Majority of brands are doing research wrong. They spend all their efforts with focus groups, where “target audience” is overanalyzing ad storyboards in conditions that could not be more removed from the reality where those ads really are seen. In addition to focus, there is also qualitative research where the same “target audience” lies to their heart´s content about how they care about sustainability, ethicality but in reality only care about the price.
Don´t get me wrong. Right research is essential to successful marketing. Majority of brands would benefit with constant testing and research in the marketplace. You should be able to change advertising assets based on their actual performance in the media. Yes, it requires a little bit more production budget but will result in better success rate. Although there has been quite a lot talk about optimization, it is still surprising that how few brands and brand managers do the effort to measure, optimize and improve. It is just so much more convenient to blow up the money on useless focus groups.
Research is a powerful tool if we approach it differently. Where boring background research is generally reserved to the beginning of the project and happily forgotten by the time there is the creative development is on its full swing, you could actually make research integral part of your advertising. No need to be too scientific or cerebral about it:
Research is essentially just finding things out.
How you find things out is not limited to traditional methods. With digital tools we have more agile ways to do research and figure things up. Don´t let the bad image of current market research stop you. Be more of a mad scientist, less a census data collector and get your hands dirty with the research. On the right hands research can be a powerful creative tool and not just requisite tick in the box.
Great example about this is Shave Test by Gillette. Gillette could have done the usual boring qualitative study and ask women how they feel about beard. When asking someone for an opinion, you always give her opportunity to lie. Therefore observation is always better than asking. Therefore women might have been tempted to say that they love beards, because all the hipsters around sporting their beardos clouded their judgment. Regardless of the truthfulness of the answer, the guys could not have cared less. It would just have been another boring research piece that brands do all the time and no one really notices.
So instead of opting for boring, Gillette collaborated with Tinder for the rogue research. Right swipe in Tinder has become a unified standard for sex appeal. So Gillette and Tinder tested, which get more right swipes: bearded or well-groomed guys. The results were probably not that surprising to women, maybe a little bit to all bearded hipsters out there. You can watch highlights on the video below or get more detailed results in the campaign website:
How many times have come out with exciting creative from your focus groups?