How to Create a Brand Strategy Part 1: Using Audience Insight to Drive Your Brand


What is a Brand and Why is Branding Used in SBCC?

Branding is a marketing technique that has been successfully used in the commercial sector for years to sell products and services. The brand is the idea or promise made to the consumer to distinguish the product or service from its competition. It is expressed in names, terms, logos, symbols or designs.[1] Brands help to define quality, build awareness and recognition, and help the consumer form long-term relationships with products and services. Some of the most globally successful commercial companies – like Coca-Cola® and Apple® – have the most recognized and respected brands.

Branding also can be used successfully in social and behavior change communication (SBCC) programs to help intended audiences adopt and maintain desired behaviors. Behaviors, such as exclusive breastfeeding, taking public transportation or adopting a family planning (FP) method, can all be branded to make the behaviors more appealing to audiences. SBCC programs can be branded, as can public sector health services.

In Ghana, the GoodLife campaign branded a variety of healthy behaviors, linking those behaviors to happines and a “good life.” Through a set of branded activities and materials, audience members understood that adopting behaviors like using oral rehydration solutions (ORS) and zinc, sleeping under a bednet or adopting an FP method, would lead to a better life.
In Egypt, the Gold Star Quality Program branded high-quality FP services. The program worked with FP providers to ensure quality, then promoted certified clinics as sites for high-quality services. Formative research showed that clients associated high quality with a gold star. So, a gold star appeared on each accredited clinic and all promotional materials as a mark of quality.

A brand strategy is created to develop a brand. One of the first components that informs a brand strategy is audience insight.

What is Audience Insight?

Audience insight refers to an understanding of the emotional motivations and needs of the audience. An insight goes beyond descriptive demographic data, such as age, gender or income level, and describes a key piece of information about how the audience feels in relation to a specific product, service or behavior.

An audience insight statement is comprised of two fundamental components:

1. A summary of the understanding of the audience’s identified needs

2. The key problem they have faced trying to fulfill this need

The truth® Campaignwas built on the insight that most American youth who smoked were motivated by a desire to rebel against their parents and other authorities. Based on this insight, the campaign challenged youth to seek the truth about the dangers of smoking and to question the credibility of big cigarette companies. This insight fundamentally changed the nature of anti-smoking campaigns, which had historically only focused on ‘smoking kills’ and other fear-based messaging not informed by audience insight.

Why is Audience Insight Important to Branding?

Understanding the audience’s emotional motivations for current and intended behavior is an important element of branded strategies. While people may adopt a new behavior in part for the functional benefits — exclusive breastfeeding is free and can take place anywhere, a condom prevents sexually transmitted infections — it is usually the emotional connection to a service, product or behavior that builds and sustains behavior. Understanding an audience’s emotional needs is often what enables program designers to create an emotional ‘hook’—something that catches and holds onto the consumer—that is typically communicated through a brand.

The commercial sector has recognized building emotional connections between consumers and brands as critical to distinguishing successful brands from their competition. Some of the most globally recognizable and successful brands have been informed by key audience insights. Brands have based their success on the strong emotional bonds built with consumers after gaining the right audience insights. Insights also can help social marketers and SBCC specialists build branded strategies that promise how the branded product, service or behavior will meet the needs of the intended audience in ways that others do not.

At more than one century old and as one of the most recognizable brands in the world, Coca-Cola® is an expert on audience insight. While ‘happiness’ and ‘sharing’ have always been staples of their brand image, Coca-Cola® recently used new audience insight to put a twist on these brand image staples. Coca-Cola® ran its “Share a Coke” campaign in more than 50 countries. Each country’s bottles and cans were customized to the country’s local culture and language, with the most popular names in each region printed in place of the company’s moniker. Coca-Cola® set out to use the “Share a Coke’ campaign as a way to connect and engage with teens. Its research showed that while teens loved that Coke was big and iconic, many felt the company was not talking to them at their level. They wanted to feel a personal connection with the brand. The insight worked and Coca-Cola® achieved a 2 percent increase in soft drink sales, increasing consumption from 1.7 to 1.9 billion servings per day during the campaign period.

Who Develops Audience Insight?

Include some or all of the following when conducting the audience insight: project managers, creative team members (from the project team and/or from creative agencies), representatives from the priority audience and technical experts who are knowledgeable about the health problem, such as nurses, community-based organization/non-governmental organization members, and other key community leaders and stakeholders. Also consider hiring a market research firm with special expertise in research methodologies used to understand consumer needs.

When Should Audience Insight Be Developed?

