So many companies have launched brands that the marketplace doesn’t want, or even need. Business owners are rightly concerned about managing risk, but there are few things riskier than trying to build a brand without doing any market research. It isn’t enough to have a good product and hope that people will buy it. Hope is not a strategy. Hope will not make consumers like it, and hope will not prevent it failing. Which underscores how important it is to do some market research, in order not only to know your customers better, but also, your competitors… so that you know how to differentiate yourself from them.
It never ceases to amaze us the number of brand owners who think they can get away with not doing any research on their target customers or competitors. In our experience, mainly with brand owners in Asia, it is incredibly rare for research to be conducted, simply because it’s considered to be too expensive. One major problem is that brand owners tend to assume that they know their markets and their customers better than they actually do, and how to position themselves to succeed. They also fail to understand the value of research not only to prevent failure but identify opportunities to tap unmet needs and desires, and generate more revenue.
Truth be told, the cost of commissioning research is far outweighed by the losses incurred when brand owners don’t understand the needs of their target audience, or what the competition is doing.
Good research can tell you a lot about how consumers feel about your brand, and what they are moving towards emotionally. It can tell you which product features they want and those they don’t. It can also tell you about market trends that you can leverage, and how to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Research can help to establish which features of your product are the best brand drivers, the goal being to uncover the relevance of each to consumers, and decide which work best. Some product features may be differentiators, but are ‘fool’s gold’ because they are irrelevant to consumer’s needs. Others, called ‘givens’ are attributes that simply have to be there for the product to make the grade. The real brand drivers are those attributes which both differentiate the product from your competitors, and really matter to consumers.
To see how this research could be applied, let’s look at an airline that targets frequent business travellers, and wishes to differentiate itself by appearing more caring. In order to achieve this differentiation, the airline could offer faster check-in, higher baggage allowances, more extras, more frequent flyer miles, or more upgrades. Without research on what the target customers actually want, the airline could easily waste money by emphasizing the wrong service feature, and lose a profit opportunity by failing to identify the real brand drivers.
How market research is evolving
The past few years have seen an evolution in market research, with new forms such as insight communities, social media and mobile research rapidly emerging as the mainstays, offering a kaleidoscope of insights which are a gold mine for brand owners. Online research alone has evolved beyond just simple Google searches to focus on conversations and exchanges on social media. This unprecedented array of research tools combines transactional, behavioural, ethnographic, social and other data insights to provide a full, holistic view of the target consumer.
Take the phenomenal Uber brand for instance. Research has always ranked as a top priority for them, and its commitment to research has been lauded by many industry experts. When moving into a new city market, Uber uses market research to determine the probability of success and establish the degree of need for their tech-driven transportation services. As its enigmatic founder aptly put it, “Being local and speaking with a local voice is important when you’re doing transportation and means you know what’s going on for the city.”
Amazingly, what started out as a humble app to book premium cars in selected urban areas is now revolutionising the transport and logistic fabric of both developed and developing cities around the world. Be it a ride, a sandwich, or a package, Uber uses painstaking research to give people what they want, when they want it.
Conclusion? Research may seem expensive, and it can’t guarantee success, but like using sonar in commercial fishing, it certainly helps you to decide where, and where not, to drop your nets.