8 Methods to Better Brand Research

May 30, 2023

When a destination undergoes a rebrand, we think of logos, messaging, creative solutions – but first and foremost, we need to start with brand research. Data and insight must guide every step of the process to ensure that the destination organization doesn’t make a choice that it may regret in the future.

Whether it’s through focus groups or surveys or any other qualitative and quantitative means necessary, research is key to building a successful brand. Both primary and secondary research will come to the rescue for destinations looking to hone their image, but it’s more than just finding out what people think – although that’s part of it, of course.

A robust approach to research needs to be more nuanced in order to uncover takeaways that will help you develop a long-lasting brand image that woos the right travelers and their travel budgets. These eight elements of brand research are an excellent place to start any rebranding approach.

1. Perception

Perception studies are key for any brand research, and knowing what potential customers already think about your destination is vital information. Understanding what travelers already know and think about you is a key first step. Look to brand loyalists who know the destination as well as those who have yet to experience your offer – potential visitors – to get a comprehensive look at public perception.

2. Community Engagement

In line with perception studies, be sure to keep an eye on local perceptions as well. While local communities may not be your brand’s target audience, they are stakeholders in everything you do. Meeting with community members who both serve and profit from tourism is a key way to round out your branding research approach, and to make sure your brand doesn’t alienate local communities.

3. Misperceptions

Equally important, knowing what people think about your destination that may not be true is vital to ensuring your branding strategies squash the potential for detrimental messaging in the future. Identifying these misconceptions is an effective way to stay ahead of misinformation and misunderstanding when it comes to what your destination is all about.

4. Competition

It’s always vital to know who your competition is and what they are doing – and to avoid copying their strategies. Learn who else is doing “outdoorsy” or “wellness” in a way that might compete with your branding and then take steps to differentiate yourself in a way that is unique to you. Research will let you know where there’s crossover and how you may be able to do it differently – and ideally better.

5. Unique Selling Point

Every destination has its USP, but it may not always be as unique as you think. Once it’s clear what the competition is doing, destinations can reevaluate their own USPs to steer their brand in the right direction. Difference creates awareness, so being sure you identify what your difference is will be key to creating a successful brand.

6. Current Value

It’s important to understand travel trends and the trajectory of the current travel industry. Then destination organizations can ensure they are delivering on a brand promise that travelers actually want and will likely continue to want. For example, if you brand yourself as the NFT capital of the United States, well, a little brand research would quickly reveal why that’s a bad idea.

7. Internal Research

Looking outward is important to know how your brand is performing, but it is just as important to look at knowledge gaps within your organization to better develop your branding strategy. Engage your partners to increase the buy-in from internal audiences and make sure your destination’s goals are aligned across the board.

8. Success Stories 

An important – and creative – bit of research for any destination brand is to identify the poster children that can help tell your story.  Target audiences value hearing from real people and the storytelling that is part of that, whether they are celebrities, business leaders, or everyday people with extraordinary stories. Research will help uncover these stories that may not bubble up naturally.

Have we got you thinking? If you want to approach your branding strategy with more of a research eye, get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn about how DCI can help you generate results with some creative and innovative rebranding solutions.

Written by

Dariel Curren

Executive Vice President