Your market research should liberate creative work

While market research is meant to provide insight to creatives, the honest truth is that many creative people see it as a dampener instead.

After several interviews with agency folk across the region, Michael Chadwick, director of brand strategy, APAC for Mondelez International, came away with these.

(Read also: Fuelling creativity with research)

Frustrating creatives

“Creatives have come to feel research is about ticking boxes when creative is about finding ways to break out of them”, Natalie Gruis, planning director, TBWA.

“I always enjoy the understanding of the consumer that research provides. But for me where it starts going pear-shaped is in how we act on it,” Mohan Prabhakar, regional creative director, TBWA.

“Some companies seem to put all their energy into the process rather than remembering what we are doing this for,” Rob Campbell, regional head of strategy, W+K Shanghai.

“This hits the nail on the head. That research is in some places becoming less a tool we use to help us get over hurdles, and more of a hurdle in itself,” said Chadwick, at Research Asia Interactive conference last Friday, held by Marketing Magazine.

“So the big question we have to answer and hold ourselves accountable to: why are we researching?” said Chadwick.

Market research – a harsh editor for creatives?

Chadwick noted that there seems to be two polar opposite models of how research is currently used in the marketing community – The fuel and brake models – he called it.

Here’s how to tell which model yours falls under.

If your research is more of a ‘gateway’ step rather than illumination; if it shows paralysis at the analysis stage; if it fuels slow or no decision making, or worse, decisions made by the research rather than intelligence – Chadwick calls it the Brake model, and is the wrong way to run research.

He gave the example of what happened with Disney’s John Carter movie, and how marketing was clearly overedited by research.

Research told the producers that the original title – The Princess of Mars, wouldn’t appeal to boys. Research also told them that John Carter from Mars sounded too boyish and wouldn’t appeal to girls, so they ended up with plain ‘John Carter’. “Which stood for nothing and appealed to no one,” said Chadwick.

“Don’t let research over edit your creatives – don’t cut off creatives until it stands for nothing,” he said.

The second mistake researchers can make is to give an information overload, which clouds instead of clarifies.

“And this is what happens – too much information, too much data – too little filtering or critical use of that data. And so, in the context of creativity, you get briefs that are anything but, and marketing teams with an awful lot of knowledge but not necessarily a great deal of understanding,” said Chadwick.

Conversely, under the Fuel model, research is looked upon as fuelling creativity and taken fearlessly to bring research and creativity together.

“There are two things driving that – our understanding of how consumers and brands work, and technology,” said Chadwick, referring to how Mondelez worked on its creatives.

For example, the company experienced an issue with its gum business – the continual global declines in the gum category. The company had much information with its traditional reports. But too much data was obfuscating the problem. That had to be translated into relevant insights about things that matter to young people.

The key to liberating creativity was being precise on the challenge, said Chadwick. While it had information on the category on what channels really worked, breakthrough creative was its solution, as well as employing real time measurement on the campaign.

The company created four campaigns for its Dentyne gum and ran them as tests in cities across four countries, picking the most effective execution.

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