Audience insight is a component of the audience analysis and should be done at the same time. Start the audience analysis and audience insight process immediately following the situation analysis, after all of the key facts have been identified for the overall health or social problem. Audience insight development also can take place when a decision is made to develop a brand strategy.

[1] P. Kotler, N. Lee. Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors for Good. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CA, 2008.

Learning Objectives

After completing the activities in the audience insight guide, the team will be able to:

  • Identify relevant audience insights
  • Summarize insights in an audience insight statement

Estimated Time Needed

If all of the necessary information is available in the audience analysis, audience insight should only take a day. If additional research is needed, plan for at least two to three days to plan, conduct and analyze the research.



Step 1: Review the Audience Analysis to Identify Audience Needs

Review the following information from the audience analysis:

  • Demographic data (age, gender, employment status, marital status)
  • Psychographics (beliefs, attitudes, aspirations, values, norms)
  • Current behavior related to the product, service or behavior
  • Determinants of current behavior
  • Perceived functional and emotional benefits and barriers to product, service and behavior
  • Media habits

Using the information from the audience analysis, answer the 6 Ws of Choice questions (below). In answering these six key questions (Who? When? Where? What? Why? and Why not?), focus on the most important physical, emotional and functional needs (see Needs chart below) the audience has related to the product, service or behavior being branded.

6 Ws of Choice
Who are we trying to reach?

Describe their:

  • Socio-demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Current behavior as it relates to product, service or behavior
When is the product/service/behavior consumed, purchased, performed?
  • Is the product, service or behavior planned or unplanned? Why?
  • Is the product, service or behavior something that is used or performed on a short-term or long-term basis? Why?
  • What are the specific occasions that the product/service/behavior is used or performed?
Where does the audience use or perform the product/service/behavior?
  • Where does the audience purchase the product or service? Why?
  • Where does the audience consume, use or perform the product/service/behavior? Why?
What are the other options that may substitute for this product, service or behavior, such as, what else is in this category?
  • What does the audience think are other options for the product/service/behavior?
  • What does the audience think are the benefits of the other options?
Why do they use the promoted product/service/behavior they use?
  • What are the functional attributes the product/service/behavior must have?
  • What are the physical needs the product/service/behavior must meet?
  • What are the emotional needs the product/service/behavior must meet?
Why Not? Why don’t they use the promoted product/service/behavior?
  • What are the key functional attributes not offered by the product/service/behavior the audience currently uses?
  • What are the key physical needs that are not being met by the product/service/behavior audience members currently use?
  • What are the key emotional needs not being met by the product/service/behavior audience members currently use?

These 6 Ws of Choice also will help the team identify any gaps in the audience analysis. To understand the audience’s needs and develop the audience insight, these gaps will need to be filled. If the audience analysis does not have all of the needed information, conduct audience research to fill the gaps. Some techniques to consider include:

  • Qualitative research techniques (interviews, focus group discussions, ethnographic observation)
  • Analysis of social media content relevant to the program or brand, such as online forums and Facebook and Twitter discussions
  • Analysis of the perceived meaning of the brand’s packaging and advertising
  • Audience observation
  • Marketing research surveys, such as Usage & Attitudes (U&A)

The kinds of questions asked when conducting qualitative research should be tailored to the program, health area and audience, but the following are key components to consider:

PsychographicsAspirations, values, belief systems, people the audience trust, people they see as authority figures, people they view as untrustworthy
Motivators and BarriersFeelings about the desired behavior, reasons not to engage in the behavior, reasons to engage in the behavior, how family and friends think and feel about the desired behavior
Media HabitsEntertainment practices, use of various kinds of media, where and when, feelings about media use, barriers to media use, media use by peers and family
LifestyleHow the audience spends their time, where and with whom, role models
Supporting product or service around the behaviorHow the audience engages with the product—does the product packaging appeal to them and why?; who do they believe the product is for?; would the product make it more likely for them to perform the behavior (such as using a breast pump for breastfeeding mothers)?

If resources and time allow, consider hiring a market research firm to help conduct audience research. The European Society for Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR) publishes a directory of market research firms, some of which might operate locally.

Step 2: Categorize and Prioritize the Needs

Categorize the needs identified through the 6 Ws of Choice process by type:

Each type of need is further defined in the table below.

If several needs have been identified, prioritize by determining which two to three needs are the most representative of the audience. Be sure to include at least one key emotional need.

