Express your brand platform with the right words

23rd June 2010 | Posted in Branding

Do you have a set of words that you meaningfully associate with your brand? Do the words help you carve out a niche in the market? Do they really reflect your aims?

This is the thinking that we saw on “Mary, Queen of Shops” on UK television last night – using words to express the essence of a brand. Mary is a bit of a guru in the retail industry, and in this series she’s been helping owners to turn their failing small shops into more appealing and profitable enterprises.

In Mary’s case, she chose words to express the brand of a local greengrocer – fresh, local, less. These were words expressing the qualities of fruit and veg that would help the business carve out a niche in its continuing competition with the supermarkets.

According to the programme, Mary plucked these words out of the air, but market research firm BuzzBack has been looking more closely at the importance of aspirational words to describe a brand and communicate with customers.

In its research, BuzzBack chose to find out what the words “quality”, “luxury” and “indulgence” mean to consumers. The company wanted to go beyond simple wordy questionnaires, and used instead a range of online, image-based tools to get to the heart of what consumers really think and feel.

Overall, BuzzBack found that the terms, especially quality, are connected to a way of life, not just products and services. Perhaps that’s a finding that relates most strongly to consumers, rather than businesses, but there are plenty of clues for business leaders that there is more to learn about the significance of the words they use.

Here are just a few examples. By researching both US and UK markets, the firm found some interesting differences in the way the populations viewed the words. Indulgence, for example, had some negative connotations compared with the other two words, and more so in the UK than the USA.

Looking at quality, the research found that in the USA “American-made” is still a strong sign of quality. In the UK, only 20% of participants thought that UK-made was important.

Participants diverged as to the other words they would associate with quality. Some produced more adjectives, whilst others opted for actual products. Asked about electronics, for example, the brand Sony featured strongly on both sides of the Atlantic, while the word “reliable” was also a strong contender in the UK. Some categories showed clear winners – Kellogg’s in both the UK and the USA came out strongly. Other categories showed what BuzzBack calls “white space”, where there is opportunity to exploit a market that has no clear leader. This, I think, is what Mary was thinking of when she chose brand-defining words for the local greengrocers that the supermarkets couldn’t claim.

Interestingly, in some cases the associations with a word changed over time. When respondents were asked about the high quality items they owned, many mentioned computers, televisions, phones and laptops. Especially with computers, the quality of experience seems to matter. Consumers want their products to work over a long time, making durability and reliability key to the perception of a high-quality experience with a product.

Conclusion? Choose carefully words to associate with your brand that appeal to the market you want to reach, and use them effectively to carve out your niche.

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