mapping branding perceptions

We have been engaged by a local architectural firm for brand strategy and identity development. While we were strategizing with the marketing director on factors that drive business development for architects, he explained to us the importance of experience and relationships. We asked which was more important in the minds of their clients. Is the accumulated experience of the firm, or are personal relationships more important?

The marketing director answered by diagramming the classic four squares with experience along one axis and relationships on the other. The best option is when you have project experience in addition to a client relationship. But lacking one or the other, relationships trump experience.

We like the diagrammatic approach, because it lets you visualize what you already know. You can literally map out perceptions. Whether it be the relative value of relationships vs. experience, or Stephen Covey’s Urgency vs. Importance matrix, you can take a great deal of information and look at it all at once. It lets you position brands and brand attributes relative to others with the dimensions that customers use to distinguish them.

Take simple attributes like innovative vs. traditional, and younger vs. older. Treat each of these as an endpoint of an axis on a map. Now consider well-known brand categories, like automobiles or soft drinks, for example. Position the relative importance of each attribute for different brands. Where would Coke be positioned vs. Red Bull? What about Volvo vs. Honda?

Choose the axes and quadrants appropriate for insights in your own industry and map your own brand against your competitors. Are there ways to position your company differently from others? Consider mapping different attributes, benefits and values that can be compared and contrasted. Small/large, local/national, expensive/inexpensive and many other attributes can be used to distinguish one brand against another.