Card sorting as a brand development tool.

As a coach, trainer and psychologist, it is not surprising that I make great use of card sorting exercises. This simple technique is also extremely useful in branding and brand development projects. I find this most useful in identifying and grouping brand attributes and values for analysis.

My usual starting point is using a standard set of brand value cards.You can also create your own set, and I also use customised sets for specific exercises. Another useful technique is to ask your participants to create their own cards. This can be a particularly powerful technique when working with groups as it stimulates discussion, deeper thought and analysis. An advantage of working with a standard set (your own or somebody else’s) is that you can amass data and cross-reference results across projects.

The applications of this deceptively simple technique are limitless. You can ask participants – individuals or groups – to select the important values of a brand for a project in question. You can then ask them to rank them or weight them if necessary. They can also be asked to sort the cards that best describe your brand or your competitors’.

You can ask participants to take competitive or established brands and select cards that best represent their values and in that way establish cohorts of brands.  Often these can be non-competitive brands that share the same values – for example, Porsche, Rolex and Dunhill. Then it maybe possible to see your brand in the environment of its cohorts.

The technique can be used for snapshot evaluations or to assist qualitative focus groups, or may be applied to lead to more detailed quantitative data. One approach I use is to number each of the cards in my sets. Then the data is accessible to such statistical techniques as cluster analysis.

There are some online card-sorting applications and software, but I would urge you to bend your imagination to this simplest of techniques that can lead to the most sophisticated applications and analysis.

You can download my set of sample cards here.

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