About brand research and how to make it strategic
Brand research is what you conduct after you have studied the problem and hypothesized the solutions. Most of the research that we see is hardly worth the paper it is printed on because it is generally devoid of any real 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 market research. Asking the right questions will reveal the telling answers. At Resultant Research, we don’t start the questionnaire until well into the branding process because we need to make sure we are testing our hypotheses rather then approaching the market with prejudice. We find open-ended questions less valuable than questions where the respondents are asked to evaluate a pre-set idea.
Effective brand 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 brand research
There are manly two types of brand market research. 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 studies. Stealing Share will never embark on a branding project without a research component.
Don’t conduct focus groups
We almost never use focus groups. 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.
To answer the questions that are normally answered by focus groups, (read a blog on Focus Groups here) we conduct one-on-one research that allows us to delve into issues that focus groups stifle. This eliminates the prejudice that exists in peer pressure and group mentality.
One of the issues with focus groups is that if you ask for an opinion, you will get one. Deciding if that opinion affects behavior is another matter. Generally speaking, focus groups provide a forum for removing any emotional language from your offering and yet it is exactly those emotionally charged issues that are most memorable. Remove them and you have vanilla ice cream — few will eat it and it is rarely the object of compulsion. Focus groups never recommend chocolate.
As a result, Resultant also does not recommend focus groups as a part of brand research, which can be easily manipulated by both participants and moderators. It is not a scientific approach but rather an anecdotal one, and used by most companies to simply re-affirm what they already want to believe. In the end, focus groups mean nothing. Your brand is far too important for that. It must be supported by objective, projectable and scientific research.
Creative testing and name testing
In brand research, name and creative testing 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 the truth about focus groups.
When strategically deciding on a name, choose a name that reflects your strategy that has already been tested in the quantitative research. 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 context that provides most of their value.
Picture this: An entrepreneur comes to a brand firm with an idea for a new business that provides travelers with the ability to rent a car worldwide. 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?
Creative testing is not an art. It is a scam.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org