Reaching beyond the mainstream audiences

Mark Speed, managing director of IFF Research explains how hard-to-reach audiences are becoming more important for consumer-facing marketers.

Mark Speed
Mark Speed

Research on hard-to-reach groups is ironically becoming much more mainstream. It has traditionally been carried out for the public sector but more and more the private sector want access to these groups.

It’s about accessing these consumers in the right way. There are lots of marketing opportunities for the pink pound, for example. Marketers also see more opportunities among ethnic communities. We’ve been doing some research for a company that markets rice among ethnic communities, for example.

As Britain becomes more and more diverse, this research does become much more difficult. You have to spend time finding out who that particular group is and what the challenges are.

The biggest mistake is when clients say they have a general survey and ask us to apply it to a particular audience, say Bangladeshis.

From the start you need to work out if there’s going to be any sensitivities or taboos. You don’t really want to be talking about alcohol consumption amongst a Muslim community. You need to pilot the research to find out if you need to adapt the questions. We ran a smokers survey that was supposed to take 20 minutes, but it took 45 minutes amongst a Bangladeshi audience and certain words couldn’t be translated.

Research can also help understand difficult topics. We conducted HPV vaccine research to find out the public’s response to the recent campaign that promoted the cervical cancer jab for teenagers.

The results showed us that although some journalists have been ‘offended and morally outraged’ the mothers and daughters we spoke to had no problem with the campaign. It was checking both parties (mother and 13-year-old daughters) found it an appropriate campaign. In fact we found this campaign can be more hard-hitting than it was the first time. And it almost provided a defence for any further criticism.

The key is to spend time finding out who that group is and what the challenges are. You really need to think about who you’re talking to and how to reach them. An expat audience might be very much online, but you might miss an entire segment that you’re trying to reach by choosing the right method. In some cases knocking on doors might be the right way to conduct some research.

As marketers increasingly look to tap into hard-to-reach audiences they will need to think about who exactly is the consumer they want to reach and how to best speak to this audience.

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