The Smart Way to Use Market Research
In agency life there is a spectrum of projects that range from all-research on one end to all-creative on the other. I could never sell Steve Jobs research. He didn’t want to hear about it. And it was the same with Steven Spielberg. Both men had gut feelings about what they wanted. And all the research in the world wasn’t going to change that.
Now, if you’re working with visionaries of their caliber, you might be able to proceed with huge costly projects based on their gut feeling.
But that’s not the reality for most of us. The question is, then, when should you use research, and how much research should you do?
Research is expensive. It adds cost and takes time, but it also reduces risk. So it’s important to understand how to allocate your research budget to different types of projects.
Here are the times when you want to use research:
- When you’re betting the company on something big and need to know you’re on solid ground
- When you work with data-driven people or in a hierarchical environment where ideas need to be sold up through layers of management
- When you’re working on a creative-driven project that is not high risk (like a new flavor of an existing line of drinks) but you need to check interest before investing
We have some clients who don’t do a lot of research. They feel that they have a good understanding of their organization, its issues and capabilities, and the world in which they compete. They don’t want input from people who don’t have this understanding.
Still, including research in your identity and brand strategy initiatives can help you avoid costly mistakes. Just make sure it’s the right research. In his analysis of the infamous New Coke debacle, “Brand Failures” author Matt Haig writes that Coca-Cola failed to do the right market research. The company focused on blind taste tests at the expense of also researching public perception of the original Coke brand.
Here’s my recommendation. If you can do research at only one point in your project, don’t do it at the beginning before you have a concept to test, and don’t do it at the end when it’s too late to guide your decisions. Do it in the middle of your project when you’ll be able to test your goals and adjust your concept if you’re not on the right track.