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Opinion research - A creative process, 1971
by Robert M Worcester, Managing Director, Market and Opinion Research International, London
The following is a section taken from ‘A management guide to corporate identity’, published in 1971 by the Council of Industrial Design, edited by John E. Blake.
Two important functions of research in connection with corporate identity programmes are, first, to establish what image the firm has in the minds of its target publics at the time the programme is contemplated and, second, to discover what image the company wants its corporate identity to convey.
A company's image may be an undesirably limited one. The image it wants will certainly be to be seen as progressive and successful - that is what every firm wants - but I ask my clients to help me determine what it is that makes them different, perhaps even unique, because I believe that it is this quality that will most help the designers to find the right solutions. I have met designers who argue that research is inhibiting to them, but I believe this to be far from the case: research is an absolutely necessary part of the creative process.
Where this could be said to any company by any of the company's publics, there is a need for a corporate identity programme. Before they can carry out such a programme, designers will need to learn all these things about a company. My company. Market and Opinion Research International, can find this information for them. We do this by posing questions to our clients and then trying to help them answer the questions. We ask such questions as "Who are the publics of importance to you? How do these publics regard you now ? Are changes necessary in the way you conduct your business and talk about yourselves ? Are you capitalising on your reputation strengths? Are you worrying about the right reputation problems? Are all your communications reinforcing the kind of reputation you seek ? Over a period of time, how do the things you and others do affect your reputation?'
What makes a corporate image
Our definition of a corporate image is 'the net result of the interaction of all experiences, impressions, beliefs and feelings that people have about the company concerned.' The sources of a corporate image are the company's products, its advertising. packaging, dealers and salesmen, the company's communications, its prestige advertising, its shares (if these are publicly owned), its employees, its facilities and (more often forgotten) the opinion of others, the industry image and information from competitive companies.
There are four definable types of image- the product class image, the brand image, the user image and the corporate image. These overlap and interlock.
The product class image is the image all brands share in a product class -the needs and desires met by the product class, the role it plays in life and culture and its use by certain kinds of people.
The brand image is the distinguishing characteristic of a brand, that is to say the image most studied and best known.
Brand 'user image' means the kind of people who use the brand: men versus women, high versus low social class, older versus younger, and non-demographic segmentations such as conscientious housewife versus social butterfly.
Finally there is the corporate image, the image of the company that stands behind the brand. This includes familiarity with and favourability towards the company, the company's product, its customer relations, its corporate leadership, its ethics, its
'employee relations and its financial reputation. One of the most interesting findings that has been uncovered in a factor analysis of image items is that people are more apt to try a new product from a company because it has a good customer relations image than because it has a good product image.
We have already talked about a firm's 'target publics'. Who are these publics ? They are consumers, employees, shareholders, industrial customers, purchasing agents and potential employees. In addition they are driving licence holders, consumers or potential product purchasers.
How important is it that these publics should have a good image of a company ? I will answer that with an example. Six months ago we told half a sample of women in Britain 'A large food company is bringing out a new range of frozen vegetables. Then we asked them 'How likely is it that you will try them in the first few months after they become available in the shops ?' Forty-seven per cent said "I will probably try them'.
Then we told the other half sample "Heinz' is bringing out a new range of frozen vegetables, and asked them, too, 'How likely is it that you would try them in the first few months after they become available.' Sixty-one per cent of this second half-sample said that they would try them, and the fourteen per cent difference in the answers is statistically significant. It represents the increased propensity to try a new product from a well-regarded company like Heinz* -and this is only one aspect of sales, of course. There are many others.
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Why a good image counts
When consumers have a good image of a company. they recommend its products to other people. The most powerful advertising is by word of mouth. It is also the cheapest.
Another example of the importance of a good image can be found in a study conducted last March: we ranked ten companies A-J in order of familiarity and favourability. We then showed this list to a final year of male graduates at university. Company A was favourably rated by fifty-six per cent of the graduates; company B by forty-eight per cent; company C by forty-two per cent; and on down to twelve per cent. What I found interesting was that sixteen questions later, when we asked them how interested they would be in a career with these organisations ('very interested', 'fairly interested', 'neither interested nor disinterested', 'fairly disinterested' or 'very disinterested) we found that, with one exception, the correlation was perfect. Company A was the best regarded and most were interested in a career with that company. Company was in tenth place on both counts.
