Posted by Alan Nazarelli ● Mon, Nov 06, 2023 @ 01:47 PM

Brand Singularity


close up of chess figure on suit background strategy or leadership concept

Our topic for this week is about brand equity development, in which we introduce the practice of "brand singularity" drawing insights and inspiration from our experience conducting brand research for a multitude of clients. What we share here is relevant to both B2C brands as well as B2B, the latter being where most of our clients today live.

In a previous post titled "Brands are like Faberge eggs" we discussed the delicate nature of the task of developing and nurturing your brand. Another important challenge is also developing your brand strategy in a way that it’s connotation in the minds of your buyers is uncluttered and singular. Too many brands try too hard to stand for too many things, leading to brand diffusion. The essential principle here is that brands that stand for more than one essential and singular concept don’t stand for anything at all. They become indistinguishable and commoditized in their market space. They occupy no unique position in the buyer's mind and therefore carry little weight when buyers make their purchase decisions.

In the technology sector, this is particularly true in crowded subsectors such as cybersecurity (and increasingly, many SaaS product categories). In a study we conducted earlier this year, mid-market and enterprise CIOs we interviewed told us they expected significant consolidation in this year and next with many solutions used, with cybersecurity emerging as the most cited at-risk category for vendor consolidation. When asked why, the reason was a crowded space where the brands tried too hard to do too much and have therefore become virtually indistinguishable from each other.

How singular then is your brand identity? How can you tell? One effective way is to survey your target buyers (minimum recommended sample size for B2B decision makers is 300; 500 for B2C) using the following methodology:

  1. Ask a question: Which of the following connotations or attributes do you associate with Brand X? Provide them with a list of attributes 4 to 5, (with at least 1 "dummy" variable) asking them to "select all that apply"
  2. Follow that question with asking them to rank these attributes in order from most associated to least associated with your brand.
  3. Then, created a weighted ranking of the responses to question 2, giving extra weight to each variable when it was ranked in first place.
  4. Your results in 3 above will reveal your brand picture. Did any of the 4 to 5 attributes carry a weighted average ranking of greater than 50% at a minimum? The more imbalanced towards one variable the scores are, the better. Is the one variable that weighed highest the one you intended for your brand identity? Did any "dummy" variable you included rank high, indicating an even more diffused brand story.

One additional challenge we have found in our brand development research is that sometimes even though a company has made large investments in creating a singular brand identity, and the company's customers who are intimately familiar with that brand can articulate it's identity in qualitative in-depth interviews, in quantitative survey results using the above methodology, the brand's identity appears diffused. In other words, your existing customers get the value of your brand because of familiarity and experience with it, but the brand struggles to establish a unique identity with new prospects. This is because there is another essential element to the successful practice of brand singularity-that the singular brand element you are trying to develop is also articulated simply enough. Words matter and simple words anchor more easily in buyer's minds than complex concepts. We find that technology companies are more prone to having attempted to use complex phraseology to anchor their brands. It is challenging to break down complex concepts down to shorter and simpler words and phrases. Here again, research methodologies can help. A well-recruited and well-moderated focus group or a series of small group interviews with technology buyers who are not existing customers using projective and emotional laddering techniques can uncover the most powerful ways to convey your brand so it's identity stands singular and apart. There are also techniques you can use to measure your "brand distance" from your nearest competitors, which we don't have time to go into here, but may cover in a future post.

Lastly, the illustration below is from a recent client study and an example of a non-diffused, well anchored brand. More importantly, it illustrates the value of being a brand essentialism practitioner. In this case, despite a highly competitive B2B market space with lots of price cutting by competitors to win business, this company's brand, which rated high on the brand test we described above, carried considerable weight in the purchase decision as shown in a conjoint/discrete choice modeling follow-on study we conducted. Moreover, the 25.9% brand impact shown was at least 8 points higher than that for the next to competitor tested.

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To learn more about our brand development research methods or about our Brand Power Grid™, please contact us at


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Alans high res picture 12.19.22Alan Nazarelli is Founder & CEO of Silicon Valley Research Group. Based in San Jose, CA with offices in Seattle and New York, the company works with the world’s most innovative brands to provide timely and actionable market intelligence and strategic guidance to enable them to make well-informed decisions to positively impact revenues and profits and to achieve their growth targets. Connect with Al on Linked in


Topics: Market Research Best Practice