Brand management is important work and, done well, it has a substantial influence on a company's return on investment (ROI) and brand equity. If brand management is the vehicle, then brand wisdom is the set of wheels that carry the brand down the road. Exhausting this metaphor, market researchers are the crew that paves and maintains the highway for the brand management vehicle.
Brand wisdom is supported by market research that provides insight about three types of knowledge about consumers:
- How consumers behave when they are interested in a product or service;
- How consumers behave in different contexts (environments) or on different channels;
- How consumers differentiate or engage with a brand.
Everyone is influenced by their environment. Consumers appear to be especially influenced by the context in which their purchasing behaviors occur. Social media networks are a good example of this phenomenon. Consumers are often willing to share where they are and what they are buying while they are there. This is especially true when the "there" is a high-status context.
On a fundamental level, all consumer behavior occurs in some context; however, as market researchers know, not all contexts are equally influential. Consumer personas or customer profiles are basically an effort to understand which contexts are the most likely to drive consumer behavior.
Dr. Lars Perner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, offers this definition of consumer behavior:
"The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society."
While this is a good definition that covers a lot of ground, one element that it leaves out is the concept of differentiation. When a consumer engages with a brand, product, or service that leads to differentiation, they are satisfying more than needs. Differentiation conveys a regard for a brand that sets it apart from competitors and casts a positive valence on the consumer who selects, buys, and uses the product or service.
Category interaction is the sweet spot of market segmentation. Category interaction is the manifestation of differentiation.
Category interaction is grounded in the differentiation that occurs in the minds of consumers when a product or service is effectively positioned by the manufacturer or service provider in a distinct and meaningful way.
Market researchers have systematically studied consumer behavior for nearly a century. Consumer behavior has changed, and so have market research, marketing, and advertising. For example, the early field research of Proctor and Gamble provided the company with insights into how consumers used their products and what value they attributed to P&G products. Proctor and Gamble sent market researchers door-to-door to gather data first hand. Today, consumers send real-time data via digital channels to Proctor and Gamble market researchers.
The Three Essential Interrelated Brand Strategies
Creative brand strategy considers, designs, and implements in these three categories:
- Brand Promise
- Brand Fulfillment
- Amplification (influencing through associated excitement)
The job of a market researcher is to provide data and information that can be used to optimize each of the three essential and interrelated brand strategies.