A Recipe for Brand Bonding: Making Your Brand Meaningfully Different

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Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.

—Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

Great brands have a truly magical quality. In practical terms, a great brand provides a benefit that is relevant to their target audience, one that consumers believe meets their needs better than others in the competitive space, and at an acceptable value. When we think about meeting consumer’s needs, it’s important to understand the functional and emotional benefits, as well as that extra special something that makes a brand really stand out and connect with consumers, such that they are enthusiastically loyal, and happy to spread the word for these brands.

A Great Brand Is Meaningfully Different

Of course, that special sauce that allows brands to connect with consumers is often hard to pin down. So how can brands make a plan towards such an intangible goal? One way is to understand a brand’s Meaningful Difference, a brand quality coined by Kantar Millward Brown. They employ a framework to determine brand equity, which takes this phenomenon and breaks it down into measurable characteristics, giving marketers actionable consumer insights towards growing equity and brand value in the future. The Meaningfully Different Framework helps clients measure how their brand stacks up based on the following qualities:

  • Meaningful: The brand both delivers against functional needs and builds that emotional connection.
  • Different: It sets itself apart from the category by offering something others don’t, thereby setting trends ahead of its rivals.
  • Salient: It amplifies market impact via top of mind awareness.

Achieving the epitome of these brand characteristics is what makes for consumer loyalty and talk-ability. In other words, in order to attain the necessary relevance and bonding with consumers that fulfills these qualities, brands must gain further insight into how consumers feel when they buy or experience their brand.

Relevance & Bonding: What Makes a Brand Part of a Consumer’s Life

Let’s think about Relevance and the role it plays in building brand loyalty. Relevance is a compilation of everything consumers know about a brand, including its functional and emotional aspects, as well as how the brand fits with their lifestyle and values. Understanding a brand‘s relevance helps marketers and researchers understand whether or not consumers feel a brand is right for them personally and why. Based on Kantar Millward Brown’s BrandDynamics™ model, those who find a brand relevant are four times more likely to purchase it than those who don’t.

Bonding is what makes the consumer actually reach for the brand, even in low-involvement, commoditized categories. It can be helpful to think of bonding as the natural progression of relevance, as it occurs when a consumer finds a brand both relevant and able to better deliver on functional and intangible benefits than alternatives available. According to Kantar Millward Brown, those bonded with a brand are more than five times as likely to buy than those who simply consider it relevant.

Makes Sense, But How Do I Apply Market Research?

When consumers are asked why they use a brand, they often can’t articulate beyond product quality, appeal, price, or other conspicuous attributes; but we can still use both qualitative and quantitative research to get beyond their stated attitudes or behaviors to better understand relevance and bonding.

Qualitative research attempts to access motivations for bonding with projective exercises. Describing the brand as a person, celebrity, or even a car can bring out crucial, differentiating adjectives. Asking consumers to describe how they would talk about the brand to a friend can also garner insight. Meaningful difference often comes across when respondents tell you which friend they’d be most likely to share a recommendation with, as well as what they would say in their recommendation. Consumers may also articulate how they feel about the specific things a brand stands for, offering insightful brand perceptions and allowing researchers to infer what is important to them. To learn more about how to use projective techniques effectively and appropriately, check out this helpful eGuide.

Quantitative research should ideally also be aimed at uncovering consumers’ feelings. When thinking about stated attitudes and behaviors in a quant survey, asking for Purchase Intent before digging into other metrics helps to access consumer’s initial gut feel before they have too much time to rationalize their answer. Answering in this order gets a bit closer to the intangible magic of relevance and bonding that is so hard to measure. The embodiment of multiple factors, Purchase Intent can be validated through high data correlation with Relevance and Appeal, as well as other metrics such as Uniqueness and Value. Additional exercises can assess the brand’s competitive advantage over others and any drivers of emotional connection, further contributing to an understanding of the brand’s potential for bonding.

Kantar Millward Brown’s Meaningfully Different Framework is a holistic brand equity measurement meant to help brands figure out if they are unique trendsetters who manage to meet consumer needs and remain top of mind, by evaluating how relevant and bonded the brand is to its target audience. These insights may help your brand find that special connection that will make consumers view your brand as not just another good choice, but a great fit for them. To learn more about how our researchers use the knowledge of this framework in Pre-LinkNowTM, one of our qualitative advertising effectiveness solutions, take a look at the case study below.


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