7 things research will never tell a marketer

No self respecting marketing executive can live without market research. Market Research offers purposeful information to make plans, policies, programmes and procedures of any marketing activity. Market Research industry is as old as communication industry and many would argue more important than the mainstream communication industry. Yet there are pitfalls, and things that MR can never tell. Here are seven things MR can rarely tell

1. Reflect reality

Market research is a post facto measurement of what had happened. The common belief is that research data reflects the current reality and hence can be used as a basis for predicting future. If that was the case then well researched brands would have never failed

2. Predict future

Research means placing human beings together in one place ask them their opinions and form that as a basis of predicting future. This is like saying that if you watch a lion in zoo, you will learn all about lions. Human zoo is no different from animal zoo, and is rarely the right basis of prediction.

3. Is never free of bias

Any form of research suffers from investigator bias and statistical errors. Research too is a classical case of stimulous response. The answers depend on what you ask, and that define the findings. Can research ever be free of bias?

4.Right answers depend on right questions

The new Coke is the stuff that is now a case study. While the new formulation tested well, scored on blind taste and passed every test the research industry threw at it, it failed when launched. The consumer was not asked the most obvious question; will the formulation change the brand they love? Do they want the brand to change? The result was a massacre in market

5. No guaranty of success

Testing a new commercial for predicting its success in market is a common practice. It is easy to score a commercial on emotional appeal, on message comprehension, on ability to create perception. Yet more commercials fail then succeed. We all know that, yet are slaves to practice

6. Does not replace experience and gut

We need to remember that research is a tool, and not the decision. A marketers gut, experience, market reality are far more important than any amount of research data. Yet the tendency is to live more by research data and less by collective experience.

7. Quality matters

We all know this.

Right?

Yet an average marketer rarely spends time on figuring out who will administer the stimulus for research. Will an average field executive be up to scratch? Will the average investigator strike the right balance of objectivity and expertise? Most researches are spoilt by simple overlooking of this crucial aspect. Next time pay attention to field investigators.

As a simple test try this, ban MR for a while, live by what you know as a marketer, trust your experience, trust your market feel, trust the hours you have spent in field. Take the decisions that need to be taken, and use research almost as the last step to check gross negative. You might speed up the process, learn a great deal more from mistakes, and possibly be more successful.

Experience always triumphs over data

Integrated Communications: the new reality

Change may the only constant, but change is most hated by everyone.

Look at every new idea, and the people refused to accept the innovation.

Video didn’t kill radio, calculator didn’t make a whole generation dumb, computers didn’t make us lazy, remotes didn’t turn viewers into constantly surfing junkies

They actually did exactly the opposite. Video made radio smarter. Calculators opened up new possibilities. Computers made a whole generation smarter. Remotes forced the TV programmes to become more entertaining and less preachy

What’s my point?

We may as well see this happening with this entire theory of integrated marketing and communication.

The whole practice of Integrated Marketing is based on the belief that consumers are fragmented, and no single medium can reach them with optimum efficiency. Hence we need to surround them with as many mediums and make them see our brand in the right light. In the morning when they wake up, they must see us on newspapers, thought he day they must see us from billboards and radio. In the evening we must blast them with constant ads on TV. These days’ consumers also watch TV in morning, and hear news on TV throughout the day, so our message must be there too. Rise of mobile and internet means new mediums to should be added to the mix. So not just conventional mediums, but also new mediums. Surround the consumer with as much noise as we can, make sure that that the brand is always around them.

And we do it very simply by taking the TV idea and taking it across every medium. So one visual, one colour or one music note and the brand can communicate with its audience consistently, constantly. We can also measure not only the intensity of our message, but also the effectiveness of our message.

There is a big issue with this approach though. This approach believes that consumers are individual islands and the brands can control the interaction. Almost like what Simon and Garfunkel said in their super hit song “words of prophet are written on the subway wall, and people bowed to their Neon God”

The consumers are no longer fragmented; they have started to become collective, become one and are finding their voice. And not through the old world of unions and forums, but through the new age world of online forums, blogs, communities, Facebooks and Mouthshuts.

And the consumers are shunning authority. We no longer live in a world where people instinctively trust authority. As much social research shows, we’d rather trust our own instincts and the information we learn from our friends. For the brands, it’s better to be talked about by consumers than to try to out-shout the crowd.

These are fundamental changes that will make every theory of Integrated marketing stand on its head

The new world than is not about dominating, but is about engagement. It can sound chaotic and scary, but it needn’t be either

So what is it that the brands need to do to engage consumers?

Make the consumers look good: its not about giving the shine to brand, but to the consumer. The Coke Mentos videos on youtube made the consumers into heros for the brand

Give the consumers a platform: learn from them, see how they interact with the brand and make them central to your brand. This is radically different from the existing thought of being idea central. The idea has to take a back seat.

Let them have fun with the brand: let them customize it, use it the way they want to use it, and allow them to tell the world that they have found their own way of using it.

Speak to them in their language: for a very long time, brands have spoken to consumers in their own vocabulary. In the decontrolled world brands will need to speak with consumers in consumers’ own language

What it means is that the old rules of Integrated Marketing have to undergo a change. The centrality of TV is no longer enough. The consumer is finding a voice, and their own voice, and the brands will have to put them in centre. It is no longer about surrounding the consumer, it is about engaging the consumer

May be there are no rules in the new reality

Published in 4Ps of Marketing, January 15, 2010 issue