Listening for a brand that resonates

By Alexandra Pickel | December 12, 2016

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We have a deceptively simple solution for creating strong B2B brands: listening. That’s why it’s 90% of our brand discovery process. We listen to uncover every angle, perspective, and nuance so that the brand we create truly resonates with the people who matter most: buyers.

Content audits, digital reviews, and competitive research play a major role in brand discovery, too (and there’ll be more posts to follow on those), but here’s a little insight into how we break down the “question and answer” side and how each tactic informs the branding process.

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Group Strategy Sessions

What are they?

A chance to hear about the business and brand from the client’s perspective. And it’s not necessarily just about the CEO and CMO. We want to hear from leaders and key employees within as many departments as possible, from sales to finance to customer service. Because a brand isn’t just what the leadership says it is; the brand lives in the people who represent it.

What do we listen for?

Through conversation and customized brand exercises, we’re looking for a holistic view of where the brand is currently sitting, what challenges and competition it is facing, what the business aims are, and what the brand needs to achieve for the company. 

How does it inform the branding process?

A strong internal perspective creates a reliable brand benchmark. From here, we cast a wider net and see how other perspectives measure up.

Personal Interviews

What are they?

Interviews usually happen next after a strategy session. They present the opportunity to talk one-on-one — in-person or by phone — with key stakeholders: the client (again), their customers, and their partners. Client (or “internal”) interviews give us a chance to dig deeper into key issues uncovered during the strategy session, while customer (or “external”) interviews focus on our client’s brand, offering, and the ways their products and services are used. But more importantly, the interviews also focus on the customer’s own business: challenges they face on a regular basis, their wants and needs, solutions they love or hate, and their perspectives on the industry.

What do we listen for?

First, we compare what we heard internally and externally, asking: Is what our client says about themselves the same as what their customers say? Second, we use this more intimate conversation as an opportunity to get past surface-level responses and uncover the true emotions surrounding a business, industry, and brand.

How does it inform the branding process?

A brand must connect with its audience. A company might believe they know the right way to differentiate their brand, but the attributes they’re calling out may not matter to target audiences. One-on-one interviews help us identify where the current brand succeeds and fails in connecting, as well as where opportunities exist to build a brand strategy that is true to both the client — and to customers’ needs.

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Focus Groups

What are they?

Focus groups are a great qualitative research weapon. We guide a small group representing a sample of our client’s audience through conversations, interactions, and exercises so they can discuss a client’s brand and provide feedback on any initial brand strategy routes or creative concepts.

What do we listen for?

We’re looking to gain a deep understanding of experiences and perceptions, listening for common trends and points of agreement and disagreement. At its best, a focus group points­­­­­­ us straight towards brand and industry hot spots, showing what issues make people the most passionate, either in a good way, or bad way.

How does it inform the branding process?

Focus groups add another layer of depth to our findings and help hone strategy. We test strengths and weaknesses in our findings and ideas, identify points where more clarification or research is needed, and confirm pitfalls the brand should avoid. And with the right mix of people in the room, we can feel good knowing we’ve heard from all potential audience groups.

Surveys

What are they?

Low-cost, quick, and completely scalable, surveys are our go-to quantitative data approach. Since surveys are anonymous, they present a chance to collect very open and honest input from stakeholders and encourage a more straightforward, rational response.

What do we listen for?

The standardized format of surveys allow us to ask pointed questions, enabling easy identification of trends across broad groups.

How does it inform the branding process?

A survey can be useful early in discovery to get a broad view of opinions on multiple key issues. Surveys are also valuable as a final checkpoint so we can take the temperature and confirm we’re heading in the right direction.

The truth will emerge

Asking questions and listening intently allows us create a brand that aligns a company’s performance and aspirations with the needs and expectations of its customers. It’s that simple.

We take all of the insights we hear — hold them up against findings from a client’s greater marketplace — and distill them into authentic, compelling brand attributes, which can then be interpreted, tested, and tweaked with certainty.

A brand that truly resonates really is just a few conversations away. All we have to do is listen.

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