When used in a market research context, "Attributes" are simply properties of a given product, brand, service, advertisement or any object of interest.
Much brand and market research is targeted at understanding the most significant and powerful attributes of a product/service/brand or product/service/brand class.
A product, service, or brand can have many attributes including cost, value for money, prestige, taste, usability, liking ("affect") and a wide range of image or personality attributes.
To use one very common example, the car or "automobile" brand class can sometimes include attributes such as prestige, cost, reliability, exclusivity, availability, type (e.g. sporty, family, luxury) and country of origin.
Usually a client wishes to measure their product or brand as perceived by target markets along several attributes they see important to the brand. If they are in a competitive market, they also sometimes need to know how they rate against competing offerings.
A key mistake in attribute-based research is for the most salient attributes to be missed, or the attribute definitions to be posed in such a way as they are not clear to the consumer subject pool. The former often occurs when a brand is product rather than consumer driven. It is often important therefore for research aimed at "un-covering" the salient attributes of the product according to the consumer, rather than the client, to be conducted also. In "brands", where attributes are often related to brand personality, image and brand identification related variables, these can often by uncovered by qualitative and depth interview techniques.
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