Skip to main content

The customer research gap


I am excited about the opportunity to connect with the broader CPG audience, and to share observations and strategies to help busy leaders thrive. The focus of my column is on change, and it is my hope that it provides food for thought (I couldn’t resist), and helps leaders who are facing change, considering change, and in the midst of change in their company.

A quick introduction: I have a 25-year career in marketing across different industries.  My fondest memories would have to be working in CPG marketing. There were several “aha” moments for me while working in consumer packaged goods that became the impetus for creating an innovative view of change to help leaders, and teaching and consulting for CPG brands and retailers on a variety of projects.

I recall when I worked for the President and CEO at a once-leading advertising agency (he has since retired). He used to say that the blue chip marketers worked in the CPG industry. We had a few of the big CPG brands as clients, and they definitely brought a level of sophistication and a different perspective.

When I started working in the CPG industry, I was amazed at the volume of data that leaders used to make decisions. At the same time, there were many gaps in the information available. It forced some of the leaders to move into analysis paralysis because they didn’t have a complete view for decisions.

One of the gaps that emerged for me was likely the result of my agency days. If I am going to launch a new product aimed at a specific target audience profile, how do I know for certain that person went to the store and purchased my product?

Many of us rely on audience profiles, with segmentation spanning between 25 to 54 years old, female, and household incomes of X dollars. I think most of us would agree that a 25-year-old female and a 54-year-old female are two very different women at very different lifecycle stages. The reason they are buying our products may be very different too. But, do our plans reflect sub-segmentation so that we can see if the audience is really 25 years old or 35 years or maybe 45 years old, and take appropriate action?

Do current research methods provide a realistic view?

I have seen examples where current and potential customers say they will buy the product during pre-campaign testing, but post-campaign analyses show they didn’t buy the product despite predictions.

One of the reasons for the gap could be the format for conducting research. In my opinion, we are selecting the groups of people to participate in our pre-campaign testing, but what if people actually did the pre-selecting and we conducted research while the campaign is underway using a different combination of strategies to enlist feedback?

Given the information age and the technology-savvy consumers, there is an opportunity to integrate research into our campaign plans. But, it does mean changing the game plan from conducting pre-campaign testing and post-campaign analyses only, to research studies being conducted using integrated campaigns to collect insights from people who interact with the elements on an ongoing basis. I am not referring to social media tracking. What I am suggesting is a sophisticated research strategy that spans different points of campaign interaction with prospective clients.

Research budget optimization

Leaders often question the value of conducting research because there isn’t always a direct link to prove that research is a worthwhile expenditure. The reality is that when times get tough, research is often the first line item cut on the budget.

I have been working with leaders and helping to implement In-Campaign Research or In-Flight Focus Group Research. In one example, the audience provided completely different feedback compared to the pre-campaign focus group that helped us to adjust the messaging across digital and traditional media in-flight and soon after so we could optimize the entire campaign performance.

From my experience implementing In-Campaign Research strategies, companies are able to secure a competitive advantage earlier with prospect customers, and optimize the campaign and in-store elements based on the findings. Ultimately, enhancing budget spending too.

Research can be optimized if combined with innovative strategies and modern-day tools, and change in perspective.

I will be speaking more about this topic, and other areas related to change every month. Please feel free to get in touch with me in the meantime.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds