Louise Care and Mark Hodson, OnePoll

Few people would blurt out “creative” when asked for a single word to describe market research. [Let’s avoid trying to guess what the commonest spontaneous would be … it might be “boring”.] Yet market research not only has moments of interest, but it often makes forays into the foothills of creativity.

Market research has a vital role from the very start of the product development cycle. Customer reactions are the most vital part of the intelligence which informs bringing a new product or service from concept to market launch.

We had to find ways to research smart meters before there were any smart meters. We had to research Tap to Pay before the cards or terminals existed. All without leading the respondents, without over selling the idea.

This applies more strongly in communications than in any other discipline. Communications are more likely to be truly innovative and different. Whether it’s a new breakfast cereal packaging idea or an advert trying to persuade more people to write their Wills, whatever you are trying to communicate to the public, you probably need market research to investigate and evaluate that communication.

Communication pre-tests, more than any other type of market research, need to be sensitive to all the objectives and constraints on the communication. Market researchers need to be creative themselves; with questionnaire design, order-of-presentation, sample design, quality of stimulus, what other communications to benchmark the new ones against … if they are to fairly evaluate the creative output of their clients and colleagues.

The simpler the concept, the more creative the communication around the product (usually) needs to be. Which means that the research, too, needs to be creative and subtle.

Recently, we had to research the Autumn ‘Back to School’ clothing promotion. What potential USP could market research bring to the table? After a fair bit of research, it became clear that “time poor” (and harassed) was the state of the average mum when looking to do the end of summer uniform and gym kit purchase. Anything that could ameliorate that pressure was clutched onto with the fervour of a drowning man grasping a life preserver. [BTW: yes; it’s predominantly the mums who do the Back to School shopping].

The strongest single idea was to offer “all in one” purchases: socks, shirts, trousers/ skirts, etc. as a bundle. Less decision making. Fewer arguments.

Not ground-breaking research, by any manner of means, but the bundles seem to sell well and, we’re fairly sure, this has made life easier. Working with the client, to take “time poor” and expand this into researching the value of bundled purchases; that was a bit creative.