Brand Research

Brand Development Research

The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.
— Philip Kotler

Our approach

Our research helps marketers build strong brands. 

Here's our definition of a strong brand: the stronger the brand, the more often consumers end up choosing it over competitors under a broader range of pricing, promotional, situational, and other pressures. 

You are at a store and remember you need batteries. Which of these two would you pick, A or B?


We asked this question in a survey; roughly four out of five people picked A.  

When we ask this question in a room full of people, we sometimes set the computer to show the picture for only 50 milliseconds. That's quicker than an average blink, which lasts somewhere between 100 and 400 milliseconds. 

Again, about four out of five people pick A. Half-a-blink is enough for people to recognize the brand, and make a decision.  

That's how strong you want your brand to be.


Strong brands are valuable. Strong brands shield you from competitive pricing pressures; help grow market share; help increase the repurchase rate; serve as an umbrella for related products and services; create intangible value that justifies a price premium. Ultimately, strong brands increase shareholder value.


Strong brands are based on four pillars : 

  • An understanding of who the customer is and what the customer wants
  • A commitment to solving the customer's problem
  • A promise that lifts the commitment above competition
  • A memorable expression of the promise

These four factors are the foundation of the Brand Compass.

brand compass.png

The Brand Compass

The Compass provides a central, unifying blueprint and a filter for all behavior, actions, and communications. 

Master - the core customers the brand serves. A brand is a social contract; you need other people — of the right kind — to agree that yours is, in fact, a brand. 

Purpose - customers' functional and emotional needs the brand exists to satisfy. What is the purpose of a brand such as Rolex? We bet it's more than just telling the time.

Promise - something that lifts the brand above competitors in the eyes of consumers. Sometimes it's pretty literal: to try harder than the other guys (Avis). 

Expression - how the brand communicates its promise: its identity, personality, physique (colors, shapes, smells), and the associations it invokes. Expression is the above-water tip of the iceberg, the publicly visible side of the brand.


Look at a weak brand, and you'll see it's a three-legged stool. The brand might have lost the sight of its customers, or isn't sure of its purpose, or has diluted its promise, or its expression is not very effective. 

Our brand research investigates all four dimensions to help create a new brand strategy or troubleshoot an existing one.

How we work

Here's what happens when we work from start to finish on a brand development research assignment either when creating a new brand or troubleshooting an existing one. 



Intake - our first meeting with you is a structured interview where we establish your business goals and other research parameters.

Data review - we go through the data you already might have.

Brand audit - for an existing brand, we review the elements of its Compass and all of its expression assets.

Stakeholder interviews - we conduct structured interviews with stakeholders to understand their vision for the brand, and the role of the brand in their marketing strategy. 



Brand strength diagnostic survey - for an existing brand, we test the extent to which the brand influences consumer choice. For all brands in the category, we measure the extent to which the brand in general is an important factor in consumers' decisions.

Culture review - we identity current and emerging cultural trends that influence how consumers behave in the category.

Competitive mapping - we evaluate competitors' positioning, claims, language, brand personalities, and other strategical and tactical elements.


Social portraits - we collect a diverse sample of category users on social media, and analyze their feeds to sketch their initial profiles.  

Consumer interviews - we observe and talk with people to understand what triggers their search, what obstacles they face, how they envision the ideal outcome, how they differentiate one brand in the category from another, how they make their choice, and who influences their decisions. 

Survey - we conduct a survey that usually includes the following modules: 

-   Segmentation module defines and prioritizes prospective customer segments, and informs the Master dimension of the Compass.

-  Consumer motives module identifies consumers’ key functional and emotional needs they seek to satisfy by shopping in the category. It informs the Purpose dimension.

-  Brand associations module maps the network of associations that exist between brands, benefits, wants, and culture.  Informs the Expression dimension. 

-  Concept testing module evaluates the strength of different positioning concepts, and also informs the Expression and the Promise dimensions.




Stated and implicit preference tests tell us whether consumers will choose your brand over competitors under a variety of circumstances. We evaluate the relative strength of brands in the competitive set using a set of standard questions as well as using an experimental set-up borrowed from psychology research.

Brand-price trade-off analysis - we evaluate brand preference at each in a series of increasing price points to understand the implied relative value of different brands.

Brand tracking - we monitor changes in key brand indicators by fielding periodic surveys and combining the results with social data. 



Brand association test - we map the networks of mental associations with your and competitors' brands using a mix of techniques such as metaphor elicitation and correspondence analysis. The test tells us whether people associate your brand with wrong or negative concepts.

Recognition / misattribution test - we run a test that involves showing respondents elements of brand identity that are incomplete or blurry and asking them what brand each each element belongs to. The test tells us whether any parts of brand identity are not widely recognized or are attributed to a wrong brand. 

Social reputation analysis - we mine social data to understand how your brand's reputation compares to competitors along different dimensions.   

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