In my last post, I shared some of the sources of data that you can use to inform your brand positioning. But once you’ve collected all of the information you can get your hands on, what do you do with it? In this post, I’ll share some tips for how to synthesize your brand positioning research so you can begin to draw some meaningful conclusions from it.
My advice? Get a room. No really, try to find a dedicated space inside your office where you can begin to hang materials on the wall, sort them into piles, and write up your ideas. The physical act of organizing materials often helps you draw connections between them.
You might want to create a wall like the one we created for the Red Hat brand inventory. Here’s a picture of it:
Consider hanging things by where they were created, or how old they are, or whatever other variables are important to you. You might want to reorganize them multiple times in different configurations to see if that gives you new ideas.
If you can’t afford the space or don’t want to create a big messy room, you can create the equivalent on your computer. Organize your research into folders, one folder for each of the four key questions. Make duplicate copies of or shortcuts to research that informs the answer to more than one question, and put one in each folder that applies.
Once you have all the research that informs the answer to each question in one place, it’s time to start doing some analysis. If you are like me, you aren’t starting from scratch, but have been beginning to analyze the data and information as you’ve collected it. But looking at all of the data at once will help you see it differently, making new connections and revealing things you might not have noticed before.
At this point, your goal is to synthesize all your sources of information into the clearest, simplest possible answers to the four key questions. Are the data points revealing common themes, ideas, or opportunities?
In my last positioning post, I discussed the four key questions you must answer if you want your positioning research to lead you to effective brand positioning. So how exactly do you discover the answers to the four key questions? Do you need to hire an expensive market research firm and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on surveys and focus groups?
Here is how I think ad-free brands should answer the question “how much should I spend on research?”
I always answer that question with an astoundingly simple approach that became the backbone of our entire brand strategy during my time at Red Hat. I call it the low-cost, high-value approach, and if you were to illustrate it, it’d look something like this.
The low-cost, high-value approach means that you always analyze potential strategies in terms of their cost and value. You then default to choosing strategies first that are inexpensive in terms of time and money yet bring you a lot of potential value, before selecting strategies that cost more, even if they bring you great value.
Pretty simple, huh?
For example, hiring a research company to set up a brand tracking study with 10,000 potential customers for your brand might provide you with a lot of useful information (high value). But the study can also cost you a lot of money and take up a lot of your team’s valuable time (high cost).
If you have the time and money, you might still decide to field the high-value brand tracking study, but only after you have exhausted all of the low-cost, high-value strategies that might help answer those questions more inexpensively.
So, the essence of the low-cost, high-value approach is to default to spending as little time and money as you can and consider high-cost strategies only when there are no other options that will get you the information you need.
You’d be surprised how many organizations are essentially blind to an entire category of low-cost, high-value research options because they prefer to stick to practices they used in the years before better options became available.
The reality is that the last 10 years have given us a variety of low-cost, high-value digital media tools and resources that are perfect for doing brand positioning research and for rolling out positioning effectively. We now have low-cost, high-value alternatives that can provide data that helps us effectively position brands, many of which were not available before the Internet.
Doing research for positioning a brand is less expensive than it has ever been in history. Some people just haven’t received the memo.
So how much should you spend on research?
When you keep the low-cost, high-value approach in mind, the answer to this question should be clear: balance the amount of time and money you put into the research with the value of the brand you are positioning.
If you are trying to position a small web-based business just getting off the ground, you might attempt to answer the four questions with data you already have at your disposal. Perhaps you’ve already done some customer surveys; you’ve just completed a formal business plan; or you and your team even have strong, well-informed ideas about the direction you want to take the brand. You can use all of this preexisting information to answer the four critical questions I listed in the previous post.
But if you are attempting to position or reposition a brand where the stakes are high, especially if the brand is already generating significant amounts of revenue, the information you have at your disposal might not be enough.
If the stakes are high, but your time or money is short, don’t despair. The ad-free brand positioning approach really shines in low-budget situations because you can always take advantage of the “release early, release often” principle that this open, transparent positioning process embraces.
Don’t have any money to invest in research? You can still create a starting brand position by answering the four questions with the best information you have at your disposal. Then immediately start testing the positioning with others in the organization and potentially even in communities outside the organization. Incorporate the feedback, revise the positioning, and try again.
So if you are positioning a small brand, please don’t feel like you need to break the bank doing research. If you consider the low-cost, high value approach while always keeping the investment you are making in line with the value of the brand you are trying to position, you’ll be nicely set up for long-term positioning success.
To create great brand positioning, you must do your homework. In a brand positioning project, this homework mostly consists of doing some research about the brand ahead of time. But how do you organize your research?
In this post, I’ll teach you a simple tip I learned from Dr. Kevin Keller that will help you frame your positioning research in a way that will ensure you find the answers you need.
When doing research to inform a brand positioning project, I am not satisfied until I can answer the following four questions:
1. What does the brand community currently believe about or value in the brand?
2. What might the brand community believe or value about the brand in the future?
3. What does the organization currently claim about the brand?
4. What would the organization like the brand to become down the road?
Great brand positioning has one foot in the present and one foot in the future. The research we’re doing to answer these questions helps us understand exactly where each foot should be planted.
The Foot in the Present
By studying what your brand community members currently believe the brand stands for and what they value about it today, you’ll begin to understand their current experience of the brand. Yet your community’s experience of the brand can be very different than how you see or talk about the brand inside the organization. So the brand research should study the brand from both an internal and external perspective.
Often organizations will notice gaps or inconsistencies between the brand they claim to be and the brand their community sees or experiences—the brand promise-brand experience gap.
Once you deeply understand what your community currently believes or values about the brand and compare this to what you currently claim about the brand, you’ll have a complete picture of where your “foot in the present” is planted. You’ll see clearly how big the gap is between your brand promise and brand experience. Only then can you begin the work of building brand positioning that closely aligns the brand promise claimed with the brand experience delivered.
The Foot in the Future
But a brand that is only concerned with the present state of affairs is a brand in stagnation. You’ll want your brand to grow, prosper, and remain relevant down the road. So you should also try to understand what the brand community might believe or value about the brand in the future.
What directions might people give you permission to take the brand? Where do they not want you to take it? What would they value in the brand that you don’t provide today? What does the organization do today that people would rather not see you continue to do down the road?
Equally important is that you strongly consider where you want to take the brand. Remember the apocryphal Henry Ford quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Sure, to remain relevant you should deeply understand what the community members want the brand to become, but do not become a slave to their vision. You might have entirely different and amazing places you’d like to take the brand that your customers or other community members can’t yet see.
So, in order to understand where your foot in the future is planted, you should seek to understand both what your community would believe or value in the brand and what you want the brand to become down the road.
Where Great Positioning Lives
Great positioning lives where all four answers intersect. It is a bridge between your current brand experience and the brand you’d like to become in the future. It deeply reflects the brand you currently see while lighting the path to what it could become.
Great positioning lives in all four of these quadrants at once. It can be like the North Star, guiding the organization toward the future, while paying homage to the past and making clear connections between things that resonate about the brand with both your organization and your brand community.
So where should you look for data that will help you answer these four questions and start on the road to great brand positioning?
I’ll share some of the mostly likely sources of data in a followup post.