The marketing research is essentially important in branding generally and in creating a sound brand identity particularly. However, the brand research may turn into a pitfall if marketers do not have savvy knowledge and experiences in market research and most importantly, they do not critically think about this tricky tool in marketing.
In this regard, a classic research failure of over 25 years still provides great insights for marketers today.
In 1985, Coca Cola has spent $ 4 millions dollars on a blind taste test for the New Coke product with 200,000 respondents in the main cities of the America. The research findings revealed that people preferred the New Coke to Old Coke and remarkably to Pepsi (New Coke tastes sweeter). Subsequently, New Coke was rolled out nationwide with the hope of making a milestone for Coca Cola. The market reaction after launching was bloody surprising: Coca Cola’s headquarter received around 6,000 calls of complain a day, sales slumped sharply and as a result, New Coke was recalled from shelves just in two months afterwards.
This classic failure in market research substantiates the truth that market research is not simply following the findings. The brand research only works when the whole process of research is conducted in right way of rigorous quality control all along over the research objectives, research design, research findings reading (especially how to read quantitative data properly).
The fist and foremost question we need to ask before doing a brand research is: do we really understand what our brand position is to begin with in the perception of target audience? In the New Coke example, it seems that Coca Cola’s senior executives are not really sensible to the invaluable aspect of this brand – Coke is regarded as an iconic brand and its value lies in traditional imagery (many Americans identify Coke to a symbolic characteristic of America) rather than in its brand physical performance (its taste and so).
Regarding the research design, it is crucial that researchers recruit the right respondents and they should understand questionnaires in the right way that brand owners originally intends to ask. In the New Coke blind test, when respondents said that they liked new Coke they were not aware that there would be no more Old Coke on the shelves if New Coke was launched. This miscommunication was resulted from deficiency in the initial research design that makes research findings really misleading.
Last but not least, reading research findings (especially qualitative findings) is really tricky and it requires comprehensive skills and market understanding from researchers. In other words, researchers should be a critical thinker as apposed to be a slave of research findings. In 2008, Richard Moore Associates developed a successful brand identity for CAO Fine Jewellery Brand (an endorsed brand of PNJ). Initially, the research findings revealed that respondents did not positively perceive CAO brand name as a premium jewelry brand because they though it sounded too “hard”. However, forewarned of this perception, we thought we could overcome it with an elegant “counter-hard” logo appearance and take advantage of the name’s intrinsic “high” meaning. The result has proven very successful.
In short, marketing research is a valuable input in branding and in creating a sound brand identity alike. On the other hand, market research may turn out to be counter-productive if marketers simply follow research findings as a “naive” slave.
Nguyen Duc Son
Brand Strategy Director – Richard Moore Associates