Discourse Analysis: A Powerful Tool That Ensures Your Strategy’s Success

discourse analysis

Missing a Piece of the Picture

A powerful brand strategy that drives business forward requires more than an understanding of what customers say motivates them to engage with your brand or your competitors. It requires understanding the larger cultural forces at play that shape those same motivations and comparisons. That’s where discourse analysis enters the conversation.

For example, in our work with a major cyber security company, analyzing the discourses at play revealed shifts in the larger security conversations happening in our culture. We discovered we were moving from conversations of protection and attention, to those of proactive prevention and accelerated detection, shifting the security landscape from technical to more strategic.

By understanding the larger cultural shifts at play, discourse analysis can help marketers and branders tie their brands to something larger than just products or offerings. What they are really buying into becomes apparent – something more meaningful and resonant in peoples’ lives.

So What Is Discourse Analysis Exactly?  

People’s knowledge of a brand is constructed through the discourses – conversations and communications – that surround the brand, the category, the competition, and the larger cultural context. When these discourses shift, so do assessments of brands and their relevance.

Discourse analysis isn’t a new concept. It’s a proven approach from anthropology and media studies that brand strategists have refined and honed to support brand strategy today.

At Emotive Brand, we use discourse analysis to shed light on how and why people think and feel the way they do about your brand, products, category, and competitors. With a clear picture of the discourses at play, no-go areas are revealed, promising possibilities are uncovered, and teams are infused with renewed energy.

The approach is focused on understanding the ways your brand, your competitors, and your category builds meaning and resonance in people’s lives. In the case of cyber security, we learned that the opportunity to reach consumers wasn’t just about offering walls that provided protection, but presenting an entire immune system that could strengthen, flex, and prevent attack before it was even happening. Here you see how discourse analysis can be an ideal method for uncovering fresh and powerful ways to help enhance your brand’s strength.

Discourse Analysis Delivers

Discourse analysis creates a complete and mapped understanding of how your brand – within its competitive landscape – can sustain relevance, stand out, and mean something more significant to the people who matter to your business.

1. Keeping pace with change

Understanding the changing landscape is hard for any business – but failing to understand it inevitably results in missed opportunities. Discourse analysis helps our clients visualize the emerging patterns and existing norms of their category more clearly, while providing a map that can be updated in the future.

The evidence allows brands to see their possibilities in a new light and understand their competitors – perhaps better than the competitors understands themselves. The approach makes the journey easier for brands and businesses today – helping them chart potential directions, realize a vision, avoid pitfalls, and ensure the brand is ready to seize promising opportunities on the horizon.

2. Standing out

Brands and businesses today can’t just say something different, they have to stand for something more significant. This requires understanding both the status quo and the best ways of meaningfully challenging it. And changing the character or intensity of the conversations a brand leads or takes part in can power it in a new direction.

Discourse analysis builds a deep understanding of what the norms are, and why those particular ideas, practices, and values are meaningful to people in the first place. Once people understand the origins of these meanings, they can better tap into their power – challenging today’s norms in inventive ways that help your brand stand above the competition and go against the grain, while not forgetting why you matter to people in the first place. For our cyber security client, they were able to stand out by offering security that meant something different – something more. 

3. Becoming more meaningful

When you have a clearer understanding of the discourses that surround your category, competition, and brand, you can more meaningfully position your brand to compete. Your meaningful aspirations will be better articulated to the people you want to reach. Your culture will come to life. Values you align with will get lived and confirmed every day. And what’s authentically unique about your brand will shine true.

Your business will be positioned to thrive because your brand will reach a new level of meaning that resonates in all the domains that matter to your success. With more authentic meaning, people will be more engaged, more loyal, and your brand will be more trusted.

Discourse Analysis, Here’s How We Do It

Step 1: Identify the basis of competition in your category

This first phase establishes the scope of the analysis. It usually includes key competitors, the larger cultural context for the category, and key target audiences at play, as well as the brand itself.

Step 2: Collect data and organize evidence

This stage is all about gathering the naturally occurring data – the real world evidence needed to analyze how people and groups talk about what’s important to them with regard to your brand and its competitors. This evidence can come in the form of social listening, news and media coverage, consumer reviews, individual conversations, primary research, ads, packaging, promotional materials, etc.

Step 3: Conduct the analysis and uncover patterns  

In this phase, we use a set of proven tools from social science to identify recurring patterns in the evidence. This includes similarities and differences between the ways people relate to key brand benefits, needs, and desires that surround your brand, the competition, and the category.  The key question at this step is: what are the values and perspectives the category, competitors, and brand rely on to construct meaning and how have these developed over time?

This is the stage of deep pattern recognition and mapping. We reveal insights that help your brand discover the biggest opportunities at play – uncovering which ideas and values are not just culturally of the moment, but show the greatest promise for the future.

Because of discourse analysis, our client was able to promise more than just short-term security. They could offer a long-term, sustainable, proactive, accelerated solution for the future.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency.


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