Market research can be painful sometimes. You may have poured your heart and soul into an idea and feel it’s really good, only to put it in front of your customers and hear all the things they hate about it. But it’s better to know in advance than to find out after you’ve spent a ton of money and risked your brand equity for your idea.
It may not be as sexy as measuring customer satisfaction, prioritizing product features, or helping you optimize your pricing strategies, but sometimes market research is simply necessary to make sure that you haven’t overlooked something important when developing a product, service, or marketing campaign. No matter how much we try to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, it is impossible to be 100% sure that your own background and experiences have ensured that you fully understand the perspectives of customers who come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes.
In our own work, we frequently work with advertising agencies to help inform and evaluate ad campaigns and media before launch. Considering the enormous amount of money required to reach a wide audience (though television, radio, online ads, etc.), it just makes sense to devote a small part of your budget to running the campaign by a variety of people in your audience to make sure you know how people might react.
In some cases, what you learn might be fairly minor. You might not have even noticed that your ad lacks diversity. You might not have noticed that your ad makes some people feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps, your own world view has given you a blind spot to the fact that your ad makes light of sensitive issues, such as religion, major tragedies, or even date rape.
Unfortunately, we saw an example of this issue in Denver recently, where a local coffee chain’s attempt at humor infuriated the local neighborhood with a sign that read, “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” From the perspective of someone less engaged in the neighborhood, you can understand what they were getting at – that good coffee was a sign of progress in the natural development of a thriving city.
However, the statement completely misses the fact that gentrification often results in people being forced from the homes they have lived in for years and the destruction of relationships across an entire neighborhood. In this particular case, the coffee shop was located directly in the middle of a neighborhood that has been struggling with gentrification for the past decade or more, and tensions were already high. The ad was like throwing gasoline on a fire and has resulted in protests, graffiti, and even temporary closure of the store.
It’s certainly easy to blame the company, the ad agency, and anyone else that didn’t see that this campaign would be a bad idea. However, the reality is that all of us have our blind spots to sensitive issues, and no matter how much we feel like we understand people of different backgrounds, there will always be a chance you’ve missed something.
So, please, for the sake of your own sanity and those of your customers, do some research before you launch a marketing campaign. At a minimum, run your ad by some people who might see it just to see how they react. And if you want a more robust evaluation of your campaign, which can help to ensure that your advertising dollars have the biggest impact possible, we can probably help.