The Market Research Process in Branding Design
Use the stages of the market research process to create a more effective brand design.
Table of Contents
Learn how each stage of the market research process can help the creation of branding design.
Brand designers are in charge of creating the visual appearance of a brand identity. This primarily means a logo, but also the entire brand guide which outlines how and what specific design elements are to be used in communication.
Since every brand exists in a specific market, creating brand design also requires a deep understanding of the target market. This is what the market research process provides.
Market research can inform good design, and today we’re explaining the process of market research and how to apply it in branding design.
Define the target audience
Before you’re able to analyze data, you will of course need to organize it first, and perhaps fill in any missing information that might come up.
A final piece of the puzzle involves a closer look at the findings and reaching relevant conclusions.
This step is a way of keeping yourself in check. For example, if you decide to organize a focus group, then you should also be able to answer why and how this is the most effective way to meet your research objective.
Research design is basically a blueprint for your research: it helps you define how the required information is collected, and what methodologies are to be used in collecting and analyzing data.
The definition of a target audience or buyer personas allows brand designers to have a clear vision of who they are. This means demographics such as age, location, occupation, as well as psychographics, such as their beliefs, interests and personality traits.
This stage helps to provide a clear creative direction for your design. For example, if your target audience is passionate about ethically produced, organic products you might want to use natural, earthy tones. However, if they also work in creative industries, you’ll definitely want to swap boring stock photos with custom illustrations or add gradients for a more interesting look.
Define the market research problem
Conducting market research is an integral part of the branding process, however without a clear objective, you may find the results inconclusive and unhelpful.
The goal of marketing research in general is to help you find a unique position for your brand in the market. Simple enough, right?
However, in order to effectively apply the research results, you need to create a specific set of questions that you want your market research project to answer, such as:
- Why do people need my product/service?
- Who would benefit from buying it?
- How will they find it?
- What makes my brand different from the competitors?
A single project can focus on one or more research questions, and different types of research can be applied for different objectives. However, you should always aim to provide tangible answers, backed by both quantitative and qualitative research.
So, how does this stage help branding design? Obviously, in more ways than one.
If you know who you’re designing for, it will be easier to create an emotional response (as we’ve discussed above). If you know what you’re designing (social media graphics or display ads), you’ll always make sure to stick to size guidelines and follow the relevant trends. If you know why your customers are benefiting from purchasing from you, you’ll be able to relay a clear value proposition in a striking, visual way.
Determine the research design
Your choice of research method will also be influenced by the type of data you’re trying to collect. There are generally three main types of research you may want to consider.
- Exploratory research: used for very broad research questions, when you simply want to gain some knowledge about a topic, that might help you narrow your study further.
- Observational research: this is usually quantitative research, where you want to get data that backs up your initial hypotheses.
- Causal research: the most specific type of research allows you to determine the relationship between your hypothesis and the data obtained.
So how does this affect the creation of branding design?
Well, a brand designer should have access to this information as well, to better understand to what measure the design should be influenced by the findings. Perhaps the results are more of a guideline for a general direction (as is the case in exploratory research), rather than a recipe for specific design decisions (which causal research might point to).
With a detailed research design, you’ll be able to make this distinction and the results will be constructive, rather than limiting in the brand design process.
Once you have the theoretical part out of the way, it’s time to get to work and actually gather the data you set out to get.
The goal of branding design is to help build brand awareness, so make sure that the data you collect can help you with that. Say that you’re trying to determine the best logo color, and you’ve employed a focus group to help you decide. Instead of just asking them to choose a preference, be sure to collect evidence on their reactions, how a specific color makes them feel, or what associations are connected to it.
Oftentimes the collection of data is part of the marketing research process that involves putting your customers in situations that simulate reality (e.g. having to choose between two products), so you should also take into account how respondents might react in these situations and how design can help brands perform better.
The deliverables of a market research project can take different shapes and forms, from detailed reports to a short summary or data visualizations, depending on what the relevant stakeholders are looking for.
A brand designer (or agency, or service) may also want to give their opinion on what is the most effective way to present research data. Sometimes, a figure can be more than conclusive (usually when it’s a simple choice between two options), but detailed, qualitative research reports can really help designers to consolidate the initial vision with the expectations of the target audience.
As you can see, market research is a complex scientific process that requires a lot of time, effort and usually budget (people aren’t always willing to partake in focus groups for free). That’s why many businesses decide to hire a market research agency. However, more often than not this process is done before a branding designer is on board.
Making market research a part of the brand design process will ensure that your business goals are aligned with your design strategy (which is part of a broader marketing strategy).
From building a lasting brand image to beating your competitors, good design is integral for any business, so make sure you’re on the right track from the get-go.
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.