I remember as a young Account Exec being handed a video camera and I’d be sent out on the streets of Birmingham, in a Bridget Jones style to  ‘find out what the general public think’ about all things from wine to chocolate to buying a house. And they wanted the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

We won lots of pitches for National brands because we had excellent creative ideas as well as the fact that we understood the target audience more than our counterparts. Albeit Mrs Smith from the Hagley Road wasn’t our one and only customer, but listening to her comments on chocolate really did help shape our approach (alongside 25 others).

We’re all for creating customer personas, but it really does pay to conduct some primary research (especially face to face or telephone), to truly understand who you’re after and what they think, feel and do.

Don’t be lazy and assume you know the customers. On the other hand, don’t be scared about what a bit of research might reveal.

Focus groups are really useful for gaining information on new ideas, perceptions and purchasing patterns among specific demographic groups. So for example, if you are a company launching a new buggy umbrella you are likely to get parents or carers of young children together in some focus groups for better insight.

By going straight to the horse’s mouth you need to be prepared for negative comments and embrace these (no matter how daft you find them).

Words to the wise on focus groups, having a ‘bad apple’ or ‘gobby’ one who tries to take over the group can dramatically change the tone and direction of the group (and waste money). Therefore having a good, impartial experienced moderator (who won’t take criticism badly or try to steer the group), is really important for true results. And don’t just rely on one group.

In-depth interviews are one-to-one focused interviews, and normally the questions are drafted in advance and the focus is can be on qualitative responses for more in-depth insight which can be used my marketers to develop a clearer understanding.

We undertake many in-depth interviews with clients’ customers when embarking on a new project or campaign. Often as part of the full marketing and design communications picture, using historical data and insights. It really does paint a better picture to help creative a strategy and approach for moving forwards.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on research. Please get in touch.