Love it or hate it, market research is essential. Let me say it again, market research is essential for marketing success. I used to have a boss that only believes in quantitative research. He claims that getting a bunch of housewives to yak among themselves and giving them a lot of weight to influence our marketing direction is overdone. Is that true?
Let me talk about why market research is essential: to reduce risks. Not too expensive or tedious to do, but it certainly helped to prevent major career limiting failures or boo boos. Use focus groups to start off the research, and to refine the research direction. Yes, most educated consumers are aware of focus groups and the big group of people behind that big mirror munching on pop corns while making comments on them. So, that makes focus groups less effective now, but nevertheless good as a starting market research tactic.
My take on research? Go for small, frequent, low cost qualitative research for your marketing efforts. Big annual research are expensive, takes a long time, and usually reveals nothing much new. Small ones allow you to focus on say one big question for each research, and get it answered properly and thoroughly.
Concept testing is best accompanied by prototypes. Yes, consumers can imagine, but can you ensure that they see the same thing as you do in their minds? Bring magazine cut ups, drawings, prototypes. Limit them to 2 to 3 concepts, and not 10! Do your own work first to narrow down the concepts! Don’t use housewives to do your marketing work for you. Check on linkage of concepts with your brand, because you need to boost your brand equity.