Brand is the personification of your association. Its purpose is to create an identity for your association that people can relate to. In the best of times, it is your biggest asset. In the worst of times, your biggest liability. The health of your brand functions just like personal health: it is vitally important and susceptible to neglect. To maintain a strong and powerful brand, it’s important to conduct regular research: not just a one-and-done brand tracker, but an ongoing commitment to measuring and tracking the health of your association.
To obtain and maintain a good pulse on your brand, your strategic research approach should include the following 3 health metrics:
1. Brand Awareness and Perception
Above all, brand research should uncover the current awareness levels generated by your association. Tracking aided and un-aided awareness will determine an initial baseline that you will leverage for all future brand research studies. In addition, it’s critical you get a pulse on how your awareness levels compare to those of your peers and competitors. For example, what difference is there in the perception of The National Society of Accountants and that of The American Accounting Association? Is there white space that can be leveraged, or needs that have not been met? Beyond awareness, how is your brand perceived? How are your competitors perceived?
Exploring consumer perceptions of your competitors as well as identifying unique positive associations with your brand will uncover the opportunities for your association to create a stronghold in the market.
2. Member Experience
Brand research should also provide intelligence around the role your organization plays in members’ lives. Traditionally, member journey mapping has been commissioned separately from brand trackers. It’s often viewed as a stand-alone study that delivers insights into the programs and processes a member interacts with throughout their relationship with an association. However, what is an association if not the programs you offer and your interactions with members? If you are committed to research to reveal insights for strategic planning, you must be committed to delving into the member experience in addition to your brand.
Staying in touch with your members’ real-world experience with your organization will allow you to innovate rather than react. You will uncover unmet needs faster and identify moments of truth in the member’s journey that are true opportunities to connect.
3. Emotional Engagement
In this day and age, with advances in behavioral economics and technology, we can uncover deep, emotional underpinnings of associations with your organization and category. We can understand what feelings your organization elicits from members – not just what they say they feel.
With methodologies like metaphor elicitation, facial coding and bio metrics becoming less expensive and more accessible, market researchers can tease out implicit feelings and attitudes for analysis, alongside the articulated emotions of a member or prospective member. With this new metric, we can uncover profound associative connections and attitudes that a member may not be able to verbalize on their own—adding depth and richness to our findings.
Brand research is a standard and critical component of market research. Whether you want to understand the impact of your marketing strategies, uncover new insights, or develop program innovations around unmet needs, it all starts with a fundamental understanding of your association’s role in its member’s life.
Staying in touch with your member’s perceptions and experiences will allow your organization to focus energy on the future and creating proactive growth strategies that align with your member’s needs.