Our experience with clients has shown us that when it comes to consumer data, there are two camps. Some organizations can’t make the simplest decision without tons of research to back it up; some disregard research entirely and go with gut instinct.
Of course, the reality is that Beloved & Dominant naturals brands make the best decisions with the right combination of data and “feels.” Research without analysis is just a bunch of statistics. And decisions without data are just guesses.
To use research properly—whether it’s a Usage & Attitude study, trend research, syndicated retail sales data (SPINS), or focus groups—you need to overlay the findings with your brand’s mission and vision. Analyze the data through your brand lens—that’s where you’ll find actionable, “decisionable” insight to guide everything from channel expansion to product development to messaging.
When to Lean into Consumer Data
One of the greatest decision-making vulnerabilities in our naturals category is our collective tendency to assume that our consumers are just like us. Especially in brands led by a creative founder who innovated a special product and grew a business around it, leadership believes that the brand’s tribe consists of like-minded and like-lived fans. Practically speaking, consumer insight can be a daily reality check against our biases.
Brands often don’t seek insight without a pain point. When one of these challenges starts to emerge or there’s a pattern, you should seek it out:
- You’re not getting the velocity you predicted, want, or used to have.
- You’re losing ground to competitors that are more trend aware and innovative.
- Retail partners are less enthusiastic about your offering and are shelving your products less prominently.
- Store brands are eroding your traction.
- You’re seeking to widen your audience beyond the consumers you currently serve.
Major disruptions like the current pandemic are also ideal times to procure consumer insight. For example, The Hartman Group is publishing research on how Covid-19 is affecting grocery shopping habits.
What Data Can Tell You—and Can’t
Generally, we don’t conduct focus groups with our clients. There’s a time and place for them, but they’re not relevant for developing the big brand strategy that we work on. Focus groups and other primary consumer research yield a small sample size of opinions that can help you make tactical moves like line extension or packaging design messaging hierarchy:
- the general look and feel (e.g., I like that photo, logotype, colorway)
- I would tell my friends about this product
- I may prefer vanilla vs. chocolate
- the benefits claims would influence my decision to buy the product
Consumer feedback and syndicated data can’t offer wisdom about how people connect with your brand on a deeper level:
- how your brand fits into their lives in a cultural context
- how they behave when your product is one of many in a consideration set
- where they would expect to see your brand
- what is the best sequence for your innovation pipeline and channel strategy
When you’re developing a brand strategy, it’s essential to bring intuition and expertise to shopper research; often, that takes outside consultation. You can ask consumers all the questions you want, but they can’t do the critical thinking for you.
How to Manage Data
If you’re a data-driven organization, your opportunity is not to gather more, but to organize and rationalize what you have so it’s useful. Often, brand teams have so much information that they’re paralyzed. To better manage existing consumer research:
Get it organized. Take inventory of the consumer data you have, and in what format it exists. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business and see if your IT team can build a dashboard that aggregates multiple reports.
Keep it current. As we like to say, data is like in-laws and fish—really good fresh, not so much after a week. Consumer research generally has a 12-month shelf life before it becomes outdated. If you’re relying on three-year-old data to make decisions, you’re immediately behind the curve.
Spread it around. Your sales team has data, your marketing team has data, your retail partners have data. Share it across the organization and take key decisions out of business silos.
Consumer Data Plus Brand Insight
Beloved & Dominant naturals brands combine information with insight to make the right decisions. It takes overlaying the brand mission and vision to create analysis in order to inform those “gut” decisions. Without the strategy, the understanding of the consumers, the point of view—you can’t prioritize options and make decisions.
Research alone is just a set of numbers; its power emerges when you gain clusters of nuance within the data that takes a strategist and marketing team to translate and respond to. Ignoring data would be foolish—but to know what to do with it, that’s the magic.
Think of those “hidden picture” games you had as a kid, where you’d have to lay a sheet of red acetate over the page to see the full image. Analysis—ideally from an outside advisor with tons of expertise and zero bias—is the red acetate that reveals your brand’s path. If you are ready for that external eye – or maybe just thinking about it – drop us a line and let’s talk.