Understandably, those of us active in the research community will bang the drum for the role that effective consumer insights can play in creating solid foundations for brand expansion by informing new product development and strategic marketing decisions.
The growth in digital technology has made information on consumer attitudes more accessible than ever, as we have demonstrated through our own use of gamification strategies; though the true value comes in not necessarily gaining the insights, but in understanding them, interpreting them and then knowing how best to deploy them. The question is whether brands are utilising the insights they gain to best effect and whether they use them as widely as possible to provide a benchmark for most developmental and promotional activity.
Because of the way that brands are structured, eg. one brand team does not necessarily work with another brand team, much research is undertaken in silos. This means that sometimes research is duplicated and potentially valuable customer insights are not shared. There may be internal reasons for this as some brands may be competing for budget or to secure budget for an NPD idea that would leave another brand to fight its own corner without budget. Brands would benefit considerably from enabling their research agency to to produce consumer snap shots and general insights which can be cascaded through the company.
Second, brand teams are increasingly transient which means that brand learning is not maximised because historical knowledge is often not carried forward. Research agencies which have worked with an organisation for some time, in contrast, will have that historical brand knowledge which could be deployed for real benefit by the brand.
Ethnography is one of the most valuable research tools, yielding a depth of insight that cannot be gained by any other means. It enables brand to access insights that are not only relevant but embedded in the consumer’s every day real world experience rather than pieces of essentially abstract data. For some brands, taking full advantage of what is truly available may require something of a mind shift away from a production-oriented culture to an insight-led culture. But only by doing so can they be confident that they will be developing products that are based on sound consumer methodology rather than producing products they hope the market will embrace. As we said at the start, the name of the game is to never lose sight of the insight.