STEP ONE: BRAND DISCOVERY
The first time we connect with a prospective client, we ask a lot of questions. It’s not to interrogate you. It’s to understand you.
Brand discovery is our first step in developing a unique and effective experience. At this initial stage, we gather critical insights that will help shape our creative direction. We want to fully understand your business goals and your campaign objectives. After all, we need to be clear on what your positioning is, the competitive landscape and what challenges you face before we can put into place an experiential marketing strategy.
How will we ever be able to hit key performance indicators (KPIs), if we don’t know your brand as well as we know our friends?
This means, we need to “feel” your brand. Making strong and deep emotional connections with your consumers starts with us!
Most of the larger brands we work with already have well-established brand documents that we request to review. We’ll want to see your brand guide, logo standards and existing marketing content. Only once we know your brand’s personality, we can start to identify ways to bring it to life through interactive experiences.
If you’re a startup or a brand going through a transition or refresh, we can certainly help you to define (or redefine) your brand.
This is an important step in the process, because we value you as a partner. We want the ideation and activation we propose to align with your objectives. It’s in our strategic nature to take the extra steps to learn as much about you as possible. So in the future, we save time on back-and-forth and deliver a solution that is the most likely to succeed.
Our service to you will always start with key insights.
Here are a few brand discovery activities we perform with clients to help carve out the brand. Usually your marketing, design and leadership teams participate in these activities. There’s also usually donuts. (Who can resist a donut!?)
We start with the basics: getting to know you!
1. A yes and a no
We start this exercise by giving each of your team members two stacks of sticky notes. One color represents “yes” and the other “no.” For every word/phrase you think represents your brand, you have to narrow it down with one it doesn’t.
For example, you may be innovative (yes) but not techie (no). You may be daring (yes) but not dangerous (no). Maybe you’re experienced (yes) but not traditional (no). Humorous (yes) but not farce (no). Athletic (yes) but not rugged (no). Flirty, not risque. Imaginative, not whimsical. Clever, not cunning. Playful, not childish. You get the idea!
Then we hang the yeses together on a wall and the nos together on a different wall. We review together as a group to make sure everyone agrees. We refine the list by removing ones that don’t quite fit, per the consensus, and adding more individual words to either group.
With a little word play, we’re starting to get a sense of the brand.
2. Building a brand pyramid
Beginning with the yeses we identified as a foundation, we begin to build a brand pyramid. Brick by brick, we start to map out your brand DNA.
At the bottom, we think about your company’s attributes. Questions we may ask here include: What is your product? What are your deliverables? What’s your unique value proposition? How big/small are you? What markets do you serve? How fast are you growing? How do you operate? More importantly, why do you do what you do? Why is your product/service/brand important in the lives of others?
The next row is about your benefits. What is your brand promise, and why do your customers see value in working with you? These are both functional benefits (e.g., helps me do something) and emotional benefits (e.g., makes me feel proud when I select this brand). There are direct and indirect benefits of your brand. We start to uncover, here, what emotional reactions people should have to your brand and to future experiences with your brand.
In the middle of the pyramid, we talk about your brand’s values. Not dollar and cents, but what drives you? What’s your true north? What are the three to five values that define everything else you do?
Nearing the top, we start to define your brand persona. The yes/no exercise comes in very handy here! We describe your brand as if it has human characteristics. We can refine your exact personality. This shapes the types of visuals you’ll use (e.g., handmade, down-to-earth, bright and cheery, black and whites, industrial, etc.) and the tone of your brand voice (authoritative, direct, chatty, friendly, benevolent, etc.).
Finally, at the peak of the pyramid, we identify your intrinsic spirit. What is your brand’s essence? Its heart and its soul? Sometimes, it’s this intrinsic spirit that is found rooted in your slogans or as your key marketing messages.
3. Who would play your brand in a movie?
Next, we look at your brand’s attributes, values, persona and spirit to see if it resembles someone we know. Whether a celebrity, a fictional character or maybe the product inventor, we begin to think about the brand as this specific person. When we question our branding efforts, we’ll ask, ‘What would (this person) do?’
Suddenly, it becomes clearer how the brand should act. We can put together scents, visuals, sounds that relate to your brand’s movie star.
Now that we understand your brand…let’s dive into your audience. Have you developed buyer personas or an ideal customer profile? Who is this person? Sometimes, your buyer persona may reflect or resemble your brand persona…but not always.
Knowing the things your audience likes/dislikes and what motivates them to make purchase decisions will certainly aid us in crafting an experiential marketing strategy.
Research upfront will also greatly decrease any marketing misfires. With America’s growing diversity, marketers need to be aware of inclusivity and empathy in their brand experiences.
You may already know your consumer very well. If not, here are some market research practices we can put into play to help us learn more about her/him!
We’re fond of experiential marketing for promotion – and for research! Depending on the type of brand/product you have, creating an experience can be a great way to intercept your audience to learn more about them. For one, brand experiences put you one-to-one with consumers. This generates feedback and starts conversations at a more personal level.
Facial detection software also aids us in developing an audience profile. We can report sex, age, dwell time and emotional state of people who enter your store, interact with a product display or participate at a marketing activation.
The experience could be designed to gauge a user’s interest in a new product idea or to see if a product is user-friendly. Or, maybe the experience is created as a reward for answering a poll or for providing consumer data. Leveraging a brand experience as a value exchange could be beneficial in uncovering who your buyer is and what motivates him/her.
Experiences for market research could be activated in-store, through guerrilla marketing efforts, at trade shows, at events or by invitation-only.
Tried but true, surveys can be a cost-effective method to learning more about your audience (or the general public). There are many ways to deploy surveys. A brand ambassador team can engage people through guerrilla marketing efforts. Surveys can be emailed to an existing customer list, or we can rely on a panel of respondents that matches your target audience.
Surveys can be quick….or they can be very detailed. They can cover topics that range from brand awareness, consumer data, interests, lifestyle, competitor comparisons, product knowledge, positioning statements, content consumption and our favorite, types of experiences they enjoy, to name a few.
For surveys, we must define clear objectives, determine the best survey methodology, design the questionnaire to most effectively garner responses and collect those responses with statistical significance in mind. They can be insightful, especially if we need to gain general knowledge across a wider pool of respondents.
3. Focus Groups
For greater qualitative responses, we may consider a focus group. Focus groups can be diverse or can be a close representation of your buyer persona. Through individual or group interviews, we can gain a richer and more detailed understanding of the audience’s perspective.
Focus groups can be conducted in a number of ways. We can make it a very formal setting, more informal or even via web conference.
Sometimes a focus group occurs before a larger survey to help identify types of questions that should be posed on a larger scale. Data from both surveys and focus groups often work together to paint a picture of the buyer’s needs, wants and emotional responses.
4. Secondary research
A lot of marketers do research. So that means that there is a lot of research already out there. Sometimes, we can obtain all we need to know about certain audiences by reviewing existing research. We often rely on credible sources of secondary research to make knowledgeable assumptions about our audience, their interests, what motivates them and how they respond to various brand experiences.
5. Email and other content responses
You probably know more about your audience than you realize. What types of subject lines get the most opens? Do they prefer long-form copy or video? Do they respond better to discounts or added value? Which content pieces have higher consumption rates?
Every time you interact with your audience, you’re receiving feedback that can shape future decisions, including your experiential marketing.
Once – and only once – we are confident in the brand discovery phase will we move on to putting creative ideas together for you. It’s an injustice to you if we pitch anything beforehand. Once we do bring you some experiential marketing concepts, we’re already fairly certain they’ll be effective. If you’d like help with your brand discovery efforts, let’s get started!