It would be nice if our “brand,” the meaning that is evoked when others think of our companies, would be something we could dictate. We try, but its not quite possible to do entirely. Our brands ultimately are the composite of what the marketplace thinks and says about our companies.

Want to know what your brand is in the marketplace? You need to listen to what the marketplace is thinking and saying.

At Sector Intelligence, we are steeped in research traditions that are built upon participant observation — listening, watching, and interacting with our subjects. We’ve grown out of training in oral history, ethnography, and direct experience as front-line entrepreneurs and business leaders.

We know the importance of putting your ear to ground, of asking probing questions, of triangulating conversations taking place on the Web, in the media, at dinner, and on airplane flights. Brands live among us. Characterizing that “life” is a delicate blend of art and science — it has to be developed then validated with rigor.

Sector makes use of several techniques to access and interpret the many sources of interaction where cleint brands are formed and perpetuted:

The Web: Sector Intelligence monitors, listens to, participates in, and interprets activity on the Web for clients. Combining both participant-observation in both live and social media settings, as well as secondary research that includes “listening” across the Web to blogs, web sites, forums, Sector places your ear to ground in your marketplace. We interpret events and trends in customer behavior based on an insider’s view of the customer culture.

(For private online communities operated by organizations for paid or qualified subscribers, we can package our interpretation to add value to the community’s content, as well as package the intelligence for customers such as corporations, media, government, and other organizations who focus on a given field brought together in the community. For consumer brand companies who operate private online communities for their customers, we can conduct intensive analysis of the customer mindset and world view.)

The Media Combining a “dashboard” approach to monitoring media coverage of your marketplace with more intensive review of both online and offline media sources, Sector evaluates both direct “treatment” of your company/products/services, and trends that the marketplace itself is paying attention to. Analysis of media coverage help us to triangulate what we are constantly learning about your brand and marketplace from participant-observation research and our other forms of secondary research.

Document/artifact analysis: Thinking of your target markets as sub-cultures with unique world views, Sector examines the “product” of the target markets — videos, ads, art, music, blogs, events, and other forms of cultural expression that help lend insight into the thinking, needs, and wants of the customers you are trying to connect with.

Direct customer feedback: Using traditional market research tools, Sector completes a triangulation process of “listening” to your marketplace via multiple sources. We use in depth interviewing, focus groups, and surveys for direct response from members of your marketplace (even those within your company). Our use of these tools is informed by the complement of over market listening techniques we use.