Market research is one of the 3 big things for brand builders, other than brand management and strategic communication. Market research sets the landscape and environment for you to build your brand and advertising. Some companies, especially the smaller ones, ignore market research at their own peril. They assumed understanding of the target consumers, whom may turn out to be quite different at times.
Research can be used to test on before and after campaign impacts. This will clearly inform you of the impact the campaign has on motivating your target consumers to buy your product. You can use consumer research early in new product development process, to determine the right attributes that your products should have to meet consumer needs.
You can understand your environment better, such as how the customers perceive of brands in a category. You can check on their current perception towards competitor brands, and how your brand stacks up vs. competition. You can then refine your positioning to compete better.
It is very important to use market research to determine the top category attributes, such as whitening and cleaning efficacy for laundry. A new brand may make the mistake of assuming a position in a niche such as making clothes easy to iron after washing, which may be a low priority attribute that consumers do not pay much focus on. It is better to face the big players with a slight variation on cleaning and whitening power, than to occupy a niche that is hardly lucrative.
When you are planning your marketing plan for the year, or a 3 year innovation pipeline, think of how to innovate in the marketing perspective. Having a new product to launch is somewhat easier, but what if you have nothing to launch for the year. Fear not, because you have the weapon of marketing innovation.
First, check the message in the existing campaign, and see if you can squeeze out a fresh spin on it. Try to vary the use of media, and tweak the marketing mix. One good idea is to check on what was done in the past. Check out which activities brought much success, and which were a total waste of time.
Go to consumers to get ideas as well. Get concepts that can bring out the equity of your brand better. In just a few sessions of focus group or one to one interviews, you can definitely get a bunch of new concepts that you can test with consumers. Refine them, and ask consumers what they think of the concepts.
The final avenue to get ideas is to look at your competitors. You competitors could have valuable consumer insights that you have missed. Check out their marketing mix and campaign messages. See if you can come up with a similar campaign, but very much improved or with a different twist.
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.