Think slow:
Why brands should invest in strategy


At PG we promote a conscious approach to branding with market and consumer research, brand strategy and communication strategy. This approach is more effective because it helps not to disperse efforts into multiple communication channels and makes the brand message more accurate – so it has a better chance of getting to the consumer’s heart.

But after looking at the timing and cost of such a comprehensive job, the client sometimes asks quite logical question: can we abandon all this and develop only naming and design?

The answer is you can. But we do not recommend it. And this article will explain why.

Indeed, a brand is often perceived as a combination of a good name and a beautiful package design. In this context, research and strategy can be perceived as optional steps that can be omitted. But name and design are only the tip of the iceberg.

Yes, these attributes are important, because the consumer encounters them in front of the shelf in the store, on the pages on the Internet or in your office building and uses them to make a first impression of you.

And then the question arises – what is the impression?

Design is a cool communication tool because it’s long-term and helps capture your core brand message. So it can carry a completely different message. Here are a few examples from our practice:


Dark Side / Flower Power:


Both kvasses are in Alivaria’s portfolio and are aimed at young people, but they convey different messages and different values.

In the first case the design is built on contrast and dark color scheme: it gives the brand a more masculine character, more daring and boldness. The main value is self-expression, and Dark Side kvass encourages you to open up and be real.

Flower Power, on the other hand, has a clear message of freshness, and the illustration gives a more playful and non-serious character to the brand. The brand’s message is non-trivial naturalness. The main value here is creativity. The brand inspires you to try new and unusual things through its product, because the taste of the kvass is chamomile and rhubarb.

Santa / Bremor:

The case is interesting because the companies are related: Bremor is part of the Santa Group, but the approach to identity is completely different.

In the first case, it is a holding company, which includes many other companies from different spheres: food, retail, logistics, hotel and restaurant complexes, and others. This brand is very remote from the retail consumer and is used only in the business environment. Therefore, the identity for this company is more serious, and the message is more general – “Nothing is impossible for us. The visual metaphor for this is the symbol of the mountain top.

In the second case, it is a company that integrates product brands and is more common to the mass consumer. This changes the brand message to a more benevolent and socially-oriented one – “Making Life Better. The idea is expressed in the bright colors of the corporate identity and the metaphor of the sun, a symbol of vital energy.

As we can see, the categories of companies and products are similar, but the message of the brands (or the impression) is completely different. These brands are memorable, have their own identity than the consumer likes. But how do you figure out what message you want?

The answer is to do the research.

And here it is important not to fall into the trap and decide that everything is simple: the main thing that the design and advertising liked the consumers, and the product was perceived quality, so let’s go straight to the design and communication.

On the one hand, everything is correct: you really have to like the design and perceive the product as quality, unless you are a manufacturer in the super-economy segment. On the other hand, these are general formulas on which you can build neither positioning, nor design, nor communication.

If there are manufacturers in your price range in the category and your products are very similar to each other, it becomes important how your brand is perceived. So neutral wording about “quality” and “like” is no longer enough.

Why isn’t that enough?

The first reason is that in most categories, these are mandatory product features. Everyone on the market is about the same quality and may even like the audience, so with this starting point, it will be much harder for a designer or creator to come up with an actual and interesting solution.

There’s an easy check for any brand characteristic you come up with: if you find an antonym for it and you get something that doesn’t make sense, it’s not worth using. For example, no one wants to buy products that look shoddy.

Consequently, you need to look for other associations that can be put into your brand: if we go back to previous examples, the attribute of Dark Side kvass is bold and bright youthful communication. But at the same time on the market there are brands with a calmer character and traditional image – Lidsky and Alivarsky kvasses. These are examples of properly chosen characteristics for the brand.

The second reason is that different segments of the audience call “liked” and “quality” absolutely different products, because they put their own meaning into these words.

For example, for some people quality sugar is crystal white sugar because it is associated with a clean and bright taste. And for some people it is brown sugar, because it contains useful microelements. Then there are those for whom quality sugar is the sugar of their childhood.

In the first case, “quality” hides bright flavors, and in the second case, naturalness, while in the third case, the product corresponds to one’s memories. In the first case, hedonism is embedded in the values of the audience, in the second – conscious eating, in the third – tradition. This also affects the design of sugar packaging. Let’s give examples for each case:

  1. Matre: the product is packaged in more expensive packaging, the main emphasis is on the foodzone – in the design it looks aesthetic and expensive, the soft fonts and painting on top of the package makes the brand more elegant. All this helps the brand be associated with pleasure, which it gets even with the packaging.
  1. Golden Cane: thanks to the plaque with the written origin of the product and its properties, the brand is perceived as more expert, the packaging itself resembles a parcel, which makes the product special, specially brought from another country, which is perceived by the consumer as a higher quality.


  1. Gorodetski Sugar: The ornate fonts, the pattern of the gjell and the yellowish color of the paper create an image of a brand with a long history that adheres to the tradition of sugar making.


All three directions correspond to their audience, but if you haven’t decided on your positioning, the question remains the same – how do you figure out how it should be perceived? In which direction should you move? Is it worth taking a radically new direction?

To answer these questions when developing a brand strategy, three areas are studied: the context of the company / product, the market and the audience.

Market: we study the context of the category – how your competitors behave, how the market is changing in dynamics, what trends are affecting it. In an ideal world, a brand strategy is developed exactly once. In a less ideal world it is adjusted after 5-10 years of presence on the market, because as consumer behavior changes the brand may lose its power and relevance.

How do we study the market at PG?

Methods: desk research – we study trends and competitors + quantitative research – we study market trends in public sources and data provided by the client.

How long does it take: from 10 working days.

Why does it take so much time?

The analyst and strategist need time to immerse themselves in your project and category. During this time, we look at your competitors “under the magnifying glass”: what they emphasize in their promotion, what their branding broadcasts, what the “rules” of the game are in the category, what is new and established in the market.

Moreover, it can be time-consuming to find relevant research and benchmarks for a project. The quality of the information found directly affects the quality of the analytics, so we pay a lot of attention to it.

What happens if we omit this stage of the study?

The team has the risk of making a solution “out of market”: the brand may look very good, it may contain an interesting idea, but it is too different from everyone else and causes the consumer to distrust the brand.

Also, agency specialists can create a brand that will be irrelevant to the market in a few years due to global changes in consumer behavior. At best, this will lead to rebranding, at worst, the company may leave the market because of stronger competitors.

Audience: Here we capture the behavior of our audience. In branding, socio-demographic characteristics become secondary, and consumer motivation and barriers become more important. This is what we work with when developing our positioning or communication strategy.

Very often you can meet this description of the audience: a woman, 25-60 years old, married, with two children, shopping for the whole family and it is important for her to choose quality dairy products for their loved ones.

What is wrong with this description? These characteristics can fit completely different women.

When choosing a product/service, consumers are guided not by their age and marital status, but by their values.

Let’s look at the example of a woman aged 25-60, what motivation and values she may be guided by when choosing dairy products.

  • naturalness and trust: she tries to cook her own food, does not use semi-finished products, tries to go to the market to buy products from trusted vendors who make their own products without chemicals.
  • rational benefit and independent choice: studies packages in stores, chooses the most natural products, but does not mind some improvements – adding vitamins and minerals.
  • Taste pleasure + approval from others: such a mom first of all cares that her relatives are satisfied with her choice, so she is guided by taste – if her relatives approve, then she will buy these products.
  • efficiency and time: such a woman does not want to spend a lot of time on food choices, so she uses deliveries more often and buys semi-finished products more often. She wants to eat delicious food and at the same time spend her time on more important things for her, such as work or hobbies.

As we can see, these are four different people, and these women can all fall under a common socio-demographic description of the audience. And with this description in mind, the company can develop a product, set accents in the design, and create relevant advertising.

How do we study the audience at PG?

Methods: qualitative research (in-depth interviews, focus groups) – to study the audience’s deep motives and barriers, etc., quantitative research – for segmentation, hypothesis testing, measuring brand health, etc.

How long does it take: from 25 working days.

Why does it take so long?

The short answer: any audience research is the collection of a large array of data, which the analyst structures and looks for correlations. The report on qualitative or quantitative research that the client sees may look simple and logical, but for the analyst it is 100 pages of text interviews with respondents or a large exel table with 800 rows and 60 columns of answers to the questionnaire.

Therefore, it takes time to collect and process so much information, otherwise – you can spend a lot of money on the study and lose so much in its quality that it becomes useless.

Moreover, it takes a lot of time to find the right respondents among your target audience, as well as to develop a competent research toolkit.

What happens if you skip this step of the study?

Because of their length, field studies cost the most. And here it can be tempting to put yourself in the place of the consumer and try to formulate what a brand should be relevant to him. Or to interview several acquaintances and draw conclusions on this basis. But we do not recommend this, especially if you have never done any research before.

First, knowing how to conduct interviews and surveys is a separate skill. Without it, you can inadvertently skew the results through cues or incorrect questions to the respondent. Second, if you’re recruiting respondents through people you know, you may not be completely honest, especially if you “care” about your product and don’t want to be offended.

That’s why it’s better to hire an outside consultant to help you with your research.

Company/product: our task in this area is to study the specifics of your offer for the market. What is your product or service? What are its characteristics? What are its strengths and weaknesses? More questions are asked during the briefing to see which positioning territory we can go into and which we can’t. Hypotheses for research are also formed at this stage.

If we work on a company’s brand, we dive deeper into the corporate culture by conducting in-depth interviews with top management and rank-and-file employees. Because a corporate brand is something that lives “inside” a company and is broadcast by its employees. If the agency develops a positioning that is strongly at odds with your established culture, the brand strategy will not become a strong brand, but will become a forgotten PDF.

The main idea: any positioning will not work if your product or your company does not match it. An example here is the rebranding of British Petroleum: the company rebranded a long time ago, and in the logo the shield was replaced by a geometric flower. The point was that the company was getting on a new “green” path of development.

Environmentalism is a trend that will stay with us for a long time, but audiences received the new image with skepticism and ridicule because BP is an oil and gas corporation. Its activities are directly detrimental to the environment, even though the company is working on renewable energy sources.

Now the company continues to work in this vector, but paying more attention in communication to its CSR activities and its own developments in the field of ecology. But whether rebranding has helped the company rather than harmed it is debatable.

So, to develop good positioning, market and audience understanding, as well as name and design, an agency needs to study three areas: the market, the audience, and the client company/its product. If one of these components falls out, we increase the risk of “missing the mark” with our brand.

If you understand that you cannot yet afford large-scale research, then consult with an agency specialist on how you can optimize the research set for your task. We will suggest how you can gather the minimum necessary to solve your current task.

The main thing to understand is that brands are not formed when there is a name and packaging. Brands are formed when they are remembered and loved by the audience, and that takes time and a good conscious strategy.

If you’re interested in working with us, feel free to contact our client services team. We look at each brief individually and always try to answer every question as soon as possible.

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Still have questions? Contact us, we will be happy to answer them!