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Does market research need to get creative?

DECEMBER 14, 2011 – The words “analytics” or “market research” can sometimes carry the negative connotation of being dry or burdensome to the creative process. However, as Srividya Sridharan, an analyst with Forrester Research, writes on the company blog, the creative department and the analysts who determine what consumers want can work together.

She points to one set of professionals: those who specialize in customer intelligence (CI) and combine market research with other forms of data to provide greater insight into how consumers shop and make purchasing decisions, as well as determine what kind of products they are seeking. However, Sridharan laments, CI professionals have been saddled with a “geeky” persona, and it may be time for them to start adding a little creativity to their data capture and analysis processes.

“Analytics and creativity are seldom used in the same sentence,” Sridharan says. “The natural instinct is to delineate the two as left-brain and right-brain pursuits. Analytics and creative teams speak different languages, use different tools, and find inspiration in different places.”

She advises CI employees to start using the same questions that creative teams ask during their design sessions, with an analytical twist. The way a person frames the question is equally important to how they arrive at the answer, Sridharan argues.

Additionally, the presentation of the statistics and figures can also have a major impact on how a company visualizes and mines the data it collects. A side-effect of this effort is when CI professionals are sharing their findings with those outside their industry – the audience may have an easier time understanding the research and applying it in later stages of the marketing or business intelligence process.

Finally, Sridharan suggests that CI professionals take a different approach to how they summarize the information. The idea applies to how connections or relationships between “seemingly unrelated entities” are uncovered.

As Michael Barnett notes on MarketingWeek, advertising and marketing professionals also have a lot to learn in the internet era, where data collection and mass communication have become faster and simpler than ever.

Digital channels offer vast opportunities, but some marketers are not yet familiar with the tactics and technologies necessary to make the most of these chances. He says that many ad agencies have adopted pay-per-click (PPC), social media and search engine optimization (SEO) to jump on the trend, but the employees at these offices have had to learn as they go, rather than get the training that could help them really exploit the tools.

Instead of approaching their digital campaigns with a trial-and-error attitude, marketers should learn how to understand exactly how PPC and SEO work, as well as how consumers respond to the tactics.

“It is one thing to understand the mechanics of how PPC and SEO work, but it is another being able to implement it, identify opportunities and test it,” Michaela Petrikova, Saxo Bank’s online marketing coordinator, told the news source.”

Barnett points to research that shows social media and blogs account for 17 percent of inbound marketing spend. That is a huge chunk that does not have to be squandered on guesswork.

However, another challenge in seeking training is keeping up with the ever-changing digital world, Jeremy Sulzmann – Betfair’s global head of customer engagement – told MarketingWeek.

“A lot of this is developing so fast that you would be hard pressed to find an established curriculum that either brings you up to speed with where things are, or that would get you to a point when you graduated where things had not moved on,” he said, adding that much of a marketer’s learning is done on the job, in series of tests and mistakes. “A lot of companies out there do not know what they are doing and get it wrong, but they learn and the next campaign they come to market with could be a winner,” Sulzmann concludes.