Let Projective Techniques Reveal Your Brand Promise

Let Projective Techniques Reveal Your Brand Promise

To develop or refine your brand promise, you need to understand your brand from your customers’ perspective. Qualitative research is frequently used to uncover consumers’ brand perceptions, giving researchers a way to dig into deep-seated brand impressions that might not be accessible with a more direct inquiry approach.  Here are three commonly used projective techniques:

Brand Personification

Participants describe a brand as a human being, using demographics, consumer behavior, and social interactions.


  • Reveal subconscious perceptions and characteristics associated with the brand
  • Guide development of brand imagery and messaging
  • Understand perceived differences among brands within a competitive set

Picture Sort

Participants sort pictures representing a wide variety of topics, selecting those they believe best represent a brand.


  • Uncover common themes based on cultural associations with certain images, revealing consumers’ brand impressions

Mind Mapping

Participants create a ‘map,’ with a brand at the center, brainstorming associations with the brand which are added as words, phrases or images radiating around the center. Each layer of associations builds on the previous one.


  • Illustrate connections between different brand or product characteristics
  • Elicit brand impressions and experiences in a non-linear, organic manner
  • Stimulate thoughts and memories by building on the layers of impressions as they are being added
Projective techniques are very flexible and allow for a great deal of creativity when designing an exercise to best fit with a particular brand or product category. Here are some ways these techniques could be used in focus group or one-on-one interview settings.

Brand Personification: The Power of Storytelling

A social setting, like a party, can be used in a projective technique to reveal brand impressions that participants may be unaware they have or perhaps are too self-conscious to share. For example, participants could be asked to imagine a credit card brand invites them to a party and to then describe the setting. Details such as how guests are dressed, the food served, and the music played convey insights into participants’ perceptions of the brand’s values and personality.

Picture Sort: When Words Are Hard to Find

Conducting a picture sort of exercise, where participants are asked to select images that best represent their feelings about a brand, is another way to prompt a conversation about their impressions.  For example, in a discussion about power tools, participants could be asked to choose pictures that depict how they feel before, during, and after using the tool. The moderator probes to understand why they selected the pictures and how the images illustrate their feelings.

Mind Mapping: Exploring Possible Directions

Mind mapping is a great exercise to use when exploring the range of associations with a brand, both positive and negative. For instance, participants could be asked to create a mind map around their impressions of a restaurant brand. This could include mapping out the various reasons or occasions for visiting the restaurant, the different people joining them, favorite foods, memorable moments, pet peeves, and the emotions associated with each of these topic areas. The resulting mind map would identify a wide range of experiences in rich detail, which could be used to develop an authentic and relevant brand promise.

The value of using projective techniques lies in the way they help participants articulate their beliefs, emotions, and motivations surrounding the brands they use. The insights gained are particularly useful when developing or refining a brand promise, exploring points of differentiation between brands, and inspiring creative marketing communications. By tapping into the emotional drivers of consumers’ brand perceptions, projective techniques help reveal the essence of a brand in the customer’s mind.


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