Actionable Brand Research
About brand research and how to make it strategic
Brand research is what you conduct after you study the problem and hypothesize the solutions. Most research 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 reveals the telling answers. At Resultant Research, we don’t start the questionnaire until well into the branding process because we need to ensure 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 pre-set ideas.
Actionable brand research
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.” Those, however, are just the rational reasons we use to justify our decisions. Which are almost always emotional. Do consumers really compare products? In fact, 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 mediocre.
In fact, most market research simply explores the rational reasons why people decide. It asks about needs and wants and usage. It’s fine to ask that, but don’t confuse with the real reasons why we all choose. What are the emotional drivers?
The balance between quantitative and qualitative brand research
There are two types of brand market research. We conduct both. But our qualitative research is used to help us better develop our quantitative questions. Stealing Share never embarks on a branding project without a research component.
Don’t conduct focus groups
We 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, focus groups waste money.
To answer the questions that are normally answered by focus groups (read our take 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.
Because we choose based on emotional reasons, many participants in a focus group are hesitant to say it. Like anything else, asking for an opinion means you’ll 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. 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 Research also does not recommend focus groups as a part of brand research. Focus groups are 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
Simply put, name and creative testing cannot be done to satisfaction. Anyone who tells you differently are placing way too much faith in process. 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 the strategy is based on sound research, using precepts as a reflection of your target audiences, then you’re only judging the creative work by how effectively it communicates that strategy.
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. That brand firm tests it in a focus group. What would you bet the response would be when they asked for the opinions on the name — HERTZ?
Creative testing is not an art. It is a scam.
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Great brand research asks more than a traditional usage and attitude study does. Supplemental research, like focus groups and name testing, is misleading and a waste of money. Click here for more information.