Synthesizing your positioning research

In my last post, I shared some of the sources of data that you can use to inform your brand positioning. But once you’ve collected all of the information you can get your hands on, what do you do with it? In this post, I’ll share some tips for how to synthesize your brand positioning research so you can begin to draw some meaningful conclusions from it.

My advice? Get a room. No really, try to find a dedicated space inside your office where you can begin to hang materials on the wall, sort them into piles, and write up your ideas. The physical act of organizing materials often helps you draw connections between them.

You might want to create a wall like the one we created for the Red Hat brand inventory. Here’s a picture of it:

Consider hanging things by where they were created, or how old they are, or whatever other variables are important to you. You might want to reorganize them multiple times in different configurations to see if that gives you new ideas.

If you can’t afford the space or don’t want to create a big messy room, you can create the equivalent on your computer. Organize your research into folders, one folder for each of the four key questions. Make duplicate copies of or shortcuts to research that informs the answer to more than one question, and put one in each folder that applies.

Once you have all the research that informs the answer to each question in one place, it’s time to start doing some analysis. If you are like me, you aren’t starting from scratch, but have been beginning to analyze the data and information as you’ve collected it. But looking at all of the data at once will help you see it differently, making new connections and revealing things you might not have noticed before.

At this point, your goal is to synthesize all your sources of information into the clearest, simplest possible answers to the four key questions. Are the data points revealing common themes, ideas, or opportunities?

For example, say you own a bubblegum distributor. In your surveys and interviews with employees, it was clear that people strongly valued the playful culture of the company that makes work seem less like work. Employees indicated that this is a major reason they have stayed with the organization.

In your surveys and interviews with customers and other external communities, it is clear that this playfulness shines through to the outside world. One of the things people seem to like most about your bubblegum brand is how fun and playful it seems to them. A few people even indicated in their interviews that the company must be a creative and fun place to work and that spirit shines through.

In this case, you’ve found data supporting the idea that your external communities and your employees both respond well to the playfulness of the brand. Perhaps this is currently a part of your brand that you don’t highlight today. If so, it might be something that you’d want to consider highlighting more down the road. Even if you already know this is a brand strength, you now have the data to prove it. Playfulness can end up being a key point of difference for your brand.

By the time you’ve finished analyzing each of the four piles of data you’ve collected, you’ll be starting to draw some conclusions about how to answer the four key questions.

This is a great time to give yourself a three-part test:

1. Attempt to summarize the answer to each of the four questions in a paragraph of three sentences or less.
2. Once you’ve completed all four paragraphs, next attempt to summarize the answers to each question using only one sentence.
3. Finally, write down the five most important words that summarize the answer to each question.

If multiple people are analyzing the research together, have each person take the test separately and then compare and discuss your results. After you’ve completed the test, and perhaps encouraged others to do so as well, you’ll probably be closing in on a simple set of concepts that will form the basis for the next phase, in which you will actually develop the brand positioning.

One final step: take a blank copy of the four key questions chart (like the one below) and fill in your one-sentence answer to each question and the five words you chose.
Finally, don’t forget to collect some evidence you can use to support your answers. Are there key data points like the results of some of the survey questions? Perhaps you heard certain statements over and over. Or perhaps you have a particularly expressive customer or employee quote that summarizes a larger point.

You should collect the best evidence possible that supports the conclusions you’ve drawn because you’ll need good examples to use when you present your research results during the positioning workshop in the next phase.

This is the fifth in a series of posts drawn from the current draft of my new book The Ad-Free Brand, which will be released this month and is available for pre-sale now on Amazon.

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