vital component in decision-oriented marketing research. It is especially useful in developing hypotheses about consumer motivations. These help us understand from the consumer's perspective and in the consumer's own language. Qualitative research, which is characterized by free-ranging, open-ended interviews among a limited number of respondents, is primarily an exploratory motivational technique. We use it here to identify important marketing variables and to suggest the relationships among those variables, to focus the creative process and lay the design groundwork for the later quantitative screening research stage.

The main point here is the value of getting in-depth insight into the buyer belief and attitude structure, and use this insight for business strategy development. For example, when scanning for strategic opportunities they can uncover important consumer and business buyer attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that may precede an emerging trend. Non-directive techniques and projective research techniques are especially useful in defining buyer motivations .

What about focus groups?

Customer discussion groups -- another term for "marketing research focus groups" -- can be useful in the early stages of positioning strategy decision-making.  For brand positioning research, we tend to prefer in-person or online time-extended depth interviews, our preferred methods of getting inside the buyer's mind which may offer equally rich, or better, marketing information at an overall lower cost. 

We will recommend focus groups when the following conditions are important...   (see more...)

  • idea generation among prospects and customers
  • when observing group interaction can provide insight about potential opinion leadership and word-of-mouth activity...
  • little is known, or knowledge is stale, about the product or brand category, and hearing the category language and buyer behavior range reported first hand is desired...
  • observing emotions as brand, products, or ads are revealed

While group discussions are very popular among qualitative techniques, there are many important "do's and don'ts". It is critical that the researcher knows how, when and where they can be used, and where they should be avoided. The January 2001 issue of the StrategyNewsletter updates the basics and some new issues brought on by the advent of online focus groups, and other tech offshoots.

Content analysis to understand the brand language

Aside from market research focus group discussions and depth interviews, we might use other methods to understand customer brand perceptions and screen your branding options. Content analysis is a process of examining customer diary entries, articles by observers of behavior, advertising, and other language used by advertisers, customers and suppliers in the product category.  Content analysis can be applied to marketing research data collected from a range of sources, open-ended responses to online surveys, phone surveys, self-administered questionnaires, time-extended qualitative depth interviews, standard depth interviews, competitive promotional literature, brand advertising.  In content analysis we examine word use, style, meaning, etymology, and core attitudes reflected.

Ethnography to 'watch' what people do

Our positioning exploration research may involve special observational qualitative methods such as ethnographic studies. Photo ethnography,  uses various methods, such as self-directed-video to watch what people do in and around the product category.  We make inferences from this data as to relevant positioning dimensions at play.   We watch as customers and prospects engage in store shopping, using products in their home, and their interactions with other people when the product category or brand is involved.  A pet food company may employ a video ethnography study and ask pet owners to video tape their pet. 

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