Awareness and Image Studies
Companies use aided and unaided awareness, image and branding marketing research studies to gauge the extent to which consumers are familiar with and have positive opinions about their products or services. In many industries, companies with the highest awareness levels also capture the largest market share.
What Is Awareness?
Awareness level measures whether consumers know about and are familiar with a company, organization, product, or service.
Unaided awareness is the extent to which consumers think of a company or product on a top-of-mind basis. For example, we might ask, “When you think of companies that provide these kinds of products, which first come to mind?”
Aided awareness is the extent to which consumers who know about a company or product are familiar with that company or product. For example, we might ask, “How familiar are you with this company? Would you say you are very familiar, somewhat familiar, or not familiar?”
What Is Brand Image?
Brand Image includes the totality of consumers’ opinions about, experiences with, and attitudes toward a company or organization and their brand as compared with that of competitors. Market Street Research often measures a company’s brand image by asking consumers, decision-makers, or key markets to rate the company and its competitors on factors they consider important, such as:
- Overall reputation
- Quality and appeal of products or services
- Convenience (location, hours, etc.)
- Sales and marketing effectiveness
- Customer service
- Resolution of problems and complaints
How Are Awareness and Brand Image Measured?
Market Street Research uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative market research methods to measure awareness and brand image. For example, we might begin with focus groups or one-on-one interviews with key decision-makers to identify important factors within a particular market that may influence whether people are familiar with a company or organization, how they decide which product or service they will purchase or use, and the emotional and rational components of the brands of the major competitors in the industry.
We then use qualitative research results to design and conduct representative quantitative research surveys – most frequently telephone surveys – within our clients’ current geographic market areas to determine with a high degree of accuracy how well-known our clients brands are and how people perceive them as compared with competitors. We might limit the survey to our clients’ existing markets, or include potential markets, giving our clients a good sense of the resources they may need and the steps they must take to effectively enter new markets.
Regardless of industry, companies and organizations use awareness, and brand image marketing research studies to inform their key operational and marketing decisions. Our clients use our results to guide decisions about overall mission, current and future goals, staffing, product and service design, delivery means, and marketing, communications, and public relations efforts.
What is Benchmarking? Benchmarking is following up an image, awareness and preference study with an identical or similar research effort after some predetermined interval to measure any changes in awareness and image that have occurred since the last study was performed.
Typically, organizations conduct benchmarking studies at intervals of between 18 and 24 months, depending on the nature of the business, the rapidity of changes in the operational environment, competitive forces, or any crisis or other issue that the organization has experienced that may have affected perception of the organization in the minds of its constituents, customers, prospects or internal staff.
The benefits of benchmarking are many. Primarily, benchmarking is a tool that is used to measure the efficacy of an organization’s marketing, communications and advertising efforts and, as is the rationale for most image and awareness studies, to identify areas of opportunity and inform the development of ongoing strategic, operational or marketing-oriented initiatives geared towards taking advantage of the highlighted opportunities.
Rationale For Conducting Image & Awareness Benchmarking Research After a Crisis and/or Negative Press Coverage
An organization faces a number of challenges after experiencing a crisis or when confronted with negative press coverage. Certainly, these challenges have much to do with confronting the cause of the crisis or the negative exposure itself. However, the challenges also extend to managing the attitudes of all the organization’s constituents. For example, in the case of a hospital, these constituents include both the residents of the area the organization serves, as these are the hospital’s source of future revenue, as well as the doctors and staff of the hospital, as these are the individuals who serve as the gatekeepers and chief ambassadors of the hospital’s brand in the community.
In order to confront the effect of a crisis or negative press coverage in terms of its affect on the image the organization’s constituents have of the organization, the organization must first gain a scientifically accurate understanding of the impact via market research so as to know the nature and extent of the impact, if any. Armed with this information, the organization can then take appropriate actions in terms of shaping its internal and external communications and marketing efforts in a targeted manner so as to prevent any further damage to the organization’s image and allay any concerns of its employees, partners or internal resources. This messaging can contain information about what actions the organization is taking to ensure that, moving forward, the issues that precipitated the crisis or negative coverage will be dealt with. These communications will be directly informed by its constituents in terms of the specific information contained, and in the nuances of language used, so as to maximize its effectiveness.
The most effective means for conducting this scientific assessment of constituent’s image of the organization is by utilizing quantitative marketing research in the form of a representative telephone survey. In the best case scenario, an organizations will have been in the practice of conducting this type of image and awareness research on a regular basis so as to provide a baseline upon which to benchmark any changes in attitudes that may have been affected by the recent issues the organization is dealing with. In this case, a survey instrument can be developed that both assesses the awareness of the recent issues among the organization’s constituents and then measure the effect, if any, of this awareness on the aspects of image that were addressed in the previous study(ies).
The benefits of conducting this type of benchmarking assessment are multi-fold. First, if the research shows that there is indeed a problem (in terms of a negative effect the recent issues have had on the organization’s image), the organization will have a road map for how to shape its internal and external communications to most effectively combat this affect. Second, the act of conducting the survey will indicate to its staff, partners and other resources that the organization is taking their concerns seriously and is just as seriously taking steps to address them. Additionally, the benchmarking effort itself can become a tool upon which to measure the efficacy of the organization’s efforts to combat any slide in its image by forming the baseline in future efforts to again measure its image and awareness among its constituents.
The alternative to utilizing survey-based market research when confronting issues such as recent crisis or negative media coverage is to use the gut-based marketing approach that is often informed by fear and individual leadership’s emotional attachment to the organization under fire. This approach is, by nature, hit-or-miss. In fact, if it turns out that there has been no significantly negative impact of recent issues and press coverage, a misguided gut-based approach can run the risk of creating a problem rather than solving one.
Market Street Research has a particular strength in conducting awareness and image studies for hospitals and health systems in which we analyze the experiences, opinions and preferences of residents in a hospital’s or health system’s market areas, segment residents based on that analysis, and assess that hospital’s competitive position in the marketplace. Learn more about our expertise conducting image and awareness studies in the field of healthcare marketing research.
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