One of the most common uses of market research is trying to better understand branding. Studies are conducted throughout the year for some of the world's largest brands and throughout the Fortune 50 list of companies.
These brands continually measure awareness, identity, sentiment, and perceptions among their customers and the general public. The only way to assess this is through market research.
Without market research or analytics there would be no way to measure these key performance indicators (KPIs) for a brand. Market research serves a critical need to help measure and monitor these metrics to help organizations understand how the market and opinions are shifting.
When to Measure Awareness and Brand Equity?
Oftentimes when a company wants to launch a new brand or announce a merger and acquisition (M&A) it will almost always conduct market research as a first step to understand these measurements.
Market research is also used for basic campaigns around brands and product lines. For example, the world's largest consumer brands have hundreds if not thousands of product lines, each with their own identity.
Think about the auto manufacturer Dodge for a moment. Not only is Dodge monitoring brand equity at the highest level around their corporate Dodge identity but there are likely multiple tracker studies in place to measure sentiment around each vehicle in its lineup (Durango, Challenger, Journey, etc.)
Measure. Evaluate. Make improvements. Rinse and repeat.
Another common time to conduct image and awareness research is around a big event or news story which hits the press. Brands often want to find out how the media has impacted the brand and by how much.
If poor press breaks, is the brand only hearing from the extremes or is the negative publicity impacting larger populations of the public. Using a survey can create statistically reliable data to guide decisions.
Carrying this a step further, auto manufacturers are constantly innovating. So when they prepare to launch a new vehicle or model, they are certain to complete some market research as a first step to help understand brand perceptions prior to launch.
This gives them an opportunity to make tactical adjustments with marketing and strategy before they go-to-market.
You can measure your brand awareness with a survey using these 7 simple steps.
Are you a small or large business thinking about measuring brand equity? The process is not as complicated as you might think. Our brand equity market research company uses a tried and true 7-step process.
Each of the steps below is explained in great detail to assist you in getting starting with measuring your brand awareness in addition to perceptions, image, associations, sentiment, and your overall brand equity.
Step 1: Define Objectives
This is the most crucial piece of your brand awareness market research project. It follows the simple rule of: Garbage In. Garbage Out. Or GOBO.
As a first step in your project, your team will want to clearly define what you are after. What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you want to track?
Here are a few to consider:
Unaided and Aided Awareness
Here is an article of our market research company wrote which breaks down the difference between aided and unaided awareness. Essentially unaided awareness is top-of-mind awareness which is unprompted.
Unaided awareness would be the percentage of respondents who reference your brand top-of-mind (e.g. When you think of auto brands, which one comes to mind first?)
Aided awareness is when you provide the respondent a list of choices and ask them if they recall seeing or hearing the brand (e.g. Which of the following auto brands are you aware of: Dodge? Chevrolet? Ford?)
Each of these two metrics are KPIs you'll want to track.
This is a simple exercise where the survey asks respondents to name a word or phrase they associate with your brand. The question is asked open-ended if they are aware of the brand through and unaided or aided series.
This KPI can be displayed as word counts or a word cloud. The question would be: What word or phrase comes to mind when you think of Dodge? Quality. American. Durango. Dad's truck.
The responses can be very telling.
Here are 4 ways to gather more value from your open-ended responses.
Sentiment is the act of coding open-ended responses to understand whether the survey mention is positive, neutral, or negative. This ties nicely to the open-ended question for word association and is another important KPI for brand equity.
The market research company goes response-by-response coding it as positive, neutral, or negative to arrive at scores for sentiment (i.e. 70% positive, 20% neutral, 10% negative).
Lastly, perception is another key metric to track and measure in your image and awareness survey. Once you nail down awareness you should track perception. This is a 3-point or 5-point scale asking respondents whether they view your brand positively or negatively. The 3-point scale is positive, neutral, negative. The 5-point scale is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, very negative.
You will also want to define or think about your preferred type of methodology. Most everything is done online now with surveys. The reason? They are cost-effective, timely, and offer strong data quality.
However, some clients still choose to pursue some antiquated methodologies like phone surveys or even mail surveys for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it depends on protocol or is based on the target audience.
For example, if your company was attempting to measure brand awareness for an emergency call device for the elderly, perhaps online surveys are not the best approach due to the target audience being uncomfortable with technology, email, and smartphones.
Lastly, as far as objectives, make sure you are not only tracking your brand equity but also your key competitors. This will provide context to your scores to understand if your 85% positive perception is higher or lower than your competition.
This is a very important point.
