Internal vs external research: which is more important when creating a strong brand?

February 21, 2023

When building a brand, which is more important, internal or external research? If you only had time for either internal or external, which should you pick? If your answer is ‘neither’, well, we’re not angry with you – just disappointed 😉

From our brand research experience, we find that most businesses choose to carry out internal research over external. It kinda makes sense – after all, doesn’t your internal team understand your business better than anyone? They know what sells, what doesn’t, and the intention behind your offerings, right? Plus, it’s way easier to hold a meeting with your employees and ask for their opinions than doing market research.

Well, the truth is, you need both internal and external data if you want to build a solid brand. 

Warning: we feel a reference to that 2 Become 1 song by the Spice Girls brewing.


What’s the difference between internal and external research?

Internal and external research are two different approaches used by branding agencies to gather information and insights. Internal research involves collecting data and information from within your business, using employee surveys, analysis of sales data and customer feedback.  

External research involves gathering information from outside your business using market surveys, customer focus groups and competitor analysis to gain insights about your brand’s market position, customer preferences and how you’re perceived.


What is internal research (and what’s an echo chamber)?

Contrary to the belief of some, asking Bob at the water cooler what he thinks of your new logo doesn’t really cut it when it comes to internal market research. 

Your team probably has a wealth of knowledge about your products and services. They’ll be the ones dealing with customers every day. They’ll know what’s working and what’s not. But they can also be biased (not to mention, Bob might be hoping for a promotion next month and would rather give positive feedback than risk upsetting your logo choice). That’s why anonymous employee surveys conducted by a third party are one of the best ways to get solid data. 

Relying on internal research alone when branding or rebranding can lead to creating a brand in an echo chamber – meaning you only see, hear and consider the opinions of your team and ignore external feedback. Think about that famous Donald guy who quacks on about how ‘all Americans believe XYZ…’ His (no, not Donald Duck) input likely has a lack of diversity in perspectives and opinions which can lead to a limited, skewed view of the world…and in your case, the market. As a brand, the result would be a brand identity that doesn’t accurately reflect your audience and market. 

Concurrently, this can foster a mindset that puts the internal brand teams’ needs and wants first and the audiences’ second – this is a very dangerous (but very common) scenario for companies, but strategically the audience’s desires should always come first.


What is external research?

When designing your brand strategy, external research is the perfect cure for any case of echo chamber-itis. It’ll give your business important, objective perspectives and provide a broad, realistic view of your market. 

External research can include:

  • Social and digital competitor analysis 
  • Brand awareness and perception research using focus groups & community outreach
  • A/B testing to validate assumptions
  • Social listening to understand what people are saying about your brand
  • UX & CX audits
  • Analysing market trends and insights


DID YOU KNOW? According to a 2020 study, online surveys are the most popular type of quantitative research used worldwide. 89% of respondents from the market research industry stated that they regularly used online surveys as one of their three most used methods.


So, is external research better?

When Taylor & Grace partner with businesses to create impactful branding, we always use both internal and external research. We know that when 2 become 1 (there it is), brands can make informed decisions that accurately speak to the needs of customers and increase the likelihood of staying competitive in the market. 

Are you ready to create a brand that resonates with customers on a whole new level? Get in touch.