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Getting Consumer Research Wrong

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Brands are using customer feedback, but they’re getting market research all wrong

How many times have you been left scratching your head, wondering, “How did that ever make it to market?” In the last year alone, we’ve seen pink beer for girls, racist undertones in fashion ads and patronizing branding and packaging in beauty products.

You’d be forgiven for thinking these companies forged ahead while ignoring the voice of the consumer, but history has shown that market research has actually led to some of the most epic product launch and marketing failures of all time.

So where does it all go wrong? And is the investment in research worth it or should marketing specialists just trust their gut when launching new products and campaigns?

If anything, these marketing failures magnify the primary challenge facing brands today — they are being inundated with customer data. To put this in perspective, Home Depot models 1.7 trillion data points a week to power its marketing efforts.

While an overload of customer data, in itself, might not seem like much of a problem, companies are struggling to keep up with the research demand crunch, let alone trying to get ahead of it.

Most scenarios go something like this: organizations want more decisions to be supported by data, which puts enormous pressure on their understaffed research and data analytics teams. And we all know that placing the entire burden of an organization on a handful of staff is a recipe for disaster.

That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing more and more marketing teams taking shortcuts and turning to DIY solutions to get customer feedback. These DIY techniques often include unscientific polls, which undermine proven research methods, disregard demographic criteria and increase the risk of bias and leading questions.

Rather than attempting to circumvent scientific research methodologies, brands should be focusing their efforts on engaging their consumers throughout the product development and marketing process — from concept stage to the in-store or online experience.

With the availability of new online research platforms rooted in proven scientific methods, brands can now collect customer feedback within 24 hours or less, garnering customer insights on a more regular basis to help steer them in the right direction.

According to Mike Stevens, the founder and editor of Insight Platforms, insight today is about “… small scale test-and-learn — not waiting for a big reveal several weeks down the line.” It’s about asking the right questions, at the right time, of the right audience.

For example, prior to automating its research, BMO Harris Bank was launching creative without incorporating customer feedback and that creative was often missing the mark. Since the bank automated the process, the marketing team has not only been able to reduce research timeline from weeks to as little as 48 hours – from kick-off to reporting – but has seen an average 15 percent improvement in creative concept ability to drive business key performance indicators.

It’s always important to remember that with any idea, you just need to test them with your consumers in order to learn and iterate before it hits the market. Because let’s face it, no one wants to become known for being the mastermind behind one of those epic marketing failures.

About the Author: Steve Mast is the President and Chief Innovation Officer of Delvinia, an innovative data collection firm. The company has recently enhanced its product portfolio with the launch of Methodify, an automated research platform that enables marketers to gain actionable consumer insights within 24 hours. Steve can be reached at

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