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Understanding what sets your brand apart using brand attributes

Use different brand attributes to track its performance over time.

What sets your brand apart? What are the key characteristics that make your brand unique, and distinguishable from competitors?

If you want to build brand loyalty, increase awareness and gain market share (and who doesn’t?) those are essential questions to ask. And the answers you come up with can lead to you clearly identifying and leveraging what is known as your brand attributes. 

Identifying and honing your brand attributes have considerable value in helping to affirm that your perception of your brand’s key characteristics match how consumers view your brand. 

Beyond that, the exercise helps you sharpen your messaging to effectively portray and amplify those attributes that are most compelling to your target audience. 

One of the best ways to answer these questions (and take the guesswork out of your market research and advertising efforts) is to give consumers a series of brand attributes surveys—so you can see where you’re meeting their expectations and where you may be falling short.

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Brand attributes definition & examples

Brand attributes actually have several different definitions within the marketing world, so let’s start off by clarifying what we mean when we use the term.

We’ll define brand attributes to mean the associations that people have with a product within its overall category, and the association that people have with particular brands (including yours).

For example, let’s say that peanut butter is the brand category. So in the general category of peanut butter, what types of brand associations do people have? They would probably say that it has a nutty flavor, it can be smooth or chunky, and that it has a lot of protein. When shopping for peanut butter, people will have their own preconceived notions of the type of peanut butter they prefer, and then they’ll pick a particular brand based on the attributes that they find important.

And in order to sell your product or service, you want to meet consumers’ needs when it comes to what they’re looking for in peanut butter. But identifying and communicating your own brand attributes can actually be quite complex, especially if you don’t know how your customers see your brand in the first place. A great way to understand the brand attributes that your customers associate with your brand is to survey them with aided and unaided survey questions.

Why are brand attributes important?

Brand attributes are important because they convey what makes your company distinctive, unique, and differentiated from your competitors.  Brand attributes represent the core values that define your company and serve to attract and connect people to your brand. Here are a range of ways that brand attributes help your business thrive and grow.

Make marketing more effective

Authenticity is key to successful and effective marketing and your target audience wants to support brands they can trust and believe in. Clearly defining your brand attributes can help hone your marketing messages in ways that highlight your strengths and values and resonate with your current customers and target audiences.  

What's your overall brand performance? Start to gather brand insights with this brand performance survey template.

Help shape brand identity

Brand identity includes all the factors that make up a company’s brand and it is why people may choose to support your business over your competitors. Your brand attributes all contribute to forming that identity. By consistently highlighting those attributes over time you start forging a strong brand identity that builds customer loyalty and sets you apart from your competitors.

See what questions we suggest asking your respondents with this brand personality survey template.

Support for stronger brand positioning

In essence, brand positioning is putting your stake in the ground in contrast to your competitors. Clearly identifying and promoting your brand attributes and analyzing how competitors are positioned helps you find the sweet spot where you have the best chance to grow your business and create loyal customers. This can support clear messaging and emphasizing what makes your company/service/product stand out from the competition.

Start measuring your brand awareness with this survey template.

Get a competitive edge

Simply put, brand attributes will reveal the areas that separate your company or product from those of your competitors. As you identify your brand attributes, you can invest in the elements that differentiate your company in ways that give you an edge in the marketplace. 

Inform product development and product launches

Knowing your brand attributes provides you with a strong foundation when it comes to developing and launching new products or services. In the development process the attributes can serve as a guide to make sure the offering is consistent with your brand and will resonate with your customers. When it comes to a product launch, highlighting the brand attributes related to the product fast tracks your ability to boost sales right out of the gate. 

Check out this product survey template.

What attributes must a brand possess?

Brand attributes differ from company to company, but there are some fundamental elements of attributes that are consistent whether you are selling ice cream or snow blowers. Here are some key considerations:

Relevance

It is important that your brand connect with current and potential customers on an emotional level. When customers know that your brand yields effective results, you will stay top of mind when someone has a need for your service or product. When your brand exceeds the expectations of your customers, it generates more business in new markets and increases revenue.

Consistency

Staying consistent is vital to the success of any company. Consistency builds trust among you and your customers, helping to build loyalty and affinity to your brand. There are a range of different ways to communicate about your brand, but at the core you need to make sure that you are consistently promoting your key brand attributes that people have come to know and trust. 

Positioning

Brand positioning is ensuring that your brand and what you are offering is viewed in the best light within your market. Let’s say for example that your brand prides itself on serving fresh pizza in 30 minutes or less and meets that goal for every order. Not only would many customers be more likely to buy your pizza, but they will also see your brand as one that they can trust. 

Ultimately, brand positioning should align with the offerings and services of the company. And once you land on that positioning, it is vital to be sure you can back it up through your products and services. 

Credibility

Credibility is key when it comes to brand attributes. If they are not authentic, believable, and consistent you risk alienating customers or turning off potential prospects. Make sure you can deliver on what your attributes represent in ways that not only meet customers’ expectations, but also set a new standard for that market to match or follow.

Sustainability

Sustainability is another important characteristic of brand attributes. If there are certain attributes that your customers know and trust you want to be sure that you can consistently back them up, both now and well into the future. Obviously, you want to continue to innovate and produce new offerings, but make sure that those offerings align with your brand attributes or represent new ones that will resonate with your customer base. 

Examples of brand attributes

The proof, it’s been said, is in the pudding. And the success of many well-known brands—Jell-O pudding included—affirm that promoting strong brand attributes consistently over time differentiates them from competitors and builds strong customer loyalty. 

