Research plays a vital role in my brand-led business transformation programme. I’ve said many times, before you start a journey like brand modelling or transformation you need to understand the landscape and be clear where you stand in it. It is also important to understand how your customers make their choices. Research can help with all of this, but even with its help, I believe that a lot of marketing people still misunderstand the purchasing process.

I’ve always held the belief that purchase decisions are emotional. Yes, we can always give a good reason for buying the things we do, but, really, the decision is irrational, primal, emotional. We only post-rationalise our choices because we’ve been conditioned to believe that’s what grown-ups do. Basically we buy stuff we like, that makes us happy, or, in a world of competing and often anonymous brands, have a familiar, reassuring feel.

What I’m talking about here is the essence of branding. Successful brands differentiate, they are familiar and, above all, empathetic. My Brand Discovery programme, that I’m in the process of launching a series of lectures about, focuses on finding the differentiation that’s within every brand, providing the means to build awareness and above all share the values and beliefs that are important to customers. I do this out of an absolute conviction that brands are communities of people with shared values and beliefs and these communities are the very core of any successful business.

Having worked with brands for a long time now and espoused these and other strongly-held beliefs to sometimes sceptical audiences, I was especially delighted that Chris Little at my UK research partners Beyond Curiosity, drew my attention to an article by Brian Tarran in ResearchLive in which he interviewed Rory Sutherland the vice-Chairman of Ogilvy who I’ve quoted myself in the past..

It’s a very interesting piece that covers a lot of ground, but fundamentally, explains the need for brand differentiation, awareness and empathy in different terms to those I have used in the past. It does all of this in the context of a bigger and even more interesting debate on the relevance of research in today’s marketing.

It’s essential that we all understand brands and the role they play in the success of organisations. The survival of businesses in the emerging digital economy is entirely dependent on this. Today’s successful businesses are founded on brands and the transformation that every organisation has to go through right now to survive is dependent on them. Research is essential to this understanding, but we need to acknowledge its weaknesses and not, as this article suggests, get sucked into taking all it tells up at face value.

If you find it hard to relate brands and transformation or the survival of today’s organisations take a wander through where I try to explain relationships in the simplest terms. For now though Brian Tarran’s article. Its definitely worth a read.

You can learn more about the process of Brand-Led Business Transformation from my new lecture series. Visit to find out how to become the agent of change in your organisation.


Phil Darby
November 21, 2018

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