Choosing Words Through Word Association

Choosing Words Through Word Association

Challenger Brand Marketers know that the foundation of effective brand building is constructed with meaningful, relevant, concise messaging that connects with the prospect and drives them to action. Once the messaging is in place, the rest of the brand can be brought to life through look, feel and imagery. It’s the language, though, that remains the precious minerals that must be mined from within the psyche of the prospective customer. That’s right, the psyche.

The valuable brand messaging must be extracted from deep within the customer, and oftentimes, psychology is simply the necessary approach to get to the truth. As part of our Discovery process, we like to put customers through a classic Word Association exercise. Cambridge Dictionary says of Word Association, a method sometimes used in psychoanalysis in which the person being treated says the first word they think of when a particular word is said, which may help to discover how parts of the mind work. Or as Bing Definitions says, it’s the spontaneous and unreflective production of other words in response to a given word, as a game, a prompt to creative thought or memory, or a technique in psychiatric evaluation. We simply see the exercise as an engaging, interactive way to find out how customers feel about our client’s business.

When building out the Word Association exercise, we recognize that the magic lies in which words are chosen and in which order they are unveiled to the customer. The goal is to make the customer feel comfortable and engaged to solicit the most useful feedback. To accomplish this, we design the exercise in an inverted pyramid; we share broad industry terms first and then work our way down to the more specific, product-related terms until we find out how the customer feels about our client. We like to include competitor brands as well, to hear our customers’ emotional opinions about other buying options. It is this feeling the customer has about the client, particularly as it relates to their direct competitors, that becomes most useful when considering our messaging approach.


If you’d like some help putting your customers through a formalized Word Association exercise to help build your messaging strategy, contact us here.

Until next month…

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