Research Procedure

For a typical study, 100-150 people for each target segment are interviewed. While sample sizes are stable as low as 50 per segment, a more robust sample allows for sub-segments for things like gender, age, etc. Studies that require ad recognition require higher sample sizes in order to get to a readable number of those who recognized the advertising.
If stimulus such as concepts or advertising is being shown, the interview is typically conducted online, using one of our highly-reputable panel providers. However, many of our brand architecture and brand-to-media engagement studies are conducted by phone. In cases where it is required, face-to-face interviewing can be conducted; however, it is avoided for its higher costs and longer fielding periods. For US studies that are not specific to geographic target, interviews are distributed across the nine-census regions. International studies are conducted to best reach the target group, and differ from country to country.
A typical Brand Keys interview is approximately 10-15 minutes in length.
Incentives vary widely, and are based on the incidence level of the target group in the population. Low incidence and difficult to reach respondents, such as physicians and business leaders, are usually compensated at an amount approximating their hourly wage. For studies that require a more general consumer sample, incentives commonly range from being entered into a prize drawing to a few dollars, or points or coupons redeemable for goods.
The identity of the brand sponsoring the research is kept confidential. Quality control checkpoints are included in the data processing procedure, and there is a second review of all open-end responses. In addition, all of Brand Keys field partners have rigorous programs in place to control for duplication of respondent interviews and other types of fraud.
Usually, a series of nine Jungian-based personification questions are asked first, covering the client brand, competitive brands, and the consumer’s Ideal in the category. These questions provide the emotional data for the findings. Following the psychographic questions, importance-rating questions are asked for the attributes, benefits, and values (ABVs) in the category, using a 7-point scale. These questions provide the rational data for the findings. In a Brand-to-Media Engagement (B2ME) study, the ABVs can be replaced with media touchpoints. After the emotional and rational components of the questionnaire are completed, custom questions (as well as advertising exposure and questions in a strategic communications study), are asked.

Questionaire Design

Brand Keys conducts quantitative research. The Brand Keys methodology has a test/re-test reliability coefficient of .93 off national probability samples in the US and the UK, and is re-tested every five years. Our methodology has been used for both B2B and B2C in over 30 countries around the world, covering over 70 categories. If the needs of the brand call for such an approach, Brand Keys will conduct hybrid quant/qual research, using our highly-validated Brand Keys quantitative methodology with a drill-down by an online moderator at the conclusion of the interview-often to provide consumer language, best obtained with a qualitative approach.
Brand Keys uses a 7-point importance scale ranging from 1, not important at all, to 7, extremely important, with changes in wording when appropriate.
The Jungian-based personification questions have been highly validated in published and peer-reviewed studies, such as the respected Advertising Research Foundation First Opinion Review. These questions cannot be changed, nor can their order, without compromising the predictive quality of the research. The ABVs are highly customized to each category. Brand Keys works with the client to establish these items, based on both the client’s and Brand Keys’ experience in the category. Brand and test variables-including competitive sets-are always customized.
Absolutely, and most of the work Brand Keys conducts is customized research requiring customized questions.
Competitive brands are always included in a brand architecture study in order to provide a relative measure of in-market strength for the brand to compare itself to, along with the most critical measure of all: the Ideal the consumer holds for the category. The competitive questions in the questionnaire allow Brand Keys to provide a strategic SWOT analysis for the brand, based on a consumer view of the category and its brands.
Traditional copy-testing systems are built to measure executional aspects of advertising performance, such as breakthrough power, likability, brand saliency, and persuasiveness of the ad. While Brand Keys strategic communications testing includes these executional measures, it also answers the most critical question of advertising effectiveness: did the ad work as intended against the brand’s strategy? Using its brand architecture metrics as a benchmark, Brand Keys is able to tell a brand how an ad works against the specific drivers of loyalty and engagement that the brand has identified as target areas, thus offering a truly strategic evaluation of its advertising.
Brand Keys media studies were built to help brands determine how to buy media strategically, with a focus on how various media work in combination in today’s mutli-platform world. These insights allow our clients to measure the impact of media buys in advance of spend, finally moving the media buying function away from an exposure-based allocation model to an engagement-based media buying model. Numerous Brand Keys media studies have been published internationally, as well as in “The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplace,” authored by Dr. Robert Passikoff, President and Founder of Brand Keys, and Amy Shea, Brand Keys’ EVP and Global Director of Brand Development, published in 2009.
Yes. In fact, Brand Keys annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, published by BrandWeek, currently covers approximately 70 categories, and our customized work is applicable to any category or service.

The Report

After field work is completed, data processing customarily takes about a week, with either a Topline report or an initial Rough Draft of the full report delivered at the end of that time. After a client review of the Rough Draft, which is usually done by phone with Brand Keys, client comments are addressed and any changes required are made. If there are not significant changes, a presentation deck is usually completed in a week’s time. While Brand Keys most often presents the findings of the research, some clients present the results themselves.
The key measures are found in the three-dimensional four-driver model of the output:

  1. How do consumers really view the category?
  2. How do consumers prioritize what is important-what’s most important? Least important?
  3. Where do consumers hold the highest expectations for brands operating in the category? These three measures are the foundation of the Brand Keys findings. However, as the Brand Keys methodology is built to also deliver highly-granular and actionable insights to brands, there are many more measures provided, including the percent contribution of the individual ABV items that comprise the drivers of loyalty and engagement in the category.
Statistically significant differences are usually reported at the 95% confidence level and are clearly noted in the report.
Brand Keys uses the most current and critical benchmark available in brand research: the Ideal the consumer holds for the category. With this Ideal in place, efforts ranging from marketing outreach, to concepts, to advertising can be evaluated for their strategic effectiveness. This approach is far superior to an average, even a category norm, as averages are based on past-performance; the Brand Keys Ideal is a predictive model of loyalty and engagement.
The four drivers in the brand’s category contain a hierarchy of the attributes, benefits and values that comprise those drivers. This offers the brand specific insights on what those drivers actually mean to consumers.
Because both the client brand and its competitors are measured against the Ideal the consumer holds for the category, the findings demonstrate against which drivers the brands are strong and weak, as well as where the greatest opportunities are for the client brand, and where it has to be on guard against competitive strength. As the findings are predictive, these insights can be used to drive strategy with confidence.
Both. The three-dimensional four-driver overview of the category is highly strategic, while the “gears” inside the drivers offer specific direction for the best tactical approach.


