6 Signs Your Brand Positioning May Need Refreshing

Remember that pause on advertising back in the early days of the pandemic? To avoid sounding insensitive or tone-deaf, many brands stopped for a moment to rethink their messaging. What we didn’t know then was how long the ongoing health crisis would linger. Nor did we foresee the impact it would have on customer needs and expectations. Today, brand interactions, purchase decision criteria, and shopping behaviors have shifted across nearly every industry. As a result, customers are starting to think and feel differently about many of the brands they’ve known and trusted. This presents a unique point in time for companies to assess their brand positioning strategy more often and make sure it aligns with shifting customer expectations.

In the past, your brand positioning wasn’t something that needed to be tracked or frequently monitored. The events or situations prompting a change usually took place gradually, over a period of time. Although nothing was usual about 2020 and 2021, you may want to consider rethinking your brand more frequently to help identify potential challenges you may encounter in the future.  The time is always right for companies to check-in and listen to how their target audience is feeling about their brand, pandemic or not. Here are some signs that a brand refresh may be needed and a marketing research approach to help guide you through the process.

Signs Your Brand Positioning May Need Updating

Before rushing into a repositioning effort, it’s a good idea to step back and check for signs an update may be needed. These can include events happening in your industry or competitive landscape as well as unexpected shifts in performance metrics or your customer experience.

  1. Your industry is undergoing significant change due to economic conditions, new regulations, or other outside factors 
  2. Competitors are launching innovative products, technologies, or business models 
  3. New competitors have emerged threatening your market share 
  4. Declines in key metrics from brand tracking research like ad awareness, message recall, consideration, purchase interest, or brand perceptions are declining 
  5. The needs, expectations, or behaviors of your target audience are shifting 
  6. Sales in key segments or by markets are dipping

      Despite all the challenges, headwinds, and uncertainty companies faced over the past year one thing is certain: the importance of understanding how customers perceive your brand remains essential. Nothing replaces hearing from them firsthand and learning what’s needed to continue being their beacon and clearly stand apart from the competition.

      ~ Shelley Ahrens, Chief Customer Officer, The DRG

      Qualitative Research: A Time-Tested Approach for Brand Positioning Evaluations

      Your brand’s positioning exists in the mind of your target audience and is based largely on emotional and subjective brand associations. That makes qualitative research ideally suited to uncover the often-subconscious beliefs and attitudes they have about your brand and close competitors. Using projective techniques like storytelling, word associations, or brand personification makes it easier for people to share what they really think about your brand. A qualitative approach is also a great way to gather in-depth feedback on potential positioning directions. Those reactions will serve as valuable inspiration for refining communication messaging whether you move forward with a brand repositioning or not.

      That said, there can also be a role for quantitative research. Taking a hybrid qual/quant approach adds a greater level of confidence and helps key stakeholders make go-no-go decisions. Findings from quantitative feedback can also help internal teams buy into and support a refined positioning direction.

      Questions Brand Positioning Research Can Help Answer

      It’s helpful to keep in mind the objectives and intended use of your brand positioning research efforts to ensure you get the greatest value from the findings. Here are some questions your research should answer about your target audience:

      • Are their brand perceptions at odds with your intended positioning?  
      • Do they see little differentiation between competitive brand positionings and yours? 
      • Is there a need to strengthen your positioning by raising awareness of new products or services? 

      The insights uncovered from your research will provide valuable information and help guide your decisions on the next steps. That may include repositioning your brand, adjusting key messaging, refining marketing and advertising communications, or staying the course.

      The Time is Right to Check-In with Your Target Audience

      As companies reflect on the impact of the pandemic and all that has followed on consumer expectations, behaviors, and their overall brand experience, it seems reasonable to plan for more frequent evaluation of brand positioning from this time on. Try thinking about it from a customer’s perspective. As we continue dealing with uncertainty about the future, many people are taking a harder look at their spending and often reconsidering their brand choices. Ensuring your brand positioning remains relevant, builds trust, and stands out can help your audience feel more confident in choosing your brand over others. At the end of the day, responding to global changes has made it increasingly more apparent that industries simply cannot remain stagnant and that’s the ultimate goal of strong brand positioning.


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