Brand preference is crucial for businesses looking to create repeat customers out of their target audience as it creates awareness and helps businesses to develop a strong reputation.
Without effective branding, products will sit in the shadow of their competitors as consumers may lack awareness or opt for more well-known alternatives.
As a long-term strategy, establishing brand preference helps to increase revenue, profit, and market share. It also plays a role in building brand equity which determines a brand’s popularity and strength in the market against competitors.
Market research helps uncover consumers’ purchasing motivations, and their wants and needs, helping businesses to drive the brand preference of their products.
The power of brand
Brand encompasses all aspects of a business’ image, including packaging, advertising claims, customer touch points, and marketing communications.
It is important for businesses to establish branding because whether consciously or not, consumers directly relate a brand to the product itself.
Well-established brands reap several benefits, such as:
Higher customer preference: Customers are more likely to choose a product from a brand they know and will often become loyal to a particular brand if they trust its products and feel its qualities match their needs, e.g. value, quality, reliability.
Increased market share: A powerful brand will stand out in the market against its competitors, using its differentiation to gain (and maintain) market share by presenting consumers with a unique vision that other brands do not offer.
Easier product launches: Introducing a new product to the market is much easier for established brands, as the business does not need to use as many resources to build awareness and trust, relying instead on existing customers for support.
We see the power of brand at work through large companies with products in highly competitive contexts. For example, Apple holds the majority of market share for smartphones with the iPhone, with its branding playing a major role in this.
Consumers perceive iPhones as innovative, reliable, and at the forefront of technology. Apple drives this image through its sleek packaging, premium pricing, knowledgeable customer service, and inspirational messaging.
Despite the relatively higher price of the iPhone compared to some of its competitors, Apple customers are loyal to the brand because it represents values that align with theirs, such as lifestyle and beliefs — not just the product.
Brand equity vs. brand preference
Consumer perception of a brand’s value is referred to as brand equity, for example, a highly recognised brand that is known for producing quality products is said to have “positive brand equity”.
To achieve positive brand equity, businesses must first establish brand preference by using strategic promotional, marketing, and advertising techniques that appeal to their target audience.
Brand equity is developed over time as a consumer’s relationship with the brand developments and is consists of three elements:
Brand awareness: Do consumers know about the brand? Businesses must draw attention to their brand and ensure consumers know what it is and what it stands for. Higher visibility will increase familiarity and in turn, increase intent to buy.
Brand associations: How do consumers feel about the brand? Brands elicit certain feelings and attitudes and these need to be communicated accurately to differentiate a product for its competitors and resonate with the target audience’s wants and needs.
Brand loyalty: Will consumers continue to purchase the brand? Consumers tend to find brands they like and stick to them, meaning brand loyalty is an important aspect to get right. Ensuring all elements of branding are consistent and align with the target audience is key to gaining brand loyalty.
Brand preference indicates the degree to which a consumer is inclined to use a particular brand’s product instead of a competitor’s and contributes significantly to brand equity. It is important for businesses to constantly measure and assess their brand preference as it reflects their marketing.
How to use brand preference in market research?
As with all product elements, branding requires effective market research to ensure it aligns with the wants and needs of its intended audience. Businesses must first research the market to understand their competitors’ branding and use this information to differentiate their brand.
Survey research helps uncover consumer preferences such as desired brand values, brand perception, and psychographic data, which is useful for building consumer profiles and segments. This information is then used to create brand ideas which can be further adjusted through concept testing to gauge consumer perception.
It is so important to regularly conduct surveys to measure brand preference as consumer trends change quite frequently and businesses must keep up or risk falling behind competitors.