“Brand equity is a marketing term that describes a brand’s value. That value is determined by consumer perception of and experiences with the brand. If people think highly of a brand, it has positive brand equity. When a brand consistently under-delivers and disappoints to the point where people recommend that others avoid it, it has negative brand equity.” Brands represent valuable pieces of legal property that are capable of influencing the behaviors of customers, providing the security of retaining future revenue, and being bought and sold, which is valuable to the owner. These various benefits of a brand contribute directly and indirectly to its brand equity.
Brand equity tends to be measured by the value of the product’s features and price when including a brand name; however, there are indirect approaches to measuring a brand’s equity by assessing potential sources such as brand knowledge and consumer mindset. This allows the marketer to identify ways in which the brand knowledge may cause a differential response, thus affecting the brand equity. Multiple memory measures, aided and unaided, are employed to capture the multiple aspects of brand knowledge to test brand recognition and recall due to the multi-dimensional nature of brand knowledge. This article will discuss the qualitative research techniques employed to highlight brand associations and sources of brand equity.
1. Free Association – The most powerful way to profile brand associations, is by investigating what comes to the mind of the consumer when they think about the brand or the associated product category. This investigation is done without any specific probe or consumer narrate to help form a rough mental map for the brand. The results of this investigation indicates the favorability, uniqueness and relative strength of brand associations (e.g., “What comes to mind when you think of Elemis skincare products?” or “What does Elemis mean to you?”)
2. Projective Technique – In situations where consumers are unwilling or unable to express themselves, diagnostic tools (completion and interpretation tasks, archetypes, and comparison tasks) to uncover their opinions and feelings are employed by presenting them with ambiguous stimuli to make sense of and record their responses.
3. Ethnographic and Observational Approaches – Data gathered by participant observation. Consumers are unobtrusively observed shopping for and consuming products to ascertain and interpret the cultural meaning of these events and their activities. Proctor & Gamble is an example of a company that utilizes ethnographic and observational approaches by spending time with consumers in their homes to see how products are used and experienced with their permission.
It is of extreme importance for marketers to understand the mind of the consumers and also their level of brand knowledge as it allows marketers to utilize that data to formulate marketing communication strategies. Being able to measure the effect of marketing programs on changing customer buying habits is crucial. Qualitative research techniques are designed to understand the source of brand equity from the consumer’s perspective and designed to bring out true feelings towards the brand.