In my work as a brand strategist and business consultant, I have one passionate mission - to help leadership teams truly listen to their audiences' beating hearts. And that means tuning into the rhythm of our customers, competitors, and, of course, their own company. This is essential for leaders who are looking at the growth opportunities before them and who are seeking to grasp them with both hands.
So, how do we forge a forward-thinking strategy that captivates hearts and secures the brand's spot in the competitive arena? This can only be done by listening. By unearthing key insights. And then we must use these insights to inform our strategy. In this post, we'll dive into the three key sources of insights that will pave the way to creating a successful positioning strategy for your brand.
Before we get into that though - "what is an insight" I hear you ask.
What are Insights?
My definition of a brand insight is:
"A revelation derived from the analysis of information that guides decisions"
Insights are not obvious observations. Merely stating the obvious does not provide any significant value to a brand strategy. They are also not personal opinions or subjective. They are not predictions based on gut. They are not assumptions. They are not simply data either. An insight seeks to understand why the data is the way it is. Insights should be gleaned from the data - thorough analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data-sets. An insight is the revelation of an idea or a change that is occurring or a belief that is held. A good insight is a revelation, an 'a-ha' moment that unveils a new perspective. It's the "Eureka!" that makes us see things differently, propelling a brand forward.
Good insights are based and grounded in data - but an insight goes beyond raw data. An insight often reveals something unexpected or counterintuitive. It connects the dots. It challenges preconceived notions and provides a fresh perspective that can lead to innovative solutions. And they should always be validated. A genuine insight is based on reliable and accurate sources. It has been thoroughly tested and verified to ensure its credibility.
I also believe a great insight should lead to action. It should lead to a practical recommendation that can be used to inform and guide strategic decisions. They should be relevant and contribute to helping to achieve a desired objective. It should spark and ignite creativity and shape a strategy.
For example. Lets imagine that through a detailed analysis of customer feedback and purchase patterns, it's revealed that a brand's target audience is shifting towards more sustainable and eco-friendly products. This insight might be surprising because the brand may have previously assumed that price was the primary driver of customer decisions. The insight would be that there is a trend in consumer decision making to choose friendly products over cheaper alternatives. As a result of this insight the brand can now create a strategy centred around promoting its eco-friendly initiatives and emphasising sustainability in its messaging and product offerings (in an authentic and genuine way of course 😉). It could also lead to more innovation knowing that price is not the key driver.
Another example of a brand insight might be that by analysing customer complaints and feedback, a brand identifies a recurring issue related to product packaging that causes inconvenience to consumers. This insight is actionable because it could prompt the brand to improve its packaging design, leading to a more positive customer experience and a reduction in complaints.
You don't always need tons of insights. One true, solid, strong insight can be all you need to shift the dial. The trick is often to know which insight to listen to and hone in on. Thats where good, brave leadership comes in.
Ok - so now we've defined an insight lets look at how we find them and how we can use them to fuel a solid brand positioning.
The most important source of insights is of course, customers. Without a customer you will have no business. In the ever-changing landscape of the global economy, customers reign supreme. They hold the keys to a brands success (and failure!), and so we must listen carefully to what they genuinely believe about the brand and it's offerings. Are we seen as a trusted ally or merely a faceless entity in their eyes?
But there's more to it than that. To conquer the market, we need to dig deeper. We must explore the essence of why they choose and buy from us. What drives their loyalty and devotion? What do they value about us? What can they get from us that they can't get elsewhere? Listening to customers isn't an option - it's an absolute strategic imperative.
In a crowded marketplace, 'blanding' (rather than branding!) in is a recipe for disaster. If we want our brand to stand tall amidst the competition, we must understand how that competition is positioning themselves. This takes desk research. It takes an understanding the alternatives customers have before them in the decision making.
By understanding this we can then consider if we should embrace the power of contrast. Of being distinctive. Of being different (if we can!).
We need to ask; What makes us different? What sets us apart?
A brilliant insight lies in finding competitors' blind spots and exploiting them. Where can we become available to customers where our competitors are not? Can we take their weaknesses and convert them into our strengths? In our messaging, in our availability, in our offerings? Once we identify these opportunities and actively look to resource activity towards them will our brand radiate like a beacon in the darkness of sameness. Only then will it stand for something. It will have something to say. This is a powerful. Because without being distinctive and different you will not be noticed. You will struggle to penetrate a market.
