I’m often asked to consult on the design and analysis of brand evaluations to ensure correct conclusions can be drawn about client and competitor brands. I’m called on for this because marketers need to know what their brands mean in the mind of consumers, how their marketing efforts are shaping that meaning and how well that meaning differentiates the client brand from others in the category. Accordingly, consumer perceptions of brands can be a critical component of many research studies.
I thought I would take some time to share some special considerations for your next study involving brand perceptions and associations.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for questionnaire design:
- When using rating scales, ideally all assigned brands will be evaluated on a single attribute before moving to the next attribute. This minimizes the impact of brand halo, providing better differentiation, and has the added benefit of being faster to complete, especially in interviewer-administered surveys.
- A respondent can probably only assess 2-5 brands, depending on the number of attributes, without becoming bored or fatigued. A good rule of thumb is no more than five minutes allocated to this type of exercise. The format for capturing brand associations can make a difference, with rating scales taking longer than check-lists or grids but providing more discriminating results.
- Study objectives should drive decisions about who is qualified to rate a brand. If brand image in the general market is of primary concern, each brand should be rated by anyone familiar with the brand, but not by those merely aware (consumers who had “heard of” the brand will have high-levels of non-response (i.e., “Don’t Know”) and poor-quality answers on the items that they do rate). If the attributes are experience-driven customer-satisfaction types of items, respondents should only rate brands they have actually used.
- The client may want a larger base size of ratings for their own brand (to allow for subgroup analyses). This may be achieved by having all qualified respondents rate the client’s brand or by adding an augment. You may need to expand sample size (or shorten the list of competitors) to obtain stronger base sizes.
- The competitor brands to be rated can be selected on the basis of several different criteria which should reflect study objectives.
- You may want to ensure that every respondent rates their most-often-used brand (if not the client brand).
- If doing derived importance analysis is a key deliverable, you will want to maximize the variability in ratings by having people also rate a brand they don’t use.
- If different categories or classes of competitors are to be rated, you may want to ensure that respondents rate one of each type.
- If small players are analytically important readable bases may be hard to obtain with simple random assignment, yet “most-needed” assignment rules can be dangerous (more on that in a future post), so the safest bet is to reserve one rating slot for a large brand and one for a small brand and randomly select within those sets of brands.
Some of these assignment rules have implications for weighting and analysis, which I will review in my next blog.