A Blinding Flash of the Obvious


Very often when doing research and branding, the most difficult, meaningful fact or truth to uncover is that which is most obvious. In some cases we know too much and we have established opinions that can cloud pure discovery. We are at times, too close to our company, our products and each to “see clearly.”

A few years back Mr. Coffee was about to introduce a new product that brewed coffee in 3 mins versus the standard of 10 mins. At the last minute they found in focus groups that consumers strongly associated a longer brew time with better flavor, e.g., an oven versus a microwave. Additionally, they also felt that 3 mins was about the time their current coffeemaker took to brew (never timed it). It was back to the drawing board for this “revolutionary” machine. (We should have known this!)

We begin our branding process by collecting facts independently from any client interviews (they come later). You might say “ignorance is bliss” (link to this blog) from the beginning, eventually building a base of objective facts and assumptions before conducting a single interview. The method avoids being encumbered by our own opinions, and those of our clients, until the latter stages of the process when facts and human truths drive conclusions.

The Discovery process, a precursor to any interviewing, includes a thorough competitive analysis, a search of secondary information and highlights from the client’s sales.

Competitive Analysis
This includes all media and both direct and indirect competition. We are looking at tone, main message and brand positioning (if one exists). An end result is a simple competitive landscape map that depicts the client’s brand compared to competition for the macro dimensions that drive the category.

Secondary Information
Secondary information is comprised on all existing, relevant information that is available without cost. This includes previous primary research conducted by the client, market and customer trends, prognosis and competitive and channel overviews.

Sales Analyses
The scope varies from client-to-client and industry-to-industry. Internal sales analyses are used where appropriate to further discover and highlight market, customer and channel trends with the hard factual data from sales.

This exercise is completed by distilling results into a single page Facts & Assumptions document provided to all branding participants to form the basis of the discussions that will follow.

This process starts at the very, basic roots of the brand experience to bypass preconceived opinions and knowledge of we who “know too much.” Human truths cannot become clear unless we are looking for them. Instead of asking “why didn’t I think of that?” – let’s think about that.

Dave Morawski, Director Research, partner Legacy Branding, owner of Strategic Partners