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  • Michelle Niedziela, PhD

Brand Harmony

The idea of brand harmony or brand harmonization is not new. It’s the idea that there is importance in ensuring that all products within a particular brand portfolio have a consistent name, visual identity and, ideally, positioning across a number of geographic or product/service markets. When you are able to create a seamless and cohesive experience for the consumer, blending brand and product perceptions, you have created harmony and balance. Why are harmony and balance important in marketing? This holistic experience, matching brand perceptions to product perceptions and vice versa, increases consumer satisfaction and brand equity. When your product and brand work together to tell one compelling and integrated story, you have achieved brand harmony.

Does the product meet the promise?

The most powerful competitive advantage that your brand has is its unique personality. This is what sets you apart from your competitors and distinguishes your product to your consumer. Understanding the perceptions of your brand AND your products can provide for better business decision making when it comes to both product design and messaging.

This story highlights one of the many reasons it is important to have a distinct product profile. Having a distinct product profile gives the brand ownership space of the product. Maintaining your product profile helps consumer recognize and differentiate your brand from others, lending towards stronger brand loyalty and consumer connection.

But further, it is important to not only be able to identify and stick to your sensory profile or within your product signature, but also ensure that this product experience matches your branding or marketing message. Does the product experience match and meet the promises made in the marketing message? If improvements are made to the product or ingredients changed, will it still match the perceptions of the brand? If a new marketing campaign pushes a new direction for the brand, will the products still fit the bill?

This kind of brand and product harmonization, or checking for marketing/product alignment, is the essence of the work we do at HCD. In our product work, the goal is often just to differentiate the consumer experience among different prototypes and benchmarks. Sometimes, we also try to align these measured experiences with product concepts.

But we have found the approach most helpful to clients is when we not only measure the consumer reaction and/or experience to the product, but also to the brand. The findings have really helped us provide actionable insights to our clients for better business decisions.

In this example (above),we can see clear brand associations (classic, comforting, indulgent). We can also see clear differentiation in product experience (tasting) perceptions across the tested product prototypes. With this understanding, it is possible to ensure that the prototype chosen to move forward will also best match with the brand associations, creating a holistic experience for the consumer, as well as increasing consumer satisfaction.

Holistic marketing and consumer emotions

Much of marketing is about driving emotional connections between a brand and the consumer. Watch any car commercial and you will observe this. For example, see the video below:

Here you can see Volvo is pushing for the idea of “adventure” through marketing. A few questions that should be answered are: does this emotion match the sentiment that the brand itself evokes? Does this commercial change the perception of Volvo to be more associated with adventure? And even further, does the experience of driving a new Volvo elicit feelings of adventure?

In recent home fragrance commercials, you can see Glade Plug-Ins drive for emotions such as in the next video embedded below:

Fragrances are certainly associated and can evoke certain emotions. And when testing prototypes, there are usually several fragrance submissions for product developers to decide among. Does this fragrance elicit the intended emotional experience?

Further, it’s even possible to use such information to help substantiate product claims in marketing messages. We have helped clients show that their product can elicit emotional and physiological responses to match marketing messages as well as help clients uncover consumer reactions that can be used in marketing messages.

Easy to measure

Luckily, this is easy for us to measure. We can choose among a wide array of neuro-psychological measures to read the consumer perceptual and emotional experience. However, choosing the right test is very important. Different measures assess different things. And we like to ensure that whatever tool we use is the right tool for the research question. While this means our research is often customized for each client and research question, it also means that we are providing our clients with the best answer possible.

Associations and perceptions can be assessed through implicit reaction time testing. Consumers can experience sensory or product prototypes, and we can use implicit testing to determine the strength of association experienced among a set of descriptive attributes. These descriptive attributes can be product or emotionally driven words within a desired brand or product concept.

Psychophysiological measures can also be used to assess the product experience and provide sensitive measure of the consumer emotional experience. Data can be used to map the consumer emotional experience among various prototypes to ensure it is a fit to concept or meets specified action standards.

For more information on how HCD can help you to ensure your brand and products harmonize, please reach out to Allison Gutkowski (



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