Should Brand Name Be Included In A Research Study?

Should Brand Name Be Included In A Research Study?

The short answer is…it depends on where the brand name is mentioned. The two places where the brand name can be mentioned are:

  1. In the research study invitation/instructions
  2. In the study itself.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of including your brand name in each scenario.

Should the sponsor of the research be made known to the respondent (could be a product brand and/or a Corporate brand)?

To answer this question, we must first understand why the sponsor of a study would want to be identified.

  • To legitimize the survey and improve response rates
  • Some marketers think that a survey is “another marketing touch point” and want to use the outreach opportunity as another chance to register the brand name

Sounds all good, right? Not so fast. Revealing the sponsor of a study can cause bias to both response rates and survey opinions. For example, imagine if I was given a free trip by American Airlines to fly anywhere I’d like. I end up having a less than satisfactory experience with the flights. Afterward they send me a survey asking how the free trip went. My gut reaction is to tell them how bad the flights were but then I remember that they paid for the trip, so I don’t answer as truthfully. The point being, once you know who’s behind the research study, your answers are influenced one way or the other.

Should a brand name be revealed within the content of the study itself?

Even if the sponsor of the study isn’t revealed, it often makes sense to use the brand name in the context of study questions. Purchase decisions aren’t typically made in a vacuum. Consumers buy products/services with brands on them and the brand can have a significant impact on purchase likelihood (due to both brand imagery and prior experience with that brand) as well as on perceptions of specific product/service attributes. Often it makes sense to include several brands in the body of the question so that the respondent’s reactions are appropriately influenced by the brand name. This approach makes the specific brand of interest not readily identifiable because there are several brands which act as foils or disguises. In other words, the sponsor of the research study has the ability to remain anonymous and still mention and measure the impact of their brand if:

  • Brand name is one of the many elements being tested
  • There are multiple brands included in the study

The problem with testing products without any context of ‘Brand’

Testing products or concepts “blind” – i.e. without any branding at all is almost never a good idea. The main reason is that the brand DOES influence the perception of the product …. And therefore the brand is part of the experience. A well-known marketing research mistake is the “New Coke” launch. All of the taste tests were done blind – without any branding. The evidence was clear that the new coke formulation was preferred over the old coke formulation. But when Coke launched the new product, they introduced it as “new and improved Coke” (i.e. they introduced it on a branded basis) and that revelation influenced the actual perceptions of both the concept and the product. Consumers did not WANT their Coke to be changed. Coke ended up apologizing, re-introduced the old formula as Coke Classic and the rest is history.

Key Takeaways

  • Including brand name in the study invite or instructions may increase response rates but may cause response bias.
  • Adding a brand element in the content of the study is almost always a good idea. However, make sure the brand sponsoring the study is disguised. Brand names impact purchasing decisions, so the branding element must not be left out of the research.

If you’d like to learn more about how your brand name is influencing purchase decisions, I encourage you to read How to Measure the Impact of a Brand (with numbers).

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