How To Endanger Brand Equity Through Research
Measuring wrong parameters leads to misguided brand initiatives and weakened brand equity.
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Raihan Rahman Written by Raihan Rahman on November 1, 2015


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In Bangladesh, marketing research often endangers brand equity rather than increase it. Consumer validation of brand ideas through research could be dangerous for a brand, if such tools are used irresponsibly or ineptly. Many organizations spend considerable human and financial resources to acquire customer and consumer insights to ensure well informed decision making. Through experience their marketing teams learn how to interpret and use those insights effectively to strengthen brand equity. I have come across inexperienced Brand Managers misusing research while trying to determine future direction for the brand. This is dangerous for the brand equity on many levels.

Here are some ways one might endanger brand equity through inept use of research:

Cherry picking – Choosing the positives from different options is a common temptation. Let’s put together all elements consumers like in concepts A and B and create concept A+B. Surely that can be taken straight to market without further consumer validation? Wrong! Remember the perils of mixing apples and oranges – what you end up with is a fruit salad when what you are looking for is a whole fruit.

Compromising on respondent profile – It is often not easy to get respondents to participate in research due to their busy lives. One may face this challenge particularly from premium brand consumers. I have seen research agencies cut corners in respondent selection resulting in poor insights from questionable respondent profile. Always conduct research among the right target group without compromising consumer profile.

Measuring wrong vital signs – When evaluating brand health, doesn’t it make sense to choose convenient parameters which usually score high? If brand awareness is poor among target consumers, why not just quote brand awareness among current franchise? Instead of measuring clicks that lead to sales or in the very least consumer engagement, why not just count Facebook likes? Measuring wrong parameters leads to misguided brand initiatives and weakened brand equity.

Watch out – you are likely to end up with an unwanted winner destined for failure in market!

Compensating creative incompetency through research – When evaluating new creative or packaging ideas, putting one good option against few average options in research to save creative development effort, or just putting few average options due to creative incompetency. Watch out – you are likely to end up with an unwanted winner destined for failure in market, thus, endangering brand equity!

Using research to manage stakeholders – An influential stakeholder in the organisation without having proper understanding of brand positioning may give an input to brand strategy. A brand team lacking conviction to firmly stand behind their vision may decide to absorb the pressure by incorporating the off-strategy idea in research hoping it would be rejected by consumers. And if it isn’t rejected, their backsides are covered since the idea is now consumer validated. This is very risky because an off-brand but impactful idea can potentially jeopardise the entire research outcome. An ex colleague said it perfectly:

“If you only put three donkeys in a horse race, one will win. That does not make the donkey a horse.” So if you are looking for the winning horse only put good horses in the race and eliminate the probability of a winner donkey.

I have come across inexperienced Brand Managers outsourcing all insight [and brand equity] requirements to research agencies and in the process missing vital links between business challenge and research output.  A good CMO will ensure appropriate research orientation for all Brand Executives by demanding research analysis through slicing and dicing data first hand. It is a vital part of grooming early in their career. When I was a rookie my CMO demanded Retail Audit and Consumers Research analysis reports which were never used for any official purpose. Only he would read and discuss them with me for my own learning. It seemed like a pain at the time but I am immensely grateful now.

Brand Manager’s job is to know the brand by heart and develop content on-brand

Brand Manager’s job is to know the brand by heart and develop content on-brand. ‘On-brand’ means consistent with brand positioning, brand architecture and brand character. Role of research can be to assess consumer preference between well developed on-brand options. Research should not be used to ask consumers what is on brand and what isn’t. That would mean that the brand team themselves don’t have clarity on what the brand stands for and do not have a clear strategic direction for the brand’s future. In which case why not outsource brand management to a research agency?

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Bottom-line: Only put options in research which are on-brand and consistent with direction in which the brand custodians want to take the brand in future. Keep away from donkeys and fruit salads, don’t endanger your brand equity through research!


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This post was originally published by Raihan Rahman on LinkedIn.

Raihan Rahman is marketing & business strategist with proven track record of achieving turnaround performances. He has a solid 17 years experience in sales & marketing, business development and corporate strategy in Fortune 500 MNC. Raihan is a strategic thinker with competitive mindset and commercial acumen.

As Marketing Director, Raihan led a team of 130 successful marketing managers to achieve market leadership. As Head of Trade, he led change in supply chain model overhauling at BATB. Raihan also demonstrated  collaborative approach to producing results while working with decision influencers across Asia Pacific region and London.

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