I think there is a key difference between two different types of research that many market researchers don’t realize – the difference between research that helps develop creative materials and research to evaluate creative materials. I have worked at and with several different ad agencies and been trained myself on how to run brainstorming groups, so I bring a slightly different perspective than many market researchers.
To get us on common ground, I’ll start from the idea that Market Research has the ultimate goal of selling more but that it doesn’t sell per se. The premise is that is that if the company understands the customer and his needs, then the company should sell more by developing better sales materials. That’s why it pays a company to have a good Marketing Research department.
One important way to contribute to better sales is through advertising. So, an important role that Market Research can play is to participate in creative development. The danger is think everything market research does is evaluative and not to recognize when you are helping to develop creative work. Evaluating too soon keeps the creative ideas from fully developing and becoming award winning work.
The key principles I learned in my ad agency and brainstorming experience about how market research can contribute to developing great creative work are:
- Your goal is to help the entire team develop the best advertising for the brand. This means giving the ad agency what they need to do a good job. You need to treat them as a customer. (I realize this may seem backwards, but it’s a concept that has helped me.) I have occasionally seen market researchers treat them as lower forms of life. I have seen market researchers take pleasure in criticizing early creative work before it should be evaluated – calling it ‘dreck’ or ‘terrible’. I call that abuse because of the effect that I see it has on creatives. Many creatives hate market researchers because of the way they have been treated. Because they have been previously abused, if you want to take my approach, you will have to approach them carefully and have to build bridges to the creative department. Do it, it is worth it if the brand sells one more package.
- It’s hard to create brilliant advertising – if it was easy we could all do it. But it is not and we can’t. And that’s why they need help from market research.
- Ideas are very fragile, when first developed they can be killed very easily, even if they are potentially brilliant – you need to look for the germ of brilliance because it doesn’t come along very often. Don’t evaluate too soon, wait until they tell you it is finished.
- Creative types careers live or die based on how well their ideas do. This means that creative types are very protective of their ideas. Respect that. If you don’t, you may make an enemy.
- Give creative folks what they need. Ask them if they are getting what they need.
- Creative types appreciate market research which helps them understand their customer better and gives them insight into how the customer is reacting to their work. Help them understand.
- Don’t forget your role. You are not in the creative role – you aren’t trying to fix what is wrong, no one is interested in your creative ideas, that’s not what you are getting paid for. (Marketing folks can get away with it, but not marketing researchers.)
I am proud that my market research work helped to develop advertising that has won awards, I think I contributed to that through my understanding of the creative process. (I hope my agency colleagues agree. )
Note that I am available for training based on the ideas in blogs, for speeches and for consulting work on creating a climate where these ideas can flourish. Please contact me at karenjtibbals at yahoo dot com to learn more.