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We are a brand strategy firm with a unique perspective on how brands become great. We focus leadership on a profitable growth strategy via sustainable brand positioning that puts people back into the equation by aligning brand and customer values. Guided by social & cultural insight, we help you turn consumers into Customers. Our global experience with anthropology, ethnography, semiotics, and social media research informs each successful client outcome. We accomplish this through the application of cultural discovery and understanding to the most important challenges and opportunities facing brand and corporate leaders:

– Brand Positioning / Value Proposition
– Brand/Identity Strategy
– Decoding Customer Behavior
– Foundation or Social Cause Strategy
– Social Media Strategy
– Brand Advocacy Program Strategy
– Change Management / Stakeholder Strategy
– Due Diligence / Brand Status Review
– Advertising Effectiveness Strategy
– Pre-divestiture Value Proposition Development

Profitable and sustainable relationships between brand and customer are meaningful and exist on two separate but interrelated levels. The first is the level of cultural context which comprises the many ways that humans discover and communicate meaning in the world – it’s an aggregate of our experience, traditions and efforts. The tricky part about understanding cultural meaning today is gaining a clear view of how this meaning came into being in the first place. Understanding how cultural themes have developed into particular expressions of meaning is critical in order to properly position your brand within these existing ‘constellations’ of meaning.

The second level encompasses individual values. Personal meaning exists in our hearts and minds and manifests itself in our value systems. These personal values are shaped in part by the cultural context we mentioned above and we use them to judge our own ethical or ideological integrity. Some people refer to these values as a moral code because they inform how we personally assess everyone and everything in our world – including brands.

revised_solutionsBy understanding these values, we can predict how humans will act or respond when presented with certain stimuli – but perhaps more importantly it helps us to shape brand offerings to fit into their world in a meaningful way.

So, how do we get there from here? How do we get to a clear understanding of our customer’s value system in its cultural context? We do this through cultural research techniques that are rooted in or heavily influenced by Anthropology and Ethology. These processes include Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis, Semiotics, Ethnography, Cultural Synthesis, and Collaborative Strategic Workshops. Our methods and approach have proven their value, time after time, for many of the world’s leading brands. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, feel free to contact us.

 

A Process for Revealing Effective Brand Positioning Through Cultural Understanding

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Where Is Your Brand?
We provide a critical and objective point of view that takes into account the many historical and cultural realities that will inform any future dialogue with your brand’s Most Valuable Customer. We help leadership teams develop an objective perspective regarding the current status of their brand in its cultural context. To do so we identify, aggregate and analyze demographic, ethnographic, psychological, brand and categorical data from the past and present to reveal ‘resonance opportunities’ for the brand.

Who Matters Most?
We have a process for understanding which customers matter most for the sustainable health and growth of your brand. We help clients identify and define these customers in a quantifiable way. We call this customer the Most Valuable Customer (MVC) because if we design the brand’s products, services and communications with this person in mind, we can realize dramatic short-term improvements in profitability and long-term improvements in brand health.

What Matters To Them?
We research the cultural context in which the MVC lives and experiences the world. We identify and define belief systems through direct and intense personal immersion in as many aspects of the MVC’s world as possible. Utilizing techniques such as Semiotic Research, Ethnographic Interviews and Customer Immersions we connect the brand’s leadership with the actual worlds in which their customers live. Once this research foundation has been established we help clients to focus on their brand’s real value(s), its reason for being, its most important assets and equity, and – above all – the brand’s potential opportunities for cultural resonance. Throughout this process we take the perspective of the client’s Most Valuable Customers as the central point of orientation.

How Should You Adapt?
We help leadership teams to achieve perfect alignment between the value system of their brand and the value system of their customers. Values and principles that are shared between a brand and customer – amounting to cultural common denominators – should be the guiding factors for the development of all brand, offering, and communications touch-points. Resonant brands work with what’s already in memory and imagination, thereby promoting the recognition and acceptance of a brand’s core value(s). Brand experiences should fit effortlessly into how people are already remembering, thinking and acting.

