When the secret of successful brand research really is simplicity

When the secret of successful brand research really is simplicity

There’s an awful lot of brand BS spoken by “practitioners” who deliberately muddy the waters with endless funnels, spidergrams, flowcharts and the like.


It’s almost as if they thrive on confusion rather than clarity.


Those “practitioners” (I use the word advisedly) would be dismayed to learn that perhaps the most powerful piece of B2B brand research I’ve been involved with asked just a single core question.


It simply asked respondents: “To what extent do you associate – or dissociate – our brand with each of the five following attributes?”


The questionnaire then listed each of the brand’s claimed “values” in turn, and respondents clicked on a five-point scale with regards to the extent to which…well, you get the rest.


That was it. That was the questionnaire.


It’s taken you longer to read this far than it took respondents to complete it.


To his credit, it was the Marketing Director who insisted the questionnaire was deliberately simple – which meant research participation was high, and there was no chance of respondent wear-out. It’s probably the shortest commercial questionnaire I’ve worked on.


But its real power and value crystallised when the data came in, because it was conducted amongst three distinct populations:


(a) existing customers

(b) current prospects and

(c) staff.


Lo and behold whilst there were some positive alignments between what staff, customers and prospects thought about the brand, there were some important differences.


On one measure, staff (senior staff, in particular) thought much more positively about the brand than customers did.


On another measure, customer-facing staff thought much more negatively about the brand than their own customers did.  (Which made sense in a way – it turned out that customer-facing staff are constantly having to deal with dissatisfied customers, and so believe the world thinks their service is flawed. Whereas the vast majority of customers were happy, and so never had cause to speak to the call centre staff in the first place).


On two other values, it quickly became clear that prospects had no clear view on what the company stood for.


And so…


Resolvable brand perception gaps across territories became apparent.


Resolvable brand perception gaps between Enterprise customers and SMEs became apparent, too.


As did resolvable brand perception gaps between Senior Management and coalface staff.


Just one simple question enabled management to pinpoint a whole range of issues:


  • Product design needed to be re-examined to align with the brand promise
  • Promotional strategies needed to be tweaked to account for territorial brand nuances
  • Senior management needed to focus effort on driving customer-driven change rather than resting on their brand-comms laurels
  • Broad brand messaging could be supported with genuine evidence of existing customer satisfaction
  • ABM tactics could be adjusted to reflect differences between SME and Enterprise clients
  • Staff morale could be lifted by promoting how much better customers thought they were doing their jobs than the staff themselves did


And a dozen more things besides.


I think it was Maurice Saatchi that said his agency “prided themselves on ruthless clarity of thought”.


To my mind “ruthless clarity of thought” can be enormously beneficial in brand questionnaire design.


(The more nefarious brand “practitioners” might want to take note.)


If you’re a B2B brand manager who’d welcome some help simplifying your brand research, please get in touch.



Simon Hayhurst


June 2021

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *