For the past few years, HCD has been pushing the importance of Brand Harmony, the idea that the consumer product experience should match the marketing of that brand or product. The differences between effective and ineffective brand and product strategy show up when the rubber meets the road, in the minds of consumers. Basically, when the product experience does not meet the promises made in the marketing campaign, these incongruencies will affect the bottom line- purchase and repurchase.
While effective product testing, conducted by R&D teams, is done to check product performance (including hedonics and product properties), marketing KPI metrics focus on calls-to-action such as breakthrough, recall, and purchase intent. These concepts, however, do not necessarily align with one another. A stellar performing product can still fail in market without an effective campaign, and a successful campaign may not result in repurchase of the product if the product can’t perform.
From our experience, working for both the R&D product testing and marketing campaign testing teams, this misalignment is not uncommon. In fact, some estimate that 70% (or some would say 80%) new market introductions fail, and we think that the problem of Brand Harmony may be a major factor.
Marketing campaigns set a tone and establish expectations in consumers’ minds. Imagine an ad pushing that a drink is refreshing- cool, crisp-looking liquids splashing around with actors drinking it and exclaiming, “Ah!” When those expectations do not match the consumer experience with the product, in this case experiencing a flat, non-refreshing drink, consumers will feel dissatisfied no matter how great tasting the product is. And this dissatisfaction can impact both repurchase as well as word of mouth and reviews.
The problem driving this misalignment may also be related to how well these two research paths are run. Within companies, we often see that marketing and R&D teams work in silos. Further, research vendors typically package their capabilities along these siloed lines as well. Marketing tests messages, and R&D tests products, and the two rarely compare findings to confirm that brand promises and brand experiences are harmonious.
Brand Harmony integrates the brand, marketing, and product experience to synergize consumer emotional and perceptual responses. Creating seamless, cohesive consumer experiences and blending brand and product perceptions will generate harmony and balance. This holistic experience, matching brand perceptions to product perceptions and vice versa, increases consumer satisfaction and brand equity.
A focus on Brand Harmony can optimize consumer expectations and brand perceptions, yielding a greater rate of repurchase and spreading good reviews among prospects. In essence, the value of Brand Harmony is to ensure that the product meets the promise.
To help clients achieve Brand Harmony, research can combine explicit and implicit testing between branding and product perceptions to check for harmonization, where the product and the promise are congruent to campaign concepts and where customer experience and expectations are optimal.
Rather than conducting the branding and product testing research separately, we are suggesting executing holistic Brand Research, where the brand team can confirm that the product story and the product experience are consistent with campaign goals. This doesn’t mean lowering expectations of communications performance, but rather using powerful messaging to compel consumers to buy and repurchase because the experiences are consistent. This approach allows brand teams to identify common denominators to ensure Brand Harmony.
There isn’t an economically rational reason for separating the results of communications research and product testing. Intuitively, we want to break through and communicate and speak to the actual consumer experience.
Soon, HCD Research will be producing a webinar on this topic. In the meantime, if you would like more information, please reach out at email@example.com.