Step 2: Request a Proposal from a Survey Company
It is evident brands must use an independent market research company to track these KPIs like awareness, word association, sentiment, and perception. In order to test these metrics, the company or organization must completely remove itself from the research.
Think about it. What if Dodge wanted to test the image and awareness of their company themselves. It wouldn't make sense right?
Let's say you get an email invite from [email protected] You click on the email and it includes a few paragraphs mentioning Dodge is collecting feedback on auto manufacturers.
Then you go to the survey and the title line includes the Dodge logo.
You read question 1 and it asks: When you think of auto brands, what brand comes to mind first?
Do you think the sponsorship and survey from Dodge will impact the metrics?
Using a third-party adds an extra layer of anonymity to the market research in order to prevent bias and keep the results reliable. If the market research does the outreach it keeps the market research credible while not revealing the sponsor behind the effort.
Here are 7 components of a market research proposal you should expect.
Find a market research company who is consultative, can offer best practices, has experience with brand equity studies, and helps provide context and interpretation to the data.
Working with an independent third-party to manage your brand equity survey is essential.
Step 3: Kickoff Meeting
Now that your team has selected a market research partner for the awareness and brand equity survey, the next step is to hold an official kickoff meeting.
The kickoff meeting is designed to pull in all of the key constituents into one meeting to recap objectives, timeline, process, and next steps.
An agenda should be developed for this meeting to keep everyone on task. The meeting should last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. The agenda helps set expectations and keep everyone focused an aligned to move along the research.
Our team covers 3 questions in our kickoff meetings with clients:
(1) What would you like to learn from the results?
(2) How will you be using and sharing the results?
(3) What actions would you like to take with the results?
These 3 simple questions help guide the overarching strategy and survey. It helps align all teams to one single vision to move forward. The kickoff meeting sets the tone for the rest of the project.
Step 4: Develop a Workplan
After the kickoff meeting is complete, the next step is to develop a project workplan. The project workplan lists all key dates, deliverables, and responsible parties for each task. This is a one-page document exchange with the team which is typically the same extended team attending the kickoff meeting.
The workplan should be updated and exchanged throughout the project to keep everyone abreast of the timeline and the status of the project.
Are we ahead of schedule? On schedule? Behind schedule?
When is the final report expected to be completed?
All of this can be answered with a simple workplan.
The workplan helps envision all steps of the awareness survey as well. Without specifically laying out dates and deliverables in stone, project teams can often get sidetracked or the market research company may take their foot off the pedal for a bit.
Developing and holding teams accountable helps keep the market research on-task.
Step 5: Survey Design and Programming
Now the fun begins. This is the culmination of the first 4 steps of the market research process. After all of the planning, defining objectives, choosing a vendor, and managing the kickoff, you are ready to begin drafting survey questions.
As a rule of thumb, we try to keep surveys short and engaging. We aim for somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 questions which puts the length of the interview around 5 minutes.
Our survey company has identified this as the threshold for survey takers. If the survey extends beyond 5 minutes, there is a much greater chance of drop-off.
The short and engaging survey is even more important for outreach to non-customers or the general public.
It is a little different when it comes to customer sample or when you can reveal the sponsor. With customers you already have a relationships so respondents are willing to spend a little extra time answering questions.
Not the case with a brand equity or image and awareness survey.
Draft your survey on a separate Word document before programming. You'll thank yourself.
We covered many of the KPIs you should consider addressing in your survey above.
However, here are those items recapped with some additional questions you may want to consider for your awareness survey:
(1) Screening for the household decision-maker
(2) Screening and collecting information on age
(3) Collecting information on demographics: household income, marital status, gender, etc.
(4) Unaided or top-of-mind awareness
(5) Aided awareness of your brand and the competition
(6) Word associations with your brand and the competition
(7) Perception of your brand and the competition
(8) Source(s) of awareness in the past 30 days: social media, radio, TV, etc.
(9) Factor(s) in choice when selecting a product or service in your category
(10) Satisfaction with your brand and the competition
Although these are just 10 questions, there are many more to choose from.
Going back to a prior point, since you are using a third-party and the sponsor is blinded, it makes a lot of sense to collect information on competitors.
This data will add context and comparisons to your metrics to help your organization and brand understand where you sit against key competitors.
Once you have the survey drafted and finalized in Word, you can progress to programming. Completing the draft in Word allows for more collaboration, tracking changes, and comments which is a limitation of drafting the survey directly into the survey software.
We always recommended finalizing the survey content out-of-system first before plugging it into your survey program. This will save you the time from having to re-program and re-route questions if any of the orders change or questions are removed.
Once the survey is programmed, you will want to test it internally with your team. Send the link to 4 or 5 colleagues and have them test it as if they were a real respondent.