A brand without a soul is nothing more than a hollow shell. I must look within my own company to discover what truly defines us. "Authenticity" is a lovely buzz word but it is so important to be authentic.
Sometimes I find employees a rich source of insight. How they see the market. What the culture of the company is all about. If it's positive and powerful this can spill out into the way the brand positions itself.
The history of the brand. Why it was started. What was broken with the world and what the brand set out to fix. Its origins story. These are rich sources of insights to help to authentically the position the brand for the future.
But perhaps the most important source of insights is in the leadership team. What is their personal ambition. What brings them joy. What unites them. What is their goals and aims. Whats the vision? This is often the key to authentic brand building.
Without an aligned leadership team - rallying around a big idea and looking to create a dent in the universe a brand will fail.
Unveiling the Sweet Spot of brand positioning
Picture this: three circles, each representing the key sources of insights—customer desire, competitor positioning, and company truths.
Around your three circles is one over-all circle. This represents the "category" the brand is playing in - the market segment or industry in which the brand competes against similar brands offering similar things (e.g. "Electric Cars").
The three circles (Customers, Competitors and Company) all converge at one mesmerising point - this is the sweet spot of brand positioning.
Here, amidst the overlap, is where a powerful brand strategy comes to life. It's the crescendo of understanding the brand's customers, knowing its competition, and embracing the company's essence and ambition. It's the harmony of the insights. The idea which joins them all together. Each priority insight from the three key sources should fuel this positioning. This is the sweet spot.
It's the truth where we can begin to craft a powerful brand narrative that resonates with the brand's audience and sets it apart. Where it can be different. Distinctive. Powerful.
This is where you want to simplify your message into an idea. An idea shaped by powerful insights. It is upon this idea that you will successfully position your brand and fuel the growth that you know will come - because you've grounded this positioning on insights.
I'd like to share a fictional example - just so you can see how this works.
"Brand X" is a travel company specialising in adventure tours.
Brand X customers see the brand as a gateway to unforgettable experiences rather than just a tour provider. They appreciate the personalised touch and attention to detail in crafting their adventures, making them feel like intrepid explorers rather than just tourists. The emotional connection forged through these unique experiences builds deep loyalty, leading to a high percentage of repeat bookings.
Competitor Positioning Insight:
Competitors focus primarily on luxury travel or budget-friendly tours. There is a gap in the market for adventure enthusiasts seeking a middle ground.
Company Ambition Insight:
Brand X's leadership team is driven by a shared passion for exploration and environmental sustainability. Their ambition is not solely profit-driven but also focused on preserving the natural wonders they showcase. The company's culture fosters close-knit relationships among staff, ensuring seamless collaboration and fostering a genuine sense of camaraderie. The insight here is that this authenticity resonates with both customers and employees, fostering a strong brand identity built on trust.
Brand Positioning sweet spot:
Based on the key insights gathered, Brand X's strategic brand positioning is as follows
Big idea: "Awaken the inner adventurer"
Positioning: The ultimate adventure travel company that goes beyond sightseeing to offer intrepid explorers immersive journeys into uncharted territories. Unlike traditional tour providers, we craft personalised adventures that awaken the inner adventurer in each traveler, making them feel like pioneers blazing new trails. With a passion for preserving our planet's natural wonders, we tread lightly, leaving only footprints - but taking memories. Join us on a quest to embrace the uncharted, experience nature in all its glory and create stories that defy the ordinary.
You can see how that this positioning is fuelled by solid insights. It sets the brand appart from the competition. It's authentic to the ambitions of the leaders and culture of the business. Having something like this at the core of your brand strategy helps to align and rally a leadership team and the teams that sit under them - so that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Company routines, rewards, recognitions, innovations, product offerings, customer experience and employee experiences can be designed around it and be informed by it. It can help clarify decision making. It ensures the brand has something to say. This is how to build a brand.
So, as you continue to build your brand, I hope you'll appreciate the need for insights. Listen passionately, act boldly, and unleash the full potential of your brand by positioning it for your customer, against the competition and in company authenticity. Fuel your brand strategy with insights and land in your sweet spot.