4 Types of Bad News B2B Brand Research Delivers

Tricia Lindsey
Authored byTricia Lindsey

This is one of several blogs in our latest series, “Delivering Bad News to Good People,” where we explore different types of bad news we’ve had to deliver and how these discoveries help companies create meaningful impact within their organizations.

B2B brand research can help to measure the relationship customers have with your company’s products or services. It may either confirm brand awareness hypotheses you already have, or it may surface new opportunities or unexpected perceptions among your buyers.

Sometimes, the findings uncovered in brand studies come as an unpleasant shock. Although initially upsetting, confronting the truth is a necessary first step to success. Once you understand where your brand stands, you can begin to address the gap between customers’ existing perceptions and how you want them to perceive your brand.

Perception precedes reality. – Andy Warhol

At Cascade Insights, we are often the messengers who deliver bad news to good marketers. Below, we’ve laid out four examples of bad brand news we’ve had to deliver, and how they were able to use that information to change the tides of perception — and reality — for their brands.

Bad News #1: No One Knows Who The Heck You Are


The context: We once worked with a cybersecurity client that was initially interested in learning about how their product compared to competing offerings.

In the survey that we administered, we asked respondents which cybersecurity organizations they were aware of. Their responses showed that our client’s product was not as well-known as what they had thought.

Key takeaway: Marketers often don’t like what the brand research tells them. But information — especially of the unpleasant variety — inspires action.

Once this client fully grasped the reality of their situation, they then had the leverage they needed to launch a smart B2B brand awareness strategy.

Bad News #2: No One Knows What You Offer

The context: One of our clients commissioned a brand study to investigate how recognizable their core offerings were to their clients. This client explained that its core offerings were foot traffic data, geo-contextual awareness, and point of interest data. Yet, at the same time this client wanted to expand from being seen as purely B2C focused to someone who could handle B2B needs.

We found our client had a very positive brand perception among B2C consumers. While this company’s social media presence was well-known, its B2B offerings were not as recognizable. In fact, almost 20% of survey respondents weren’t aware that this company offered foot traffic data. Given this client wanted to grow their B2B footprint, this was a challenging finding.

Key takeaway: While this may be perceived as bad news for our client, the study revealed key insights regarding its varying B2B and B2C awareness that enabled them to react, adapt and realign themselves with target customers.

Bad News #3: You’re Not Being Perceived How You Think

The context: One client of ours had recently made a significant effort to engage with the open source community and invest in a number of different open-source projects. After this investment, they wanted to conduct brand research to see if buyers recognized them as friendly to open-source.

Unfortunately, our research uncovered that buyers felt our client was not involved in open-source projects at all. To make matters worse, despite our client’s efforts in the open-source space, buyers didn’t feel that our client contributed to open-source projects. Further, our research revealed that buyers were more likely to work with a company that they perceived to be open-source friendly.

Key takeaway: Initially, this news was frustrating for our client to hear after already working to establish themselves in the open-source space. But, the research made it clear that they had more work to do. Additionally, it reinforced the value buyer’s placed on organizations who truly embraced open-source.

Bad News #4: You’re a Well-Known Brand, But Not a First Choice

The context: We conducted a brand study with a cybersecurity client who needed to determine their level of brand awareness. Our survey asked respondents what brand characteristics they felt were most important and how they would rate other cybersecurity on these attributes.

After completing the survey, we discovered that our client had a relatively high level of brand awareness. This result was a positive takeaway considering the market was so segmented. Despite this, only 5% of respondents said they would actually consider switching to our client from another vendor.

Key takeaway: You won’t be a good fit for everyone. But if you aren’t appealing to the customers you want, you need to know why. This brand study unearthed customer values that could inform the strategic messaging pillars to use in the company’s sales and marketing efforts.

We’re Not Always The Bad Brand News Bears

We’re not always the bearers of bad news. We’ve also seen instances where companies’ key brand attributes aligned exactly with what the market cared about.

For example, one of our clients wanted to conduct brand research to measure how well their customers’ perceptions mapped onto the company’s brand values. Our client believed they were perceived as a caring, friendly, and responsive online HR provider. Our research confirmed this hypothesis, and the respondents emphasized how much they appreciated that our client’s values aligned with buyers.

The point is, brand studies don’t always deliver bad news. They can also confirm positive sentiments about your products and services. But until you actually conduct the research, you won’t know the reality of where you stand in the market.

You Can’t Ask Life to Take The Lemons Back

In the well known game series “Portal,” Cave Johnson voices the following quote.

“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons? Don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! ‘I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?”

Unfortunately, for Cave Johnson, and all of the rest of us, you can’t ask life to take its lemons back. Nor should you get mad about it. But you can make changes. Those changes can be a simple light that others in your organization can choose to follow. And that change in direction can lead to more prospects, customers, or market share.

If you’re tired of dealing with lemons, or you think you might have some lurking around, drop us a note. We can help you figure out what to do with them – instead of just throwing them back.


This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about the brand research we deliver? Our B2B Brand Research can help.

Special thanks to Sean Campbell, Co-Founder & CEO, Tyler Honsinger, Director of Research, and Raeann Bilow, Content Marketing Architect, for advising on this piece.

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