*Heinz is not now in the frozen food business and they do not market these products, but it is a logical product line of extension.
Familiarity breeds favour
On the shelves, however, it is impossible for a good company image to help sell the company's brands unless the company's name is linked with the brands in the consumers' minds. Companies never lose by bringing themselves to the attention of the public in this way. Increased familiarity almost invariably results in increased favourability. In a study of fourteen British companies in 1969, fifteen per cent of those people who had heard of the companies rated them very favourably; a quarter of those who knew them a bit better rated them very favourably: and nearly two-thirds of those who knew them very well rated them very favourably.
We recently completed a study for Dupont in which we asked what people think are 'the two or three most important things to know about a company in order to judge its reputation'. A sample of 1,991 people in Britain were asked the question and about a third said that a company should be a good employer, fair to its employees and pay fair wages: a third said that they should make quality products: thirteen per cent said they should give good customer service; and eleven per cent said that they looked for honesty and reliability, or good management, or investment assets.
It is also interesting to note that thirty-seven percent of the people in this country claim that they never buy products made by companies of which they have never heard. That is not likely to be wholly true, of course, but over a third of British people think it is true in their case. Also three-fourths of the publicsay that 'a company that has a good reputation would not sell poor products'. Only thirty- seven per cent say 'new brands on the market are usually improvements on the old established brands', whereas forty-one per cent say that new brands are not an improvement on old established ones.
I suspect that this balance is going to tip further in its present direction as more brands come out and people become less and less satisfied with the plethora of new products. I believe that people will turn more and more to the names they know and the importance of the reputation of the company that stands behind the brand products will therefore increase.
The cost of research
Three practical questions I am often asked about researching a company image are:
1. How long will it take?'
2. 'What is a reasonable sample to use in order to come up with data that is of real value?'
3. 'What cost factors are involved?'
The answers to all three are interlinked.
The best size of sample to take varies with each individual case. Normally, if you are going to measure the attitude of a general public, you take a sample of 2,000. This gives a statistical reliability plus or minus two per cent whether you are in England, with forty million adults, or in Ireland, with three million adults.
But many companies, primarily making industrial goods are less interested in a general public than they are in their industrial customers. I have one project at the moment where, for the breakdowns that we need, we feel we can simply take two samples of 400 people each because in this case plus or minus five or six per cent, which is the accuracy of that size of sample, will be good enough.
In some cases I have done as few as twelve or fifteen interviews. We did a study for an industrial company some years ago, in Europe, where ninety-five per cent of their product potential in one particular line was bought by twelve companies, so that a sample of twelve which was what we took, was in effect almost a census.
Concerning cost, obviously in the example I have just recorded the cost per interview will be much greater than in a bigger sample: probably £60 or £80 per interview for the twelve interviews, which took six weeks to complete.
A general public survey might cost from £2,000 to £4,000, depending on how much special attention we gave to it in terms of special analyses or how many special questions were put in. However, general public image research lends itself to co-operative study. The first half of a questionnaire can deal with information common to all the companies financing a survey - things like familiarity, favourability, attitude towards certain industries, attitudes towards business in general. The answers to this half of the questionnaire would be given to all the participants and then another series of questions would be asked individually on behalf of each client and the answers reported back exclusively to them. A study of this magnitude takes about four months to complete.
Programme for image building
In conclusion, I should like to offer a programme of systematic control of image building:
Measure the brand commitment image. What is the company's image now? Who are its publics? What is the brand commitment; the product class image; the corporate image; and how does the company stand in the face of competition?
Evaluate the image and determine what needs to be done. What image attributes need maintaining. developing or changing? Among purchasers, what are the consumer criteria in comparing images? Evaluate the advertising. packaging symbols, trademarks, brand name and media.
Develop the programme. The image-building programme might include some of these possible goals: focus on best potential customers; increase loyalty to present brand users; sell the product class as a whole, if you are in a monopoly situation; re-design the package, the symbol, the trademark; change the brand or corporate name; advertise to influence specific aspects of the image.
Implement the programme.
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