Type of NeedDefinitionExample
Physical NeedBasic, fundamental requirements to stay healthy.Exclusive breastfeeding provides enough nutrition for the baby.
Functional NeedNeeds that are met by the attributes of the product, service or behavior.To exclusively breastfeed her infant for six months, breastfeeding must be easy to do.
Emotional Need – A psychological or mental need that involves the understanding, empathy and support of one person for another.
Self Expressive NeedDefined by how the consumer wants to be seen by others.Because she wants to be viewed as someone who knows and does what is best for her child, she exclusively breastfeeds for six months.
Social NeedsOccur when the consumer has an emotional need to fulfill a functional need of someone else.To keep her baby healthy, she exclusively breastfeeds for six months.

Step 3: Summarize the Key Need

The key need is the one need above all others that the campaign will focus on. Based on the prioritized needs identified, determine which is the key need. Summarize the key need for the audience in a short statement. Using the format from the examples below, fill out the Need portion of the Insight table (See Templates for an Insight Table Template).

Example: Sarah is a young, new mother living in a peri-urban area with her husband’s family. Sarah is the intended audience for a campaign on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. From the audience analysis and 6 Ws of Choice, the team identified the following possible key needs:

Need 1:

The Insight
The NeedThe Problem
Sarah needs exclusive breastfeeding to be easy for her to do (physical)

Need 2:

The Insight
The NeedThe Problem
Sarah needs her mother-in-law to view her as a good mom (emotional)

Step 4: Identify the Key Problem to Complete the Insight Statement

Identify a problem that audience members face while trying to meet the key need listed above. Focus on a problem that the brand might be able to resolve. If several problems are identified, agree on one that is the most relevant to the stated need. (The audience analysis data might also identify which problem has been indicated more frequently and by a larger proportion of the intended audience.)

Summarize the problem in a short, succinct statement. Combine it with the key need to form the insight statement, as in the examples below.

Example 1:

The Insight
The NeedThe Problem
Sarah needs exclusive breastfeeding to be easy for her to do (physical)But to be successful at breastfeeding, most first-time moms need help and support that is not always accessible.

Example 2:

The Insight
The NeedThe Problem
Sarah needs her mother-in-law to view her as a good mom (emotional)But the older generations in Sarah’s country believe that supplementing with water or formula is best for the baby

The insight statement should be used throughout the development of the brand strategy. Continue to Brand Strategy Part 2 to use this insight statement to define the brand category and develop a position statement.


Audience Insight Template


GoodLife Initiative Brief

Experience Change with Happy Dampatti

External Resources

Tips & Recommendations

  • Only real audience insight can help determine how to position a product, service or behavior.
  • Attaching a brand to an emotional need felt by consumers has proven to be very successful in sustaining the brand.

Glossary & Concepts

Audience insight is the identification and refinement of audience perceptions, motivations and needs relevant to a behavior, product or service. Often, the audience is not even aware of these [perceptions], motivations and needs.

A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design (or a combination of these) that identifies the maker or seller of a product or service, the line of products or services, or the SBCC campaign. The brand tells the audience what they can expect from the product, service, or behavior. It also distinguishes the product, service or behavior from its competition.

Emotional needs are a consumer’s needs that relate to his/her feelings and internal motivation. Examples may include social status, power and success.

Functional needs/attributes are a consumer’s important needs that are addressed through the features of the product, service or behavior. Examples could include affordability, ease of use or enhanced pleasure.

The key need is the one need above all others that the campaign will focus on, whether physical, emotional, or functional.

Physical needs are the basic, fundamental requirements for a human being to stay healthy, such as rest, water, food and shelter.

Self-expressive needs are a type of emotional need defined by how the consumer wants to be seen by others.

Social need is a type of emotional need that exists when the consumer has an emotional need to fulfill a functional need of someone else.

Resources and References


The DELTA Companion: Marketing Made Easy


Evans, Douglas W., Hastings, Gerard. Eds. Public Health Branding: Applying Marketing for Social Change. London. Oxford University Press. 2008

Evans, Douglas W. ed. Psychology of Branding. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York, NY 2013.

Gobe, Marc. Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People. New York, NY Allworth Press. 2001

Kotler, Philip, Lee, Nancy. Social Marketing: Influencing Behaviors For Good. Third Edition. California, Sage Publications. 2008.

Population Services International. The Delta Companion.

Population Services International. The Delta Companion. “Audience Insight”

Ritaccio, Gail. The Needs of a Segment Should Drive Design. Greenbook. The Guide for Buyers of Marketing Research. Online March 2014.

Weinreich, Nedra Klein. Hands-on Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide. California. Sage Publications, 1999

Banner Photo: © 2012 Kuntal Kumar Roy, Courtesy of Photoshare