President and Founder
C-level leadership should be enthusiastic champions of brand research: after all, these core market truths guide strategic decision-making regarding brand decisions, big and small. However, while the value of market research is evident to Marketing and Insights departments, its importance may be overlooked by executive leadership. Here’s what the C-suite should know.
Your market research team is your partner.
Whether an internal team or external vendor, market research should be undertaken when considering all aspects of business strategy. This means starting to collaborate with the C-suite well before beginning the project. The research team should understand the relevant background informing the study, including the overall business objectives, where the organization is headed, and what, exactly, the company needs to know to get there.
Addressing this contextual information upfront helps C-suite leaders look beyond answering basic “yes/no” questions to fully understanding opportunities and pitfalls for the brand. Adopting a big-picture perspective may also circumvent the need for additional research by gathering a wider scope of information in a single study, as opposed to conducting sequential studies to answer questions in an ad hoc manner.
It’s about more than just numbers.
Innovative research methods have come a long way in revealing underlying motivations for consumer preference and behavior. Many executives focus primarily on charts and graphs, but there is a tremendous amount of business intelligence to be learned from examining the nuances. Yes, quantitative research methods can reveal clear market preferences and are valuable for ranking consumer priorities. But qualitative research reveals market white space, provides fertile ground for new ideation, and highlights the unconscious reasons behind consumer behavior. Both research methods are extremely valuable for brands and can be used in tandem to learn what consumers are really thinking and feeling, then determine how to act on it.
Findings are objective, not political.
If your research partner presents bad news, it indicates your team is trying to determine the bottom line in order to circumvent negative business outcomes. Your research team is there to deliver the facts, not twist insights to fit a particular agenda. When designed appropriately, research studies have the power to verify assumptions, but research results that diverge from what was expected reveal an opportunity to change direction before committing to a doomed course of action.
We experienced this disconnect recently when we partnered with a healthy fast-food chain whose current business strategy revolved around launching a sugar-free product, an initiative local franchisees were banking on to boost sales. Unfortunately, the product didn’t test well. Consumers weren’t craving a sugar-free alternative and instead preferred the taste of the full-sugar original. Company executives disregarded the research, doubling down on their decision to launch the new product. As the research predicted, the product received a lukewarm response and, in the end, all franchisees saw decreases in sales. This misstep could have been avoided if company executives had trusted their research findings.
If research reveals a surprise, it’s okay to pivot.
If your research study doesn’t come back with positive news, all is not lost. In fact, “negative” findings reveal a golden opportunity to change strategy. Knowing this information upfront enables your team to determine exactly what doesn’t resonate, then surface a solution that does. Being aware of this information enables you to pivot before investing further.
Research shouldn’t be boring.
Some C-suite executives dread the cumbersome, 200-page decks delivered by their research partners, and never crack open the reports to reveal the valuable intelligence within. This wastes the research investment and squanders important findings.
Research should tell an engaging story. Ask your research partner to deliver this story in a manner that resonates with your team. Request multiple versions of final reports: one top-line executive summary condensed for brevity, and a fleshed-out version for a deeper look at the details. Ask your research partner for a video cut so you can hear your target market in their own words and watch their facial expressions. See if your research partner can incorporate existing brand research into the overall story, creating fuller context in one report.
Your research partner is there to help you, so don’t hesitate to ask for your deliverables in the manner easiest for you and the rest of the C-suite to digest.
Quality research is worth the time and investment.
Some C-suite executives view research as a non-essential expense. When budget reviews are on the table, research is among the first cut. However, quality brand research pays off over time. Not only do insights answer the question driving a particular initiative, well-defined research can also be used repeatedly to inform future decision-making. Market research not only tells a brand where to focus attention – but it also reveals areas to pull back. This insight can indirectly save millions on misguided future initiatives. Investment in research is a small price to pay to improve decision-making confidence for executive teams who are striving to achieve ongoing success for the organization.