Adding a dash of creativity to your market research methodology can
bring pizazz to an otherwise dry campaign and save your clients a
bundle. Creative planning and execution of research can be a
cost-effective means of generating coverage in and of itself.
For starters, asking the right questions can lead to a head-turning news
hook. '(Research) has to go beyond (producing) a workable story,' says
David Michaelson, managing director of research at Ogilvy. 'It has to be
something that supports the client's story.'
According to Michaelson, when dealing with research, it's important to
know the objectives and have a clear understanding of the target
audience. 'We ask questions like, 'What does the target audience
believe, and how can we get them to believe what we want them to
believe,'' he says. 'The idea is to back into those research gaps - not
to find out what is known, but what we don't know.'
Michaelson recalls a campaign he worked on for the Arthritis
'We asked ourselves, how can we document issues of pain in such a way
that pain is viewed as a serious problem? Most people say they don't
have chronic pain.'
Ogilvy developed a series of questions emphasizing less frequent
incidence of pain. 'What we found was that 89% or more of Americans
suffer pain every month.' That eye-popping figure generated widespread
'Researchers are more narrowly focused on getting marketing results,'
says Barbara Leflein, president of market research firm Leflein
'They're not really thinking about leveraging the research. We have to
look for the news hook and be creative about how to prove a point or
substantiating the message.'
Leflein did just that in a campaign for Response Insurance. The firm ran
respondents through a checklist of driving behavior. Seventy-six percent
of those surveyed practiced dangerously distracting behavior - such as
reading, writing, fighting and even putting in contact lenses - while
The figure was picked up by more than 250 news outlets, including
CarandDriver.com and the AP radio network. 'They milked that story for a
year,' Leflein says.
Hill & Knowlton scored client TiVo coverage with a campaign based on a
survey showing that spouses of football fans felt alienated from their
partners when they watched football on TV. So during football season,
H&K, with the help of celebrity spokesman 'Dr. Drew' Pinsky, promoted
TiVo - a personal TV service that runs on a digital video recorder -
under the banner 'The Coalition for the Prevention of Sports Widows.'
'It was a tongue-in-cheek way to have fun with the audience,' says H&K
senior managing director Erica Amestoy. 'The response was overwhelming.
Research helps bring these things to life.'
'I always counsel clients to build on what exists,' says Bruce
Jeffries-Fox, EVP of InsightFarm. 'A lot of PR firms don't talk to
mainstream marketing people. So I tell them, 'Go down the hall and knock
on the door.' It might produce insight into target markets. These are
things PR people ought to know.'
Screening for the right respondents can greatly increase the accuracy
and effectiveness of a report. 'We used to be very concerned with the
general population,' says Alex Jutkowitz, president and CEO of BSMG's
KRC Research & Consulting. 'That's very rare now. In public affairs,
we're looking at opinion leaders. On the consumer side, we've worked
with dot-coms looking to market entertainment, where we would try to
look for 18- to 34-year-olds that were into extreme sports and extreme
measures of humor.'
One of KRC's clients, a Web portal, asked the firm to target two narrow
youth markets. For one segment, respondents were asked if they had heard
of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco, seen the film All About My Mother or
watched the XGames on ESPN. For the second pool, respondents were
selected based on whether or not they wore the brand FUBU, listened to
rapper Foxy Brown or read Vibe magazine. 'Those are things that once you
know what you're looking for, you go out and find those people,' says
Jutkowitz. 'It was a lot of dialing, lots of looking.'
But sampling by phone can be costly, especially when searching for
respondents in niche markets. 'There are a lot of other ways to gather
data,' says Hal Quinley, formerly West Coast general manager at
Yankelovich and now group president of public opinion and PR at Harris
A former client of Quinley's once asked for a product survey of gay
So Quinley and his team headed down to a local gay pride parade. 'How
could you get a reasonable sample of gay males any other way?' he
'We set up a booth, came up with a little giveaway and people were
perfectly happy to fill out a two- to three-page questionnaire.'
Increasingly, researchers are turning to the Internet, where highly
topical online discussion groups and list serves provide access to
otherwise hard-to-find target audiences. 'The advantage is that you can
get into some very low incidence groups very cheaply,' says Quinley.
'You can do a decent study much more quickly.'
With a bear market roaring out of hibernation and clients scrambling to
cut costs, research offers the savvy spinster an inexpensive means of
turning a slow news day into a bonanza for clients.
SELECT MARKET RESEARCH FIRMS
InsightFarm (owned by Burrelle's and VMS)
KRC Research & Consulting (unit of BSMG Worldwide)
New York, NY
Fort Lee, NJ
Audits & Surveys Worldwide
New York, NY
The Gallup Organization
Roper Starch Worldwide
New York, NY