We’ve all witnessed - or presented ourselves - dead consumer research results: the type of data that shows no negative or positive significance or no development since the last tracking. The type of results that make your colleagues yawn and management ask questions. The type of results that look worthless. What do you do? Let me tell you.
First, let me tell you what NOT to do: never ask your data analyst to tweak data to look more significant than they are. It might buy you five minutes of peace from management or enable you to deliver on the business recommendations expected from your project team, but it does not change the fact that your research results came back “meh”.
It’s obvious that very poor or very good performance gives quite clear ideas of whether to get it launched or get it lynched and that is a comfortable space to be in as a market researcher; to come back to your organization with a clear business recommendation.
And then there is the gray middle.
The boring, inconclusive, critically questioned and no-business-recommendation-lives-here gray middle.
The short and inconvenient truth is if you are doubtful about your research results, so are the consumers. Or your research design was not good enough.
So, if the market research results from your product test, concept test, marketing test, brand tracking, or campaign evaluation are mediocre, start over. Again.
I know it hurts, because deadlines. But what value does it bring your business to invest in launching a new product or service that does not ring true for the consumers? Who wins by adding yet another engraving on the 95 %-of-all-product-launches-fail gravestone?
Not you (long-term) and not your brand.
You just end up wasting your resources and with those in decline, it is a deadly path to walk given the competition in most industries and categories these days.
So it goes:
Don’t find stories if there are none.
Don’t create a perceptual tweak to please management or because of deadlines.
Don’t guess what consumers actually meant.
Rather than playing along and pretending the emperor is dressed, be the person that delivers the inconvenient truth: more development or more research is needed.
To be the research-based badass you want to be, you need to stand up against deadlines and corporate BS like “that is the way things are done here”. It can be tough, especially in organizations where reimagining their ways of working is uncommon, but becoming the cultural agent for research quality will be a game-changer for you and the brand.
Start by asking these four questions when evaluating a project that did not deliver significant results:
If you can say no - or “meh” - to any of these, you need to get back to the drawing board and recreate your research design and/or the messages