How Can Improvements Be Maintained, Tracked & Refined?
Establishing resonant and sustainable brand positioning with effective projection of value that’s meaningful and relevant to the customer base is only the first step in an ongoing journey. Organizations face a number of challenges in maintaining finely-tuned positioning. On one hand, frequent changes in leadership and creative agency relationships sometimes make it difficult to pass the torch of awareness regarding important lessons learned. On the other, new brand leadership and new creative agencies tend to want to make an impression by shaking things up and doing something entirely new; while this has its place, it can be counterproductive if the newcomer fails to build on the foundations that have been carefully established while maintaining the core thrust of messaging. We can act as stewards to ease communications between leadership and creative teams, ensuring continuity of messaging and defense of core brand attributes. We are also able to create/implement brand tracking solutions that provide a quantitative basis for testing, validation and ongoing refinement of positioning and messaging.

 

In order to answer these central questions we apply a skill set that includes:

Quantitative Data Analysis

We have a very DIY approach to quantitative data analysis. We have the ability to field our own study, we can design and deploy as necessary to inform customer triangulation – but often this work has already been done and we just need to take a fresh look at the data. We marry demographic data with sales and transaction data, which is sometimes available from the client. If not, we attempt to obtain it from other primary sources. Our objective is to pinpoint a target from a socio-demographic perspective as well as to understand the net sales and transaction value to the organization.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Our foundational process for grounding ourselves with the brand(s) and culture(s) in question often requires us to analyze previously conducted primary qualitative research. We reexamine this existing work comprehensively, from methodology and screener to discussion guide, fieldwork, etc. with a view to maximizing insight. This allows us to identify and focus on the data most relevant to our development of cultural hypotheses.

Semiotics & Archetype Identification

Semiotics is the study of signs and their meaning. Our semiotic analysis involves identification of significant features of customer environments as a basis for non-arbitrary communication of brand value(s). Archetype identification is based on comparative semiotic findings combined with cultural research, yielding a clear picture of the governing conceptual models, dramatic narratives, and imagery active in the memory and imagination of the target group.

Ethnography & Field Research

The core purpose of ethnography as a research methodology is to gain insight into how other people live, think, communicate and experience the world. Our ethnographic work involves immersion in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time, observing what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions, and structuring or comparing the data we gather in order to generate non-arbitrary insight.  Our ethnographic work is often a critical aspect of our approach to understanding the customer’s values, principles, perceptions and motivations.

Competitor Assessment

Our approach to assessment of competition usually involves collating data provided by the client with information we uncover in analysis of secondary research. We often cross-reference this against findings from ethnography and other fieldwork in order to better ‘dimensionalize’ the competitors as a set, and related customer perceptions.

Leadership/Management Immersion

It’s common for leadership and senior management to become distant or disconnected from their customer constituency. In order to address this issue, we immerse client leadership and the broader management team(s) in the world of their customer through an inclusive research approach leading to presentation of our findings, including customer values and principles expressed in their own words and imagery, representative media and artifacts, and guided workshops/insight sessions.

Comparative Cultural Immersion

Multi- or transnational brands are often confronted with the challenge of communicating a relatively uniform group of brand values across a diverse range of cultures, each with its own distinct ethnic and linguistic sub-collectives. In order to most effectively answer this challenge we conduct primary and secondary research to identify points of commonality across this cultural range based on a comparative approach. We then work with the client in immersion sessions that help them to understand the points of difference – as well as commonalities – in order to most effectively communicate brand value(s) across all the markets served.

Insight & Strategy Sessions

Depending on the client’s goals, we design and facilitate purpose-built single- or multi-day  guided retreats in order to develop effective strategy or generate actionable insight involving the input of all stakeholders.

Brand Positioning

In order to take up the strongest possible position in the memory and imagination of their customer or constituent base, brands must communicate relevant value(s). We help our clients to do this based on our cultural insight and our methods of identifying (or clarifying) both brand and customer values in order to establish resonance.

Anchoring Memory (Institutional Culture)

Coming up with great ideas or break-through approaches to achieving goals is just the beginning. It’s also important to establish insight and innovation within institutions on a long-term basis in order to minimize ‘drift’ within the organization. In order to lay a strong foundation we help our clients to embody their best thinking in enduring forms that include mark culture, oral culture, written culture and material culture.

Contact us to learn more on how we can work together to solve your brand’s greatest challenges.