5 signs your market research lacks depth

While most marketers understand the importance of market research, if not done well, research may end up only yielding shallow insights which don’t help in decision-making.

It is understandable smaller companies often tend to avoid top quality research because of financial constraints. But it’s not only the smaller brands who are guilty of wasteful research. In fact, the larger brands are more prone to undertaking research just for the sake of it, thereby wasting loads of money without getting decisive inputs.

Here are some signs that your brand is doing the same:

1. You know the attributes, but not your brand’s DNA

Through traditional research you can get attributes, but it cannot bring out a brand’s real DNA. Every brand has a distinct image and a differentiated profile in the minds of consumers, but traditional research fails to reveal them.

Research often offers a brand insight about the different attributes it has, for example, innovation, modern, design, quality, reliability, etc. However, if the research is shallow, all a brand will get is these separate attributes, without getting a real picture of the brand. Also, trying to track brand attributes can be tricky.

Sometimes if a respondent already has a good impression of a brand, there could be a “halo” effect when he or she answers questions about brand attributes. For example, if a consumer already perceives Volkswagen as a better brand than a Hyundai, it will show higher scores on most brand attributes.

2. Your brief to your communication agency is complicated and full of generic words

A briefing to the communication agency is often long and loaded with data and graphs, but without clear cut indicators for the creative guys. A creative agency might receive words describing the product or service which actually do not help the team – for example, “spacious car” or “tasty potato chips”, which would be what typical research findings may offer. Get better insights – get your target audience to explain what they mean. To the middle-aged car buyer, for example, a “spacious” car might be one which allows enough space for kids to feel comfortable, while a younger buyer might take it to mean a “spacious” car which could fit a surf board. And the creative agency might actually have a whole different take on it as well.

3. You can’t explain to your grandma why consumers buy your brand

Some of the deepest things in life are actually very simple. If you can’t explain why consumers prefer your brand over competitors to your grandma, you have not understood the fundamentals of your brand’s DNA. So avoid explanations such as, “Our brand is seen as more tasty than D, but not as tasty as C, while consumers find it more crunchy than A, but less crunchy than B. And our flavour is not as good as A, B or D”.

You should be able to simplify it to the level for any layman to understand. Here’s an example:
Consumers buy car Brand A because they find it ‘sporty’ and ‘attractively designed’ while a major challenge the brand faces, is in its perceived ‘quality’ due to some of its accessories having a ‘plastic look and feel’ – simple, to the point and yet a clear representation of consumer perceptions.

4. You are aware of the broad concepts, but not the words to communicate them

Often the key insights are revealed by the research, but because they came from traditional closed-ended questions, it is impossible to find semantic associations with those words. If I want to communicate my brand of potato chips as being “convenient” what are the words I need to use? Research using open-ended questions might be able to reveal that the most used words for “convenient” are “practical” and “handy”, but not “always available” and “not heavy”.

To cite another example, unprompted responses allow us to understand subtle differences between semantic words used for one brand compared with another, even if the broad concept is the same. Mercedes and Peugeot are both perceived as brands with “attractive design”, but for the former, consumers use words such as “elegant” and “classy” while for the latter, they use words such as “designer” and “stylish”.

5. Your research springs no surprises

Lastly, brand marketers often end up with a report on their table which, despite being detailed and exhaustive, fails to provide anything new and is hardly inspiring. The main reason for this is the researcher inadvertently ends up asking predictable questions, thereby generating predictable responses. After going through this huge pile of data, you realise you probably knew more about your brand and category than what this brand equity study has provided.

Clearly, you are restricting your respondents to what you already know and not allowing them to open themselves up to what is in their minds. So for the attributes you wish to find about, stay limited to the ones that you have pre-decided upon. This kind of research will always end up with expected results and bring in what is commonly known as “confirmation bias”.

Many marketers make the mistake of doing quantitative research when they should be doing qualitative research, or vice-versa. The ideal situation lies in the proper blend of both, which is what Relevance Tags ® methodology offers. The qualitative aspect keeps room for surprises and allows fresh insights to emerge, while the quantitative aspect makes it numerical and statistically representative.

The bottom-line:

Too many marketers are using market research without being able to extract the best out of it due to their lack of openness to newer approaches. Traditional quantitative research cannot reveal deeper insights into consumer perceptions due to their close ended approach.

Most of these grey areas can now be eliminated, through the intelligent usage of open-ended questions, which adds an element of qualitative inputs to the robustness of quantitative research. This is precisely what Tags ® methodology aims to achieve, by bringing the best of both worlds together.

In the coming days, marketers will have access to more data than they can handle. While it will allow them to understand the “where, when and who?” better than ever before, if they cannot complement that data with the “why?”, the overall insights will continue to lack depth and remain incomplete.

The writer is Amitabha Das, director – Asia, Relevance.

Relevance is a Barcelona-based market research and consultancy with an innovative approach to brand research and a gold sponsor of Research Asia Interactive.

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