Brand Keys is founded on the principle that only an authentic view of categories, as consumers approach them, will offer brands the insights they need to survive and grow in today’s turbulent marketplace. This view is what Brand Keys offers to its clients in the form of the Ideal.

Brand Keys Methodology

The Brand Keys model is a fusion of the emotional and rational aspects of the consumer’s decision making process. This is a critical distinction, as most research methodologies have been “retro-fitted” to accommodate the increasing role of emotion in how consumers approach brands. The Brand Keys methodology was built from the ground up with emotion as a core aspect of evaluation. The emotional and rational data go through a three-step statistical analysis process (factor; regression; and causal path analyses), resulting in an easy-to-read bar chart that shows the four drivers of loyalty and engagement in the category being studied.
Brand Keys has conducted and published more validation studies than most research companies in the world. As we believe that all brand efforts should in some way serve the profitability of the brand, one of our most highly-referenced validation studies was conducted by Aquetong Capital-a corporate valuation firm seeking a variable for loyalty for their corporate profitability model. Using Brand Keys loyalty rankings, of their choosing, Aquetong Capital found our rankings of brands with the strongest performance against the Ideal in their categories were extraordinarily correlated with corporate profitability, ranging from a low of .830 to a high of .901. In addition, many other validation studies can be found in Brand Keys’ most recent book, “The Certainty Principle: How to Guarantee Brand Profits in the Consumer Engagement Marketplace.”
Our interests lie in understanding why loyalty happens, and not what happened to make consumers loyal in the past. Only by deeply understanding the drivers of loyalty and engagement in a category can a brand act strategically and implement marketing based on future-trending insights. Our metrics have been proven to be predictive of marketplace realties 12-18 months ahead of those changes in market.
Data are not consumer-centric simply because the questions they are based on were asked of consumers. At Brand Keys, this term means that it is consumers themselves who have created the yardstick that brands are measured against. That yardstick is what we call the Ideal-the ultimate benchmark for a brand because it represents what consumers truly want as they approach the category, including both the emotional and rational aspects of the decision process. When consumers have given us the yardstick, brands can approach their category with confidence that they are going after what’s most important and where consumers’ strongest expectations exist.

Using the Information

Our clients use our insights at many levels. From a category overview perspective, strategic decisions on how to best market in the category-where to “drill” for greatest return on the marketing investment-can be made using the Ideal in the category. Using the examination of how the brands measure up against the Ideal, a brand can derive a competitive strategy, taking advantage of where the competition is weakest, and increasing defenses where the client brand may have potential threats. Because the data allows our clients to deeply understand the category, down to the individual items that carry the greatest weight in consumer decision making, outreach and communication can be created with confidence that it is addressing what matters most. In addition, our media studies ensure that brands are buying from an engagement perspective and not an out-dated consumption model that no longer fits the behavior of today’s consumer. This allows brands to know, in advance of spend, what combinations of media touch points will bring the most impact.
Concepts, communications, and advertising can be tested to see if they are indeed performing against the loyalty driver they were intended to impact. This makes the Brand Keys communications testing product a truly strategic testing system that can help create advertising that does the job it was hired to do: bring consumers closer to the brand. In addition, our strategic communications testing can include a visual vocabulary module, which enables us to determine what language brand visuals are speaking, as consumers allocate visual imagery to category drivers. Over time, this creates a visual dictionary for the brand that helps the brand team and its agency call upon the most effective types of imagery to communicate. This is especially useful when attempting to communicate abstract but critical ideas, such as trust in today’s shifting economy.
All brands should be looked at first in terms of how they measure up against the Ideal the consumers hold in the category-that is the critical target for the client brand. Findings on where the client brand and its competitors measure up against the drivers help the client see where strengths and weaknesses exist, allowing the client brand to exploit opportunities. While often more than one opportunity exists, a view of where the competition is weakest-and thus the opening is greatest-can help drive a direction with the highest pay-off in the marketplace.


Brand Keys is headquartered in New York City. Our other U.S. offices include Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Internationally, we have locations in London, Madrid, Tokyo, Dubai, and Sydney.
We are fortunate to count some of the most prestigious global brands among our clients, including Microsoft; P&G; Mazda; Intel; L’Oreal; IBM; Samsung; Toyota; Unilever; American Express; and Johnson & Johnson, among others.
Please contact our New York headquarters to begin a conversation, at 212.532.6028. We will be happy to direct you to the most appropriate team to meet your needs.
Most studies are approximately six weeks from an approved questionnaire to a rough draft of the full report.
Pricing is highly dependent on the needs of each individual client, and is impacted by many factors including sample size, incidence levels, and type of study. However, our pricing is not only highly competitive, but our projects are always run hands-on by a senior partner in the organization with many years of research experience-an ever-increasing rarity among research organizations.