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How One Major Energy Company Changed Perception Among a Target B2B Audience

To create meaningful brands, marketers source elements from the culturally constituted world and use advertising to transfer this meaning to the brand. The term “brand meaning” helps us to define these elements. At Protobrand, we also see a brand as a sum of expectations – What would you expect if you engage with the brand?

We are particularly interested in system 1 insights about brands – those thoughts and feelings that are subconscious, instinctive, and effortless. By using behavioral science, these insights about a brand can be uncovered on a large scale for clients who want to better understand, and alter, the perception of their brands.

One such brand, a multinational energy company, was interested in positioning their company as an ideal decarbonization partner, so the first step was to understand what customers and prospects wanted in an ideal partner. It was the perfect challenge for Protobrand’s brand development capability, which empowers brands in the areas of brand tracking as well as brand positioning and messaging. 


Market Research Methodology 


To start research for the client, Protobrand utilized our proprietary methodology and Meta4 insight technology, using metaphor elicitation as a portal into System 1 processing. Involving photo elicitation with the help of AI, the benefits and features of this method include: 

  • Uncovering deep-seated thoughts and feelings through visual metaphors
  • A validated image library based on deep metaphor theory and emotion theory 
  • Ability to capture authentic consumer voice at scale
  • Qualitative data analysis (facilitated by AI) to identify emerging and salient respondent driven themes

In essence, our researchers collect hundreds or thousands of authentic consumer stories, and use Artificial Intelligence to systematically analyze the data and identify themes from those stories. The data is rich, with 25 words or more per response – and results are then reported on a quantitative basis.

In addition, Protobrand used a swipe feature to capture brand attribute association. If the research participant agreed that the company was associated with the attribute shown, they swiped right, if not, they swiped left. The technology measures the time it takes the participant to swipe on each attribute, capturing data on the strength of the association.


Brand Research Findings


Through Protobrand’s unique research methodology, the client was able to identify 7 distinct themes that mattered most to a targeted audience of B2B decision makers. Each theme was supported by detailed customer language, with answers evoking deep seated desires surrounding the selection of an ideal partner. The themes were then compared to the qualities that participants had attributed to the client, allowing the company to compare the two data sets and identify opportunities in brand positioning.


“Protobrand helped us identify themes that mattered the most to our audience when it comes to choosing the right decarbonization partner.”

-Global Customer Insights Lead, Energy Company and Protobrand client


We found that a high percentage of respondents agreed that the company was a close match to their “ideal decarbonization partner” already, which provided reassurance to the company’s insights team. For those ideal partner qualities that did not match up as closely, the company now had the insights needed to run targeted advertising and alter brand perception among their target audience. “Protobrand highlighted barriers in our company’s perception, which we were able to address through an awareness driving Ad campaign.” said the Global Customer Insights lead at the company.


 The Result: Shifted Brand Perception


With the help of the targeted creative ad campaign, the multinational energy company was able to retain salient attributes of 4 themes, while also increasing perception of 4 desired themes. It would not have been possible without market research tailored to the company’s goal to be perceived as an ideal decarbonization partner, achieving an uplift in top of mind awareness as well as likelihood to recommend.  “Ultimately, we shifted brand perception by focusing on the right levers and by trafficking the media to the target audience” said the Global Customer insights lead. 

So although a brand’s meaning is hard to define, and even more difficult to shift, Protobrand’s research methodology and ability to capture authentic consumer voice at scale can help companies come quite close. In the case of this multinational energy company, direct results were seen within a matter of 8 months, propelling the company towards a successful future in the decarbonization space.


Is your company interested in shifting brand perception on a large scale? Book a demo today to learn more about our Brand Development capabilities.