The purpose of the brand inventory is to provide a current, comprehensive profile of how all the products and services sold by a company are marketed and branded. Profiling each product or service requires identifying all associated brand elements as well as the supporting marketing program. This information should be accurate, comprehensive, and timely, and summarized in both visual and verbal form. As part of the brand inventory, it is also advisable to profile competitive brands, in as much detail as possible, in terms of their branding and marketing efforts.
The brand inventory helps to suggest what consumersâ€™ current perceptions may be based on. Although the brand inventory is primarily a descriptive exercise, some useful analysis can be conducted too. For example, marketers can assess the consistency of all the different product or services sharing a brand name. Are the different brand elements used in a consistent way or are there many different variations and versions — perhaps for no obvious reason — depending on geographical market, market segment, and so on? Similarly, are the supporting marketing programs logical and consistent across related brands?
The brand exploratory is research activity conducted to understand what consumers think and feel about the brand and its corresponding product category to identify sources of brand equity.
Several preliminary activities are useful for the brand exploratory. A number of prior research studies may be relevant. It is also useful to interview company personnel to gain an understanding of their beliefs about consumer perceptions. The diversity of opinion that typically emerges from these internal interviews serves several functions. It increases the likelihood that useful insights or ideas will be generated; it also points out any internal inconsistencies or misconceptions.
Although these preliminary activities may yield useful findings and suggest certain hypotheses, they are often incomplete. Additional research may be required to better understand how customers shop for and use products and services and what they think of various brands. To allow a broad range of issues to be covered and to permit certain issues to be pursued in greater depth, the brand exploratory often employs qualitative research techniques, such as word associations, projective techniques, visualization, brand personification, and laddering.
Many firms are now using ethnography to supplement traditional focus groups. They study consumers in their everyday habitats at home, at work, at play, or shopping. Based on ethnographic research, Duracell, for example, learned that people had trouble removing a tab from its hearing aid batteries. The result was the introduction of a new product, â€˜Easy Tabâ€™. Whirlpool learned that people didnâ€™t want to wait for their dishwashers to fill up before running the machine, so its Kitchen Aid unit introduced a smaller version called â€˜Brivaâ€™.