  • Apple - Its brand attributes are focused less on specific products, but rather the lifestyle benefits that those products deliver. Ultimately Apple doesn’t want you thinking that you are just buying a smartphone but rather an iPhone that offers ease, intuitive design, and capabilities that help you better communicate and connect with others. Being able to meet their customers where they are and connect with them by way of imagination and innovation contributes to the company’s brand and overall success. Ultimately, the brand focuses on making their customers’ lives better and more enjoyable. 
  • Nike - Its brand has become one of the most well-known sports brands partly due to its simple tagline “ just do it.” As such they promote the attributes of their products that stretch well beyond simple functionality, but rather as a means to achieving fitness goals and living your best life. Not only does this motivate and challenge its target audience, but it also sends the message that they have the power to do anything and Nike will be right there at their side to make it happen. In more recent years, Nike has emphasized inclusiveness as a key brand attribute, using their brand and products as a symbol of unity, acceptance, and tolerance.
  • Levi’s - Empathy, originality, integrity, and courage are the brand attributes that make up the Levi brand. Simple, yet effective, Levi’s objective is to ensure its target audience that this is a brand that they can count on, and a label they are proud to wear on their backside. Additionally, Levi’s brand attributes are shopper-centric and therefore focus more on consistency and authenticity as opposed to what is new or trending. For example, instead of only pushing individuals to purchase a new pair of jeans, Levi will fix your old pair for a fraction of the price, in the event that you rip your jeans.

How to identify your brand attributes

First, run an initial survey with open-ended questions

Before you jump into asking consumers how they see your brand in particular, find out how they see your brand category in general. We suggest giving an initial survey to a small group within your target market that asks open-ended questions such as:

  1. What are some traits you look for when choosing peanut butter?
  2. When you think about peanut butter, what kind of brands come to mind?
  3. What are some positive words you would use to describe peanut butter?
  4. What are some negative words you would use to describe peanut butter?

When your respondents read the question, “What are some traits you look for when choosing peanut butter?,” they may provide answers like “all-natural,” “low-sodium,” and “no-stir.” Hold on to those responses–you’ll need them to create your next survey.

Next, run a survey with positive and negative brand attributes to learn more about your brand

Now that you have information from consumers about what they expect out of peanut butter—and what they think is good and bad about it—you can run more surveys that are specific to the product or service you offer. Use the answers you collected from your open-ended questions to ask closed-ended questions. Because closed-ended questions are quantitative (they yield numbers and data that can be measured), their responses are easier to analyze than open-ended, qualitative (descriptive, unmeasurable) responses. For example, you might ask the following question using the top answers you collected from your first survey:

Which of the following do you look for when buying peanut butter? (Select all that apply.)

  1. All-natural
  2. Low-sodium
  3. No-stir
  4. Other (please specify)

And if you want to figure out how consumers view your brand image, use the answers you collected from your initial survey to put together a full list of both positive and negative brand attributes as they could be applied to your product or service.

For example, if respondents answered the question, “What are some negative words you would use to describe peanut butter?,” with “oily” or “unhealthy,” add those to the list. Now you know what people are looking for–and what they’re not–when it comes to peanut butter, so you can write a question like this:

Which of the following traits best describe <insert your brand name>? (Select all that apply)

  1. All-natural
  2. Low-sodium
  3. No-stir
  4. Oily
  5. Unhealthy
  6. Other (please specify)

See how your brand image stacks up

Once you’ve gathered answers based on industry brand attributes, positive and negative brand attributes, and asked about specific traits you think your brand has, you’ll start to see a picture emerge.

Consumers will identify overall category attributes, make brand associations, identify what they personally look for, and give answers based how they view your brand’s image. From this comparison, you’ll be able to identify the gaps between what people look for and the attributes that people see in your brand—and use the answers to understand how loyal customers are to your brand.

Brand attributes and brand value

Brand identity 

For companies that put in the effort to develop a brand identity, the payoffs are real. A well-known brand personality can be worth a lot in the market, and has lasting value with customers and investors. 

Strong brand attributes—like consistency, relevancy, and credibility—are critical to a company’s survival. Others, like inspirational or uniqueness, are what gives a brand personality, and can offer some more intangible benefits.

Brand equity and brand value

It’s important to note that brand value and brand equity are two different things. Brand equity is driven by the assets or liabilities that add or subtract from the value of a product or service. Over the past few decades, brand equity has become an asset that can drive business, impact sales, and lend strategic support to a company over time. Brand value refers to how much a brand is worth in the marketplace. A positive brand value doesn’t always equate to positive brand equity.

Brand awareness

Brand awareness is an important way to improve both brand equity and brand value. It can be boosted by messaging, or by an instantly recognizable logo. It all relies on how the customer perceives your brand and what steps you have taken to maintain its value.

Brand attributes and customer loyalty

One of the most meaningful benefits of defining and promoting your brand attributes is fostering greater customer loyalty. Through consistently seeing your brand attributes, customers gain trust and affinity for your company. They know they can depend on you and start to feel an emotional connection to your brand. Ultimately, that builds valuable customer loyalty that helps assure repeat customers and advocates who promote your company through positive reviews, word of mouth, and referrals. 

A strong brand offers a multitude of benefits. It can help attract workforce talent, boost employee motivation, and make it easier to attract and retain customers. By investing in brand management, companies can increase their brand value and see benefits for years to come. 
SurveyMonkey offers a range of tools and solutions to help you build a strong brand. A great place to start is our Brand Tracker that allows you to readily spot trends, monitor key metrics, and get up-to-the minute insights on how your brand evolves over time.

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