Opportunities for Brands Today (Part 2)

The other week I wrote about one of the most prevalent misconceptions of marketing: it’s the marketers, not the consumers that define brands. This week, I’d like to focus on another dangerous belief that marketers are guilty of having:

Interpretation is a sufficient substitute for analysis

While this flawed belief is not as intuitive as the previous one, it is likely even more dangerous. With traditional methods, marketers have to rely on vast amounts of interpretation throughout the entire insights process. Take for example, the typical approach to brand equity research leading to brand positioning; below I’ve called out the most obvious “interpretations” for illustration:

Step 1: Focus groups to explore the brand and how consumers think about it (e.g. great experience, high quality, good price, makes me think of family gatherings, warm, joyful)

Step 2: Summarize and “interpret” the qualitative findings to design quantitative study (e.g. major attributes are “value for money”, “quality”, “joy”, “family”)

Step 3: Quantitative online study to gain consumer ratings of the “interpretive” attribute “buckets”

Step 4: Summarize and “interpret” quantitative ratings (e.g. our brand is 20 basis points below our competitor on “value for money”)

Step 5: Qualitative focus groups to understand “value for money” definition in consumer language and understand what the brand needs to address

This traditional process is riddled with interpretations and therefore has a high potential for errors or loss of information along the way. We have all performed this process (or something similar), usually because it was the best method available at the time. The interpretation aspect, as expert as it may be, produces the need for additional steps and time delays; all in an effort to answer the very questions that the interpretation has presented. Today, the advent of improved language processing techniques and new methods allow us to simultaneously handle unstructured and structured data. In doing so, it is now possible to remove interpretation from this process while also shortening the time from an arguable 18 months to 10 weeks.

Opportunities moving forward

The key to overcoming the two hurdles that I’ve highlighted is to seek new methods and approaches that can successfully connect raw, open-ended consumer feedback with profile and behavioral information. Combining these into one seamless analytical framework should be the goal of marketers. Ultimately, if you can’t clearly act on the results, you’ve just wasted time and money.

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