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Branding in the Age of Social: Gaining Insight Through Research

by Eric Norman  |  
March 9, 2010

Know where you stand, where you're going––and what all that means.

Not since the Big Bang has there been a moment's peace in the universe, so it's a given that your organization, the environments in which you operate, and your constituents are in a sea of change and uncertainty. But before you undertake a new brand or communication strategy, you need to know where you are, where you want to go, how you might get there, and what might be in the way.

Do you have a clear picture of your organization's strengths and weaknesses, and of the opportunities and threats in the marketplace? Is your position vis-à-vis your competitors clear and compelling? Does anyone else in this vast universe know or care? What brand signals echo back from the noise in the social Web?

Making smart decisions requires a mix of information: a clear and objective understanding of your offerings' value; close monitoring of how your brand is perceived; analysis of your position; empathetic sense of your markets' needs, motivations and decisions; and, of course, a clear read on your leadership's vision.

Consider what a brand is. It's more than your name, logo, and tagline. While those are valuable brand assets, your brand resides in the minds and hearts of your current and prospective customers, partners, and recommenders. It's what you promise them and what they expect of you. Your brand helps people understand how you fit in the landscape of competitive alternatives, and informs decisions.

It is an inherently intangible thing, and can be assessed somewhat indirectly—through research.

To develop a clear picture of your brand, research in four dimensions is useful: quantitative and qualitative, internal and external.

Four Dimensions of Brand-Focused Research

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Eric Norman is a strategist at Sametz Blackstone Associates (, a Boston-based, brand-focused communications practice that integrates strategy, design, and digital media to help mission-driven organizations navigate change. Reach him via or 617-266-8577.

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