This is the final step before you are ready to field.
Step 6: Fieldwork
Now you have to determine how to collect responses for the brand equity study.
You should shy away from any internal lists (customers or prospects) because the same is not likely to be random enough to get a true picture. Chances are those on your list have some type of awareness or relationship with you (albeit small if they signed up for a newsletter).
Still, you want to keep the randomness of the sample in consideration.
Not sure how to collect sample? Here are 2 options to consider.
Use a market research panel
There are a lot of online panels across the U.S. and across the globe. Some are stronger in B2B and some are stronger in B2C. Some are stronger in specific areas of the country while some are weaker.
Depending on the size of your target market, using a panel should be a consideration.
What is a market research panel?
Think of it like a rented email list for research. These participants have been vetted and qualified to participate in market research.
The panel company sends them your survey and they are highly likely to respond (more so than a purchasing email list or even customer email list). Rewards and incentives are built into the cost per complete you pay.
The good news is your market research company likely partners with several online panel companies to provide your organization with discounted rates.
The firm you choose can integrate this service into the project and the survey programming easily. There are some technical steps involved including setting up redirect links (qualify, disqualify, over-quota, etc.)
This avoids having to work with several vendors. The communication can get unruly if you are working with a consultant to draft the survey, another vendor to program, another vendor to collect completes, and yet another vendor to analyze the data.
Working with one market research firm give you one point of contact.
The one weakness of online panel companies is their inability to gather sample on a local or regional basis. They are strong in numbers nationwide but often lack the ability to get respondents in specific regions, cities, or smaller market areas.
Sometimes a market research company will need to seek a smaller, more localized firm, to use their in-house panel in these situations rather than going to a large or national provider.
Use social media
Yes, social media is a great way to gather survey responses.
Most DMAs across the country detail 30-day usage rates of Facebook at 60% to 70%. Meaning 7 of every 10 residents in a region use Facebook at least once in a 30-day period.
This opens doors to a lot of respondents for surveys.
Use platforms like Facebook and Instagram with paid advertisements. This is different than using the platform through organic newsfeed shares to followers.
Conducting a survey by posting a link on your own company feed will results in an extreme bias (those who are aware or worse, those who like your brand).
Again, this is another benefit of a third-party agency.
The market research company can post an advertisement (with no mention on the sponsor) and show it to random Facebook users within a specific geography or even of a certain age group.
The advertisement includes a short general message with a survey link as well as the mention of the reward.
Easy enough right?
How many completed surveys do I need?
Here is the ultimate guide to the number of survey responses.
Ultimately, if budgets allow you want to shoot for 400 responses.
This offers a +/- 5% margin of error with a true random sample. What that means is if the survey were conducted 100 times, 95 out of 100 times results would yield within +5% or -5% of the totals.
Obviously, the more survey data the better right?
So if your organization can splurge for 1,000 responses, you'll end up with about a +/- 2% to 3% which increases reliability.
With additional data, the market research company can also run cross-tabs on sub-audiences with high reliability (e.g. males vs. females, aged under 45 vs. 45+, etc.)
Step 7: Analysis and Reporting
This is one of the true differentiators of using a market research company to assist with your brand equity survey.
Gathering an objective, unbiased opinion on the data from an outside firm is worth its weight in gold.
All of your hard work to this point is done. Fieldwork has wrapped and now the analysis and reporting can begin for the market research company.
Some of the best market research reports will include several of these components.
Make sure you choose a partner who is offering these in a comprehensive report:
(1) Background and methodology: summarizes the approach, responses, dates, process.
(2) Executive summary: answers key questions in a themed, easy to digest format
(3) Scorecard: this helps you track your KPIs period-over-period
(4) Recommendations and action items: talk about implications and next steps
(5) Next steps for research: when the research should be conducted again, other research
(6) Infographic: graphical and visually appealing way of showing key takeaways
(7) Respondent persona: typical profile of a respondent and their experience with brand(s)
(8) Charts and graphs: breakdown of results by question with cross-tabs by categories
(9) Copy of the survey script: in the appendix for reference
It's not the data itself that is valuable, but rather what is done with the data.
The recommendations and action items are the most valuable piece of the market research report. They allow your brand and your team to make actionable improvements using the data as the guide.
Interested in Getting Help?
Drive Research is a brand equity market research company located in Syracuse, NY. We work with clients and brand across the country in a variety of industries.
Need advice? Want a proposal? Contact us on our website here.
You can also reach us via email at [email protected] or by calling 888-725-DATA.
Text us at 315.992.7994