As marketers we recognize the importance of a well-executed marketing strategy in order to adequately connect and motivate our target audience. Nevertheless, we often ignore or skim over the marketing research process. Sadly, if we don’t understand our target audience and environment, we may develop an amazing marketing strategy that completely misses the mark. It is not so much about creating great content, that “great” content has to be relevant and connect to the needs and desires of our audience as well. The best way to accomplish said goal is by taking the time to research and understand our target market and use key insights to design our marketing plans.
This sounds appealing but, be warned, conducting research will not necessarily be enough to lead to sales or conversions. You must be careful when designing your study and research question so that they generate usable and insightful results. Catastrophic marketing campaigns are often the results of strategies that lacked research or were based on misdirected research.
Colgate Frozen Entrees
In 1982, Colgate attempted to branch out into the frozen food market. As expected, the expansion was a complete failure. Consumers had a solidified image of the brand as purveyors of minty toothpaste and other oral hygiene products. These preconceptions were a considerable turnoff when considering consuming a meal that was branded under this identity. Colgate directors should have conducted some research and it should’ve been obvious that this expansion was completely unwise.
In 1985, Coca-Cola began experimenting with a new formula for its drink after a growing perception that Pepsi had a better tasting product. Even though focus groups had a positive response to the taste of the new formula, the product was an utter failure once it was released to the public. The brand failed to understand that most of its loyal consumers were attracted to the nostalgia that came from their classic flavor. Coke quickly discontinued the “New Coke”; however, the mess could’ve been avoided if the company had utilized multiple marketing research methods and had studied factors that extended beyond taste when conducting their research.
How do we go about conducting good marketing research?
After learning about these obvious marketing research blunders, the importance of good research is more relevant than ever before. When conducting marketing research, the first step is to identify a research need. What exactly is it that you want to know about your audience and how would your strategy change once you have this information? If your strategy would remain unchanged despite your findings, conducting research may not be worth it. Also, consider the potential costs and time constraints that you have. If you must execute your strategy in a short period of time or if cost of research will exceed what you stand to gain, research may not be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you have at least a few weeks or months to conduct your research and an ample budget, research is your best bet.
Once you have your research question, you must design your research. Make sure that all your stakeholders are aligned and understand what you are studying. In addition, think about who you will be measuring. Perhaps your main question may be best answered by your current audience or perhaps you should consider your potential audience or competition instead. There is an ample array of research techniques that you can utilize including surveys, research groups and more. Your research methods will vary depending on your budget, research question and stage in the research process and product life cycle.
It is now time to conduct your study! You should consider using various research techniques in order to strengthen your final results. Furthermore, start out with secondary research (research that has already been published) and then fill in the gaps with research you conduct yourself. Secondary research is easier to access and tends to be less expensive compared to primary research.
Lastly, make sure you analyze your results and dissect key findings. You should share your research insights by telling an engaging story that ultimately informs your strategy and leads to measurable results. If your strategy does not reflect your research, the aforementioned process would have been conducted in vain.
Marketing research successfully integrated business and psychology and brings key insights to marketers that can be useful when creating solid marketing strategies. Consider conducting research before designing your next marketing plan and your results are likely to positively reflect this extra step.