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Five ways research can drive your brand’s thought leadership

“It’s a jungle out there! So unpredictable. It just feels impossible to get traction for our brand and key messaging.”

Perhaps you can relate to the exasperation shared by my friend Olivia. She’s the Chief Marketing Officer at an ASX-listed company. She’s actually really good at her job! But we were discussing the challenges of getting brand cut-through. Between the public’s increased scepticism towards corporations, people switching off from traditional media channels and the overwhelming amount of content it really does feel like an uphill battle for today’s marcomms leaders (and I shudder to think what things will be like once the world goes full-AI in content generation…).

Over my six years at McCrindle so far, I’ve seen a growing number of organisations come to us for research to inform thought leadership content, and then use that thought leadership to drive brand awareness and positioning with their core brand messaging.

I’ve picked out five ways I’ve seen research benefit people like Olivia. It’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch, but an attempt to summarise some of the benefits of investing in research for thought leadership purposes.

1. Build trust and credibility

Trust in institutions is at an all-time low. This applies to corporates and charities too. While people are sceptical of organisations talking themselves up, independent research provides an objective platform to build credibility. Conducting in-depth research helps establish a brand as an authority in its field and provides evidence-based insights from which to generate content. This helps position an organisation as a trustworthy and credible source among its stakeholders and the wider community.

2. Champion a cause, not just your company

I’m no media expert by any stretch, but I’ve seen how wary they are of running stories that are thinly-veiled corporate humble-brags (or political humble-brags for that matter). Something the media do love, however, is to publish content that picks up a noteworthy cause or a trending topic and provides a fresh contribution to the discussion. From acts of kindness,
to financial freedom, food insecurity or the cost of education, we’ve generated engaging research-based content across a whole range of topics and contexts that have resulted in great brand positioning for our clients.

3. Reinforce brand identity

Effective thought leadership provides a natural way for companies to build brand awareness and strengthen brand positioning. It’s a bit like the “show, don’t tell” maxim. Advertising might tell people about yourself, but thought leadership allows you to show your audiences your knowledge and expertise on the topics and messages core to your brand identity.

4. Generate momentum

Public relations agencies get paid good money to advise organisations how to wrangle the media. We’ve worked with many such agencies, and it strikes me still more like an artform than a science. But I’ve seen how consistent research-led thought leadership can build a brand’s credibility over time such that the media and public are anticipating your latest contribution. This is where annual thought leadership reports can be gold, particularly if they are released at the same time each year. Producing consistent, quality research-based content can generate valuable momentum for your brand.

5. Lead the conversation

While selecting topics and angles involves an important listening exercise (“what is a relevant topic for us to speak into?”), thought leaders by definition don’t just participate in conversations, they lead them. Backed by the credibility of research and the engagement that comes with championing a cause not just your company, your contribution can lead conversations, influence opinions and drive change. This may be the holy grail of thought leadership, and we’ve been privileged to celebrate alongside our clients who have been able to achieve it.

It’s not our place to promise any of our clients a certain level of brand awareness or positioning. Though we’ve seen countless clients use research to successfully drive their brand’s thought leadership in ways that generate positive business outcomes. By using research to build trust and credibility, champion a cause, reinforce brand identity, generate momentum, and lead the conversation, companies can leverage the power of research to generate that ever-elusive communications cut-through in today’s message-saturated age.

Thought leadership

Bolster your message and thought leadership with research and visual reports that position you as an industry leader. Using fresh research and visual outputs, our thought leadership services help you increase awareness, advocacy, media interest, all while shaping the conversation in your sector.