The Secret Marketer on the importance of market research

Secret Marketer

One of the first things that I did when I joined my current company was to ask about the research that we had on the brand. How were we seen in the marketplace? I knew prior to joining that one of the challenges the business faced was brand recognition – despite us being one of the three largest companies in terms of market share in our sector.

Therefore, it was perhaps unsurprising when the anecdotal feedback – usually from the sales force – I was given was neither grounded in hard facts or gave any indication of trends.

My CEO told me that the role of market research is to teach the marketing director what he already knows

The sad thing is that this is typical of too many brands. When I joined my last company – a FTSE 100 high street brand – and asked a similar question of the CEO, his response will rest with me till the day I die: “The role of market research is to teach the marketing director what I already know.” This somewhat galling statement quickly demonstrated that I needed to use more than hard facts to win my future arguments in the board room.

Anyway, back to my current organisation. On finding out that we only possessed anecdotal market research (and seeking to diffuse a similar confrontation with my new CEO), I instigated a brand tracker and am now in possession of the results for the third year (how time passes when you’re having fun).

The great thing about a brand tracker is that it gives you the perfect ammunition to prove whether marketing is having an impact. The only way the scores can rise year on year (at least versus the sector average) is if your messages are getting through, and the recipient recognises what you are saying and attributes it to your brand.
However, as with most market research, it is never as simple as that, and while all my key scores are moving in the right direction, so are those of my biggest competitors. This suggests that my sector is completely undifferentiated and each brand is seen equally, with little to tell between any of us.

As it is also annual appraisal time, I think I will park that fact and instead choose some charts that back up the point I want to make. Who was it who said: “Lies, damn lies, statistics and market research findings”?

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