About Strategic Brand Research
Brand research is what you conduct after you have studied the problem and hypothesized the solutions. Most of the marketing research that we see is hardly worth the paper it is printed on because it is generally devoid of any real brand insight and illuminates all that is already known.
Socrates taught us that the questions we ask are more important than the answers we proffer. Nowhere is this more important than in the field of marketing research. Asking the right questions will reveal the telling answers. At Stealing Share® we don’t start the research questionnaire until well into the brand process because we need to make sure we are testing our hypotheses rather then approaching the market with a blank slate. We usually find open-ended questions less valuable than questions where we ask the respondents to evaluate a pre-set idea.
Great Marketing Research
This might seem counter intuitive but rest assured it is correct. Most purchase decisions (service or product) are made without cognitive understanding — we don’t know why we choose what we choose. As a result, if you ask why someone chose a particular brand they will parrot back to you “price”, “convenience” or “effectiveness.” Yet within most categories prices are similar, efficacy is the entry price into the category and convenience is a table stake. It is what you discover beyond these vanilla issues that separates great research from the more common mediocre.
The balance between quantitative and qualitative
We conduct both, but our qualitative research is used to help us better use our quantitative initiatives. In other words, it is used to help us create our quantitative research studies. Stealing Share® will never embark on a branding project without a research component.
We almost never use them. Rather than providing clarity to your mission focus groups cloud the results. The data is neither useful nor projectable and in our judgment, they are a waste of your money. We conduct one-on-one research that allows us to delve into issues that focus groups stifle. One-on-one research is more expensive but the value outweighs the costs.
One of the issues with focus groups is that if you ask for an opinion, you will get one. Deciding if that opinion effects behavior is another matter. Generally speaking, focus groups provide a forum for removing any “objectionable” language from your offering and yet it is exactly those “objectionable” issues that are most memorable. Remove them and you have vanilla ice cream — few will not eat it but it is rarely the object of compulsion. Focus groups never recommend chocolate!
It cannot be done to satisfaction. Anyone who tells you differently has placed way too much faith in process and as John Wooden, the fabled coach at UCLA said, “Do not confuse activity with accomplishment.” Most companies use Focus Groups to test names and you already know what we believe about focus groups. Choose a name that reflects your brand strategy. If you have done it correctly and your strategy is a reflection of your target’s precepts, then it is almost impossible to make a mistake. Few names convey the full meaning and it is the brand context that provides most of their value.
Picture this: An entrepreneur comes to a brand design firm with an idea for a new business that provides travelers with the ability to rent a car nationwide. As a matter of fact, he suggests a name and they decide to test it in a focus group. What would you bet the response would be when they asked for the opinions as they unveiled the name — HERTZ?
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