Sonar acquires Preely. A new era of consumer insights awaits.

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Sonar acquires Preely

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Master Brand Perception: The Power of Consumer Narratives

Brand perception is not just a buzzword in the marketing world—it’s a critical element that shapes consumer behaviour and decision-making. The way consumers perceive your brand affects their trust, loyalty, and purchasing decisions.

Yet, mastering brand perception is not much of a joy ride. Most of the time, marketers and brand professionals will flat-out ignore it and focus only on brand identity – much to their loss, really.

In fact, the clash between your brand identity (a.k.a. how you would like to sound) and consumer brand perception (a.k.a. how your consumers hear you) can only morph into messaging mismatches, which will only frustrate your communication efforts.

So, how do you focus on and master consumer brand perception? In this blog post, we’ll show you how understanding your consumers through their narratives will help you discover, master, and influence their perception of your brand.

So…What Is Brand Perception?

In short, brand perception refers to how the outside world views and interprets your brand. It encompasses your consumers’ beliefs, attitudes, and impressions of a company, product, or service.

Brand perception is instrumental in shaping consumer behaviour in decision-making. Indeed, positive brand perception builds trust, loyalty, and consumer advocacy.

Think about it: don’t you have that one brand that, for your own reasons, you’re inexplicably loyal and attracted to? It may be a specific snack whose flavour elicits childhood memories, or a clothing brand that instantly makes you feel fashionable.

This leads to a key challenge: while companies may have one brand identity, they can have as many brand perceptions as they have consumers.

Circling back to our prior example, your favourite snack may be seen as unhealthy by others; your top-choice clothing brand as cheap or distasteful. And yet, both you and the rest of the world are exposed to the same brand!

How Do You Influence Brand Perception?

As a marketer or a brand professional, it’s your role to choose what consumers you want to appeal to most, and how to influence their perception with your messaging. And the most traditional influencing tools you are going to use are:

  • Branded promotion. Brand messaging and advertising play a significant role in how consumers perceive a brand.
  • Customer experience. Interactions between consumers and the company at every step of the journey reflect the brand and values of the company. For instance, your customer service, website, or physical stores can shape brand perception.
  • Online presence. Social media, review platforms, and online communities contribute to how a brand is perceived.

Yet, using these levers without understanding your customers is like shooting at a target blindfolded: you may have the fanciest and most efficient gun out there, but your chances of hitting the bullseye are slim.

To get to the bottom of consumer understanding and put your influencing levers to good use, you’ve got to gather deep and meaningful consumer insights. And one effective way to do that is via consumer narratives.

The Key to Perfect Brand Perception: Consumer Narratives

Consumer narratives are the stories and experiences that consumers share about their interactions with a brand. They hold tremendous importance because they offer unique insights into how consumers perceive your brand.

By capturing and analyzing consumer narratives, businesses gain a deeper understanding of their target audience, their needs, and how they perceive their brand.

Qualitative consumer research, like unmoderated and moderated interviews, is perfect to help you collect your consumers’ stories. Ask your consumers to open up and share their stories on video: you’ll end up with a trove of deep, qualitative data you can use to understand how they see you and your brand.

In turn, you can use their insights to shape your branded promotion, consumer experience or online presence.

At Sonar, we have spent the past four years building a proprietary AI-powered platform to help you do just that, with no qualitative research experience required. In simple terms, we have built an AI that has learned to code and structure information and emotions provided in video interviews into actionable insights.

This means that when our platform has captured video of, for example, 15 participants delivering interviews based on a designed study for brand perception, our AI will turn these interviews into structured data and clear, actionable insights within minutes. This task would normally take hours upon hours of work by experts listening to and analyzing the data. If you want to learn more, you can book a demo here.

How to Master Consumer Narratives: a Case Story

Consumer narratives provide a wealth of information that businesses can use to uncover and improve the way consumers see your brand. By condensing individual stories into key themes, you can spot the common emotional drivers and produce actionable, contextualised insights.

But enough theory. Let’s see how EPOS used consumer insights to realign its brand efforts. The Danish Computer and Electronics Manufacturer used stories from its gaming audience to learn how its brand was perceived by gamers worldwide. It also learnt how it stacked against other popular gaming brands in terms of quality, prestige, reliability and gaming relevance.

By hearing stories from its audience, EPOS discovered how to refine its multimedia communication, the venues where it could promote its brand more aggressively, where gamers spent most of their time using its products, and why. You can read more about this story here.

Wrapping Up…

Understanding brand perception is vital for businesses to establish strong connections with their target audience. Consumer narratives serve as a powerful tool in uncovering these perceptions, allowing businesses to make informed decisions to enhance their brand reputation.

As a marketing or brand professional you must embrace consumer narratives to influence brand perception effectively. So, listen to your consumers’ stories, analyse their experiences, and use these insights to shape your brand strategy. As a result, you will improve your brand’s position, attract loyal customers, and ultimately drive business success.

Eye-Rolls into Eyeballs: Why Is My Campaign Not Performing?

Hundreds of work hours. Weeks of preparation. Alignment meetings, timelines, kanbans and all kinds of charts imaginable. Glossy agencies. Internal debates. Spotless ads with copy so crisp it teethers on Japanese Haiku symmetry. And the budget, BOY the budget. And for what? A fast-sinking campaign, a handful of sh***y leads, and zero conversions to show. But hey, those banners sure looked pretty!

The frustration is real. You look around, wondering what you missed. Was it the poor design? The insufficient data crunch? The wrong GTM strategy? Or worse: the product itself? In short, why are your campaigns not performing, despite all your efforts – or better still, how can you make them work?

If you have ever found yourself in this situation, you’re not alone. The frustration of pouring countless hours and resources into a campaign, only to watch it fall flat. The feeling of being lost in a sea of data and analytics, trying to make sense of what went wrong. We get it.

But here’s the thing: the answer to these problems may be simpler than you think. In this article, we’ll share our take on what you can do to boost your next marketing campaigns (spoiler: it will involve your consumers).

The Changing Landscape of Marketing Campaigns

Let’s start with the usual suspects: our potential customers. In the Mad Men days of marketing, we could neatly categorize them into “Marketing Personas” based on their demographics or trust our gut feelings, because “We KnOw HoW pEoPlE wOrK”. But guess what? Those people, your consumers, are no longer cardboard cutouts.

Today’s consumers have evolved, and so have their preferences and behaviours. They’re savvier, more nuanced, more sceptical, and bombarded by thousands of ads (between 4,000 and 10,000 every day, according to a recent study). So, if you think your soulless high-budget campaign with the influencer of the hour is going to make them buy whatever you throw at them (we’re looking at you, Pepsi), think again.

Capturing the attention of your target audience is the first challenge you’re going to face, and dangling some shiny ads in front of them like a bunch of kids high on sugar is not going to cut it. You need to talk their language and, most importantly, understand what needs, pains and values make them tick and why.

In short, you need to do your research homework.

Quantitative Insights: Are They Enough?

Now, don’t get us wrong. Quantitative analysis and A/B testing are essential to understanding your audience, creating better ads, and improving your marketing game. As any good Growth Marketing person would tell you, hard numerical data provides creatives with valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. But here’s the kicker: hard data can only tell part of the story.

So, let’s break down the tools any good campaign slinger should have in his/her holster… and explain why they’re still not enough.

  • Quantitative Analytics Tools. Digital performance marketing tools like GA, Google Ads, LinkedIn Campaign Manager or Meta for Business can tell you how your digital campaign is going, which ads work, and which dont’s.
  • A/B Testing. Want to see how different ads, landing pages, CTA or other marketing collateral would work against one another? A/B testing helps you learn what elements and optimizations impact user behaviour the most.
  • Quantitative Survey Tools. Ever used heat mapping, polls and countless other quantitative testing techniques to have a finger on your campaign pulse? Quantitative survey tools are instrumental in exploring consumer behaviour, defining user journeys, and building amazing customer experiences.

Now, would you say a mix of these is enough for your campaigns to succeed? Think about it: have you learnt why your audience prefers certain ads over others, or why certain elements work better on your landing pages? Have you discovered the reason why they are/are not attracted by your messages? Best case, you have barely enough insights to make an educated guess. So, what are you missing? In case you haven’t paid attention to our not-so-subtle word spamming, you are missing the why.

Enter qualitative consumer insights.

The Missing Link: Qualitative Consumer Insights

Here’s the key that will transform those campaign eye-rolls into eyeballs: qualitative consumer insights. These insights are extracted by observing your audience interact with your campaign ideas, concepts and assets and by hearing their outloud comments and observations.

Qualitative insights are key to understanding the motivations behind your consumer’s pains, needs, and behaviours. By mixing them with your traditional quant-driven consumer research portfolio, they will help you plunge deep into the minds of your target audience.

Getting these insights is instrumental in sparking new ideas, influencing or validating existing campaigns, or learning how to improve future ones. In business terms, qualitative insights will convert into sharper marketing campaigns, shorter development time, fewer internal debates, and higher customer conversion rates.

The Fault(s) in Traditional Consumer Insights

Now, you may be thinking, “Great! But traditional qualitative studies like focus groups take forever and cost an arm and a leg.” And you would be right but for one small detail! Traditional qualitative research is indeed slow, expensive, and requires a whole team of experts to navigate through its complex process.

However, the rise of AI in consumer insights and AI-powered insights providers has democratised access to qualitative insights, making them cheaper to acquire, faster to produce, and more understandable to a non-expert eye. We’ve written a separate article on this topic, which you should definitely check out!

Speaking of which, at Sonar, we have spent the past four years building a proprietary generative AI. The key to its success is a digitalised dataset of 100,000 qualitative studies that we have conducted in the past 10 years. Our data is proprietary, meaning that companies do not have to worry about open-source sharing of their data, which has proven to be a big discussion point for big enterprises when it comes to using AI. Want to learn more? Book a demo here.

With the no-small caveats of time and cost solved, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions: When can you add consumer insights in your campaign development process, and how often should you lean on your audience feedback?

Insights: Not Just a Late Validation Tool

Contrary to popular belief (and, unfortunately, to what some insights platforms claim), qualitative consumer insights should not be used just as a last-minute validation tool, and for two reasons.

  1. Sheer convenience. Picture this: you have created your marketing campaign, worked long and hard on your assets, and are ready to push the “publish” button. Granted, bringing in your audience at this stage can get you some validation, but what if your campaign is completely off? That’s your time and money down the drain…Circling back to our Pepsi example, here’s one brilliant SNL skit showing how NOT to gather consumer insights at the 11th hour.
  2. Wasted potential. Qualitative insights have the power to spark new ideas by uncovering unique perspectives that fuel innovative strategies and captivating campaigns. Furthermore, insights can influence existing marketing ideas, refining messaging and design as they are under development. Finally, they can validate marketing collateral throughout development, ensuring messaging is impactful and resonates with your target audience, and giving you full confidence as you iterate them.

Insights: More Than a One-Off Gig

How often should you rely on your consumers for feedback? According to Forresterinsights-driven businesses with advanced capabilities are 8.5 times more likely than their beginner counterparts to report annual revenue growth of 20% or more (24% vs. 3%).

Does this mean “Test everything, just for the sake of testing”? No! Rather, it means you should be strategic in the way you test. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your qualitative testing efforts.

  • Start high, and get down to details later. Why test a single ad of an already defined marketing campaign, when you could test your whole campaign concept early on? The earlier you test high-level concepts, the more likely you are to spot misalignments between your marketing campaign and your consumers. This enables you to validate/influence/correct your entire campaign; not just one collateral.
  • Test. Iterate. Repeat. Testing once will help you, but true insights magic sparks when you adopt an iterative approach to slowly fine-tune your campaign until it rings true with your audience.
  • Create an enterprise-wide consumer understanding. Don’t keep your consumer insights siloed within your team, or your consumer understanding journey may be short-lived. When you have insights from your target audience – especially if captured on video – you must share them across teams, your boss, and your boss’s boss. This will help them see your consumers, hear their thoughts, and create a real customer-centric company culture.

Wrapping Up…

The world of advertising is ever-changing, but you don’t have to drown in frustration. By embracing consumer insights and adopting a fresh, down-to-earth approach to ad creation, you can turn those eye-rolls into eyeballs.

So, if your campaigns are leaving you puzzled, it’s time to embrace the power of consumer understanding. By leveraging qualitative insights and integrating them into your quantitative marker research efforts, you can elevate your campaigns, capture your audience’s attention, and steer your brand towards lasting success. Remember, true marketing magic happens when we truly listen to our customers and let their insights guide our journey to excellence.

How Maersk Used Insights to Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns

“Our audience is exposed to huge amounts of content. Each day they typically scroll around 90 metres on their phones and see two and half thousand advertisements. So we need to create something that’s going to stand out, that tells our story”

Dominic Pope, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Maersk.

Dominic has been with the company for four and a half years. During that time, one of the main marketing focuses has been the repositioning of the global brand of Maersk. In that transition, Sonar played a significant role.

The transition started in 2019 when Maersk decided to not only focus on ocean shipping but become an end-to-end logistic partner for their B2B customers.

We needed some insight into our customers’ views on what logistics is and what it means within their organisation. We wanted to validate what they like and engage with and if they understood the core message of our communications. We did that in order to create these large brand campaigns that could tap in and really form an emotional connection with them.”

Essential insights from different markets

It has been a challenge for the marketing team at Maersk to cut through to their audience in a competitive media landscape. Their approach was to push boundaries and create content that intrigues and interests people. But they needed to validate their content, and they needed validation from a global audience.

“We are a global company, and Sonar allows us to test globally. This gives us the ability to target specific people from our customer segments and show them our creative output and use their reactions to understand them”

With the help of Sonar, Maersk has received customer insights from different markets and industries around the globe. These tests have informed them that although some things might work in one market, they may not produce the expected reactions in another.

The understanding and feedback we get are really rich data for us. We use it to tweak the creative and make changes or even go back to the drawing board entirely. It gives us the assurance that we are developing something that will really connect”

Validation is critical when investing in large campaigns

When Maersk is creating a global marketing campaign, they invest large budgets and want to get an indication of the reception. So in 2020, they released a campaign film called “Disconnected”.

However, as they were developing it they were balancing between making it mysterious and compelling but also more complex.

“The story is quite complicated. It is about these people in a different world of logistics and how they are all connected. Would it really stand out or not? We used Sonar to validate that. Our segment really understood and appreciated it taking away our message,” says Dominic Pope.

The social media benchmarks confirmed this. The campaign scored within the top 5% overall. In addition, when Maersk released the film into the market, it achieved over 150 million views globally.”

“The work with Sonar really helped us in achieving these fantastic results ” Pope emphasises.

The insights deliver a more profound understanding

Maersk is highly focused on being a customer-centric organisation. To improve the delivery of their customer’s needs, Sonar has been a vital partner in providing in-depth insights.

There is a very fast turnaround, which is vitally important to us because we need to be able to understand whether something is ready, needs a rewrite or isn’t going to work at all”

For Dominic and his team, Sonar delivers analysed and organised data from their target audience, for example, whilst testing a film for a campaign. He highlights the quantitative amount as a useful barometer. But it is not the most critical part.

Those insights present us with a really deep dive into the data. The level of understanding we receive tells us how people feel about certain things. So it is the qualitative that gives an important understanding of whether a project is going to present a challenge.”

Sonar’s understanding of their business and what Maersk is trying to achieve has Dominic Pope describing their relationship as “so much more than a service provider relationship.”

For Dominic, these insights are the cornerstone of their work.

“A campaign is nothing without insights as a foundation. That is everything. You can do the best creative work in the world, but if it doesn’t create a connection with your customer, it will not resonate. It’s not going to drive your business,” concludes Dominic Pope.