Market research = insurance against bad decisions

March 9, 2014By Behind the Shelf Blog, Brand Marketing

by Amy Kasza

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once shared this gem to remind marketers of their responsibility to base their decisions on sound research: “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”

Yet the “new normal” of retail and consumer goods economics that shocked us all in early 2009 has had lasting effects on marketers’ behavior. Consumer goods companies are exercising a new-found caution. Big new product launches are fewer and farther between. Marketing budgets have been laid bare, exposing those companies whose main strength always was in their promotional dollars rather than their ideas.

Some say that competition among CPG brands is now tougher than ever, that the brand unable to afford the slotting fee shouldn’t even bother to pursue the buyer meeting. Conventional wisdom often says that the brands dominant before the big recession can breathe easy and spend less now, because smaller and newer brands simply don’t have the firepower to compete at retail.

Respectfully, I disagree. Ideas hold power, even over dollars, especially when the great brand with limited dollars spends them much more wisely than the merely good brand with the unlimited marketing budget.

One of the best marketing spends a brand can make is on market research to strengthen good ideas and expose bad ideas before they leap off the drawing board. But I wonder if the concept of market research would benefit from some rebranding of its own.

I’m not talking about the time-consuming, plodding process of hosting a dozen focus groups in major metropolitan areas over the course of six months, offering $75 per head and all the M&Ms you can eat to a group of consumers who very well may be conditioned to tell you what you want to hear. That’s so 20th century.

Imagine this vision of market research: consumers from around the country, selected according to as narrow a set of criteria as you need, all participating over the course of three days in an extended discussion about your product. Or your logo. Or your brand’s name, or price point. Or your competition’s strengths and weaknesses.

At the end of it all, you receive a summary report – not the dreaded 100-page transcript that gathers dust on a shelf – of action items and competitive insights that you can begin to pursue that day. All for a budget in the low five-figures and a commitment of about 8-10 weeks.

I don’t think I can put too fine a point on this concept: you aren’t buying a report when you do market research this way. You are buying risk reduction. Insurance against bad decisions.

With the knowledge your brand gains from this type of effective market research, you effectively level the playing field against better-funded competition who are still using their circa 1990s playbook.

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