A major part of differentiating a company involves developing its identity and personality. In order to accomplish this, companies must take a look at who their consumers are and what the company is selling to ensure the product meets the promise. Understanding the synergistic perceptions of a brand or concept in addition to a product experience can lead to better business decision making for both product design and messaging. A mismatch between the product experience and brand expectations can lead to challenges in product acceptability, liking, and ultimately a high failure rate of new market introductions.
To avoid a mismatch, companies must strive to have brand harmony in every aspect of the product pipeline. Active communication is necessary in every part of the product pipeline from
product ideation all the way to marketing and sales. Having strong alignment within the organization builds a cohesive message that speaks to consumers and is reinforced throughout the entire product experience.
Recognizing the need to discuss the strategies and implications of brand harmony, our VP of Research and Innovation, Michelle Niedziela PhD, sat down with Stacie Miller PhD, William Childs, Yuliya Strizhakova PhD, Christoph Kndusen, and Linda Flammer PhD in our latest addition to the HCD webinar series. We pulled some highlights of this conversation (including, but not limited to, how to address siloed work environments, ways to collaborate cross-functionally, and the importance of authenticity in order to achieve brand harmony) which are detailed below.
The Unintended Clash
Even during the introductions about being on either the brand or product development team, Linda Flammer PhD emphasized the value in breaking down silos. By operating entirely independently, the success criteria may differ and cause the messaging to convey a different sentiment than what the product was developed to achieve. She also sympathizes with both teams when trying to develop methods to predict market success because “most of the methods are not good.” Listen to Linda share one of her experiences where communication between marketing and R&D led to some struggles in a new line extension.
Stacie Miller PhD also recalled her past experiences where R&D had a hand-off to marketing, but all of the insights gleaned were from unbranded. This research still had valuable insights, but the findings can’t be assumed to remain consistent if repeated with branding. This furthers the need to discuss expectation matching not only for the consumer but for the various teams on the project as well. By communicating objectives and priorities upfront, everyone will have a better understanding about anticipated outcomes, thus guiding organizations to innovate and design accordingly. Stacie refers to this strategy as “having an anchor of expectations.”
Finding the team spirit- Can we break down the silos?
Recognizing a clear need for change, Yuliya Strizhakova PhD addresses how the messaging and product experience must have a unified vision. Yuliya calls out, “…fragmented media, with social media like TikTok, have people taking on a brand or taking a product, but if you have a consistent vision and message, it’s much harder to break.”
Linda adds how companies thrive when stakeholders in the organization team up around the product premise, which encourages psychological safety since the group wins or fails together. Stacie also brings up how important empathy within a team is to ensure constructive honesty. Christoph Knudsen furthers this notion by mentioning how teams must find a common ground, such as the emotional component, to test from both marketing and product development to reach brand harmony.
When it comes to finding a common ground, Will Childs gives an excellent example about how companies need to reflect on exactly what they are selling. “If I asked you what Harley-Davidson sold, and you told me motorcycles, I would say you’re wrong- they sell freedom. It’s a much bigger construct than just a bunch of parts that fit together with two wheels.”
How to know the company identity
Consumer feedback is necessary not only about the product itself but about the overall experience. Stacie contributes an interesting point about how the business strategy needs to be at the interception of determining company perceptions. Setting up future objectives for the company guides the strategy to evaluate gaps in perception, which then builds a research question and subsequently the tools that will best serve it.
A few tools were noted when trying to understand consumer perceptions. Nonverbal techniques, such as social listening and implicit measures, and more structured approaches, like focus groups, were mentioned for gaining useful feedback.
But how do you catch problems prior to launch? A big distinction, Michelle mentions, is that you can’t measure what you don’t test. The panelists agree that multimethod inputs from both qual and quant are informative, but each tool comes with its own limitations. So it really goes back to making sure there is a strategy in place for responding to an outcome since the time and moment do play a major role in how an ad or a statement can grow.
Keep it real
Christoph highlights how authenticity is a driving force behind brand harmony since company identity and personality are tied to certain stances. Consumers will challenge companies if they speak out on issues without taking notable action. Building an identity involves developing its core values, and those values must be upheld for the company to emulate trustworthiness.
The Future of Brand Harmony
So what does the future hold? Here are some thoughts about key components needed for brand harmony:
· The growth of search and voice: Be ready to answer questions about the brand that may be uncomfortable- consumers have access to companies like never before.
· Align silos: Organizations need to be on the same page. Transparency is a requirement for success.
· Consistency: There needs to be alignment within everything from the product to the brand to social issues.
· Simplicity: Have a short answer to one crucial question- what experience are you providing to consumers that they will not get anywhere else?
If you are interested in learning more about brand harmony, please watch the full webinar available on HCD’s YouTube page, or contact Allison Gutkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org for any other inquiries.