Sociology for brand research. Why is it important, and how to avoid making a mistake with the method of research?

Do brands need sociology? Definitely yes. No matter how well your business develops, understanding who uses your services/products and why will help you make better decisions and invest your money in a targeted manner.

Understanding the brand is necessary both at the internal and external levels of communication. The climate within the company or market perception requires periodic measurement of quantitative and qualitative indicators.

At the stage when you realize that your brand requires research, you should weigh the pros and cons to plan your future strategy properly.

The choice of research methods depends on many factors:

  1. Research topic. You should clearly understand what question you want to answer: to find out what is the quality of life in Lviv, or to understand why adults eat ice cream? The right question will help you get quality results and save you money.
  2. Scope of the study: nationwide, local, or a study of local brand specifics. We need to decide at what level we want to evaluate the problem, because it depends on how many resources we will spend.
  3. Financial capacity. Research is an extensive process that requires large human and financial resources.
  4. Sample size. An unrepresentative sample is not about poor quality of results. Of course, it will not reflect the characteristics of the general population, but it all depends on what end results we need. To develop recommendations for a project, it is enough to hold several focus groups or send out questionnaires to participants. Yes, there may be only ten of them, but these ten answers will reveal the essence of the problem and provide insights for further changes. A large study for the sake of research is money spent, but what is the result?

Quantitative or qualitative?

Both methods are equally important and effective, but everything is individual, so many factors should be taken into account.

The perfect option is to combine quantitative and qualitative methods. This allows you to get statistical data about the brand, based on which you can understand the dynamics of changes, as well as support the figures with cases of focus groups with different target audiences.

As a researcher William Trochim said, all quantitative data are based on qualitative judgments, and all qualitative data can be described and processed using numerical methods.

When faced with the dilemma of choosing between quantitative and qualitative methods, one should not forget about the specifics of each method:

  • Quantitative approach: difficult to develop, but easier to analyze, more structured and focused on reliability.
  • Qualitative approach: less structured and easier to develop, provides extensive descriptive results, but requires time and manpower to collect and analyze.

Survey vs. Focus group

A survey or questionnaire is the most common and best tool for researching brand opinion. It can include telephone questionnaires, self-administered questionnaires via social media, or emails.

The survey allows brands to solve a wide range of problems. In particular, the sociodemographic characteristics of the target audience are a significant achievement. Brands understand the geography of their customers, which age group buys/uses services the most, their financial capabilities, and educational and religious characteristics. This seemingly small part of the questionnaire allows you to draw meaningful conclusions about existing and potential customers. Conducting periodic surveys allows you to track changes in the target audience, explore trends, and understand the level of recognition.

Quite often, more than a survey is needed to assess consumer behavior. You need to get more in-depth information about the problem, and focus groups are the best way to do this. This method allows a small group of respondents to discuss a particular problem to understand what drives people’s behavior and their motives and attitudes. Unlike a survey, where the main questions are “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, the focus group method emphasizes “Why?”, “How?”.

Conducting focus group interviews allows you to get answers from the target audience you need. For example, when analyzing the optics market, it is interesting to study the behavior of people with vision problems, parents of schoolchildren, programmers who work at a laptop during the day and at night, or company managers.

Any request for communication services requires input from the client about the brand. You need to understand who the target audience is, what the brand’s positioning is, how recognizable it is, what its reputation is, etc. This is the basis for further fruitful cooperation and an essential component of the communication strategy. So, it’s only possible with research.

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