Qualitative marketing research techniques are very important. They identify the meanings consumers actually ascribe to brands, not the ones managers hope consumers will take away.
What a brand really represents is what consumers think it represents. Well-intentioned brand managers can take actions they think are strategically appropriate, but if these messages are not believed or accepted by the consumers, they can severely maim the brand. Netflix learned this the hard way. It might have made good business sense because of anticipated future industry changes to start charging higher prices for video streaming and separating out its video rentals into another business called Qwikster, but these actions violated consumers’ core understanding of the Netflix promise. Consumers saw Netflix as the place to go to get movies conveniently. Netflix was not a particular delivery system (DVDs or streaming), and it certainly was not about dealing with two different accounts. By misunderstanding consumers’ strong emotional reactions to the changes, CEO Reed Hastings undercut the brand value of Netflix catastrophically.
Via Russ Merz, Ph.D.