Why fast research doesn’t work

With marketers under pressure to prove return on investment on campaigns more than ever, research is often called upon to bolster ideas. While brand heads may want the results quickly, there is a balance between something fast and something accurate that will influence strategy.

Mindi Chahal

Research agencies have recently criticised requests for swift research, saying that proper analysis and thinking time needs to be built into the process – and they might have a point. If marketers are dealing with big budgets, investing in brand-building strategy that will potentially affect a business for years, then getting it right the first time is crucial.

One area in which fast results are possible is when looking at social media. While it can be used as a barometer of advocacy or as a risk spotter, I wonder how reliable it is as a research tool at all – as most conversations don’t happen there.

Brands should be wary of auto-generated results from social media, according to Emma Whitehead, Guardian Media Group’s head of digital. Speaking at a recent debate, she pointed out that interpreting the results carefully and working out how they relate to different audience segments is important.

If a brand’s following is very socially engaged – as in the case of Gala Bingo – then it can be a useful tool. The company wanted to match its audience to that of a celebrity, to make sure that person would relate to their consumers. To the brands’ surprise it was Peter Andre who came out top trumps.

The research industry will obviously argue for insights to be thought about from the outset and become a part of the campaign process – and there is certainly merit in this, rather than it being an afterthought by marketers that need to prove a campaign’s worth.

But it also needs to be aware that as methods are likely to change radically, researchers need to be proactive about working with partners to deliver new solutions in delivery of results.

It is clear more education is needed in using social media to full effect, but using it for quick and dirty results is not the way forward.

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