Enhancing brand distinctiveness in a highly competitive Dutch market
How do you persuade consumers to consider your brand before your competitor's? What branding elements can best be highlighted, and what features do you prefer to keep quiet? These were the tricky questions facing the commercial team of Landal GreenParks when Imen Laroussi joined them 4.5 years ago as International Manager Campaigns. Discover in this interview with Imen and Cora Everaarts (Manager Marketing Intelligence at Landal GreenParks) how they tackled this issue, and the role that brand research played in the solution.
0-measurement: measure first, then change
When Imen began at Landal GreenParks, she immediately started to refocus the holiday park's identity and positioning. Next, several advertising agencies were enlisted to help develop the positioning into a communication proposition. “We were curious how we could best incorporate the new positioning into our campaigns and communication”. The result: a revamped campaign concept with a new visual style, including experience photography and more user generated content. But before these communication changes were made public, a 0-measurement was essential.
Before making the changes, we first wanted to measure where we stood, and where the focus should be placed in the future.”
Cora, Manager Marketing Intelligence at Landal GreenParks, was also involved in this 0-measurement: “With such a repositioning exercise it is really vital to draw a clear line between the old and new campaigns: only then can you get a clear picture of the progress you achieve. To perform this 0-measurement we looked for parties with a strong reputation in brand research who could help us answer our research questions. Blauw emerged as the winner from the pitch, partly because of its innovative vision on brand research and its application of the How Brands Grow philosophy. They carried out the 0-measurement in the summer of 2018.”
Need for actionable insights
The 0-measurement provided more insight into how consumers think about Landal GreenParks, and the extent to which this differs from their associations with our competitors. However, the findings mainly confirmed what Imen and Cora already suspected. It was difficult for the market teams at Landal GreenParks to translate the conclusions directly into concrete actions. “That was something Blauw had already warned about when we opted for this limited 0-measurement method,” says Cora.
By going for traditional brand research without adding a How Brands Grow component, the research mainly reflected the status quo. Consequently, after the 0-measurement, there was still a strong need for more insight into the thinking process of the target group. Actionable insights had not yet been achieved.
1-measurement: addition of CEPs
Flash forward to a year later: autumn 2019. It's time for a 1-measurement in order to study the effects of the new positioning direction. Imen and Cora discussed the wish for more concrete actions with Blauw. Cora: “In the run-up to the 0-measurement in 2018 we held long internal discussions about the ideas of Byron Sharp. Blauw Research had already brought this method to our attention at that point precisely because a traditional 0-measurement might lead to a lack of actionability, but we made a different choice at the time.”
In our conversation about the 1-measurement Blauw came up with the proposal to include CEPs (Category Entry Points) in the research. CEPs are all moments or situations in one of the identified categories that prompt the consumer to consider and buy a specific brand. CEPs are not about end values – or Simon Sinek’s WHY – but concern tangible situations: what, with whom, when and where(to). Think for instance of: ‘after sports’, ‘on the go’ or ‘with the kids’. The more CEPs consumers associate with the brand, the stronger the brand.
To get more actionable insights out of the research, we opted to expand the 1-measurement with CEP research. ”
CEP hooks offer insight and pointers
The ‘hooks’ that came out of the CEP research were extremely important for Landal GreenParks, because they provide insight into the thinking and choosing process of future customers. “We had already thought about hooks in brainstorming sessions and campaign meetings, but had not yet corroborated this with research,” Imen notes. The CEP research inspired the market teams of Landal GreenParks. For one thing, the research showed which hooks they can best claim in the market – what must be 'typical Landal’?
It also provided interesting pointers for making budget choices. What message do you communicate via the radio? What do you put online? Moreover, by making these CEPs clear, they got a better picture of the entire competitor field, and not just of bungalow parks with comparable offerings: “Our competitors are not limited to other providers of bungalow holidays, but also include other leisure experiences such as family outings.” A visit to the cinema, for instance, or a day at the zoo or amusement park.
CEP interviews: “an enormous wealth of information”
Looking back at the 1-measurement, the qualitative research stands out as particularly valuable. Imen: “The CEP interviews were very illuminating. You get representatives of different target groups coming to the table in quick succession. The interviews are conducted in a specific way and yield an enormous wealth of useful information in a short space of time.” “It was also a joy to be present on these occasions,” Cora adds. “Everyone within our team was keen to attend the interviews!”.
Holding conversations with the target groups is long-standing practice at Landal GreenParks. Cora: “That is the privilege of our brand and product: we can mix with our guests at any time. It's like walking around in your own database.” But bringing in an independent party is still useful. Landal, for instance, regularly uses a guest panel, but this consists predominantly of people who are already Landal fans. “To test accurately, you must interview different groups, not just your loyal guests. Otherwise your assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy”.
Alongside the qualitative interviews, Byron Sharp’s broad perspective on the target group also appeals strongly to Imen. Thinking in CEP terms taught them that the category was much bigger than they had expected.
Initially we had a strong focus on existing customers. But we discovered that there are still lots of opportunities out there in that broader market approach.”
Importantly, Blauw's research method also takes in recent users. Instead of asking random consumers for their preferences regarding a ‘hypothetical choice’, the study zooms in on real occasions, choices and behaviours. This helped the marketing managers to think differently about their specific category and how people arrive at their purchase choices.
Brand tracking in the future
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the communication team's main focus in recent months was to inform and reassure guests, with brand research understandably on the back burner. Even so, systematic research remains desirable according to Cora: “I definitely think we need a 2-measurement. From a data perspective you want continuous brand tracking. That's the best way to discover fluctuations and trends.”
Asked which research method they want to repeat, Cora and Imen are unanimous: the 1-measurement, with the addition of CEPs. “The addition of CEPs made the research very concrete. This research costs a good bit of money. So it must really be worth the investment, and it definitely was.”
The most important tip regarding brand research? Imen: “The most important thing is to put the insights into practice. And that's precisely what we intend to do!”