The worlds geniuses have shown contempt for research and then gone ahead to build history’s most successful brands. Unfortunately for us, the lesser mortals, we have to go through a tedious process of collecting comprehensive data and generating significant insight for our activities to win any kind of recognition.
All is not lost however because help is at hand and the major research agencies thrive on the curiosity harboured by the board of directors and executive committees that are responsible for keeping the lights on. In order to sell more products they keep tabs on consumption habits, purchase behaviour and figuring out much people are willing to spend on innovative product features.
Multinational companies with extensive distribution and wafer thin margins will do anything to fatten the returns which explains their staple diet of expensive tracking research. They are all over the consumer like a cheap suit as they constantly follow their every move, dissect their thoughts and hang on every word. It is formal research at its best and they’ve established effective processes to digest the data in order to improve their brand health and performance.
Moving down the food chain you’ll find medium sized and younger companies that have become accustomed to large profit margins and double digit growth. They question the need for research and often think that it is too expensive.
However, because their markets are not as vast as the multinationals and the risk is limited, they can get away with a carefree outlook and spend less money and time processing data. This group insists that it is the advertising agencies that should invest in research because it aids the ad strategies that they create, irrespective of the fact that they’ve squeezed the retainer fees to the extent that the agency profit margin is so slight that it resembles surface tension.
The companies can resort to using their staff to collect data in a relatively informal but effective approach because the people who need the data own the process. Over time the team gets better at reading the market and who knows, they may end up being some of those geniuses that conjure massively successful products because their antennas are incredibly tuned to their market.
These types of surveys rely on frequent interaction with customers, dealers and other people critical to the supply chain and developing a bank of anecdotal information that is sometimes referred to as dipstick research. Don’t confuse dipstick research with talking to the tea girl about hair extensions and then incorporating only her perspective into your communication strategy.
The vocabulary of small and micro enterprises is devoid of the word research because it is seen as wanton extravagance. Their opportunities to gain insight into their market lie in experiential or collective judgement; the first is done alone and the second with others. It is founded on what you think customers feel and want based on the fact that you are one of them and have breathed the same air from the time you were wet at both ends. The insight generated by this method is severely limited and often leads to bad marketing strategy.
However, if you are one of those geniuses I spoke of earlier, this may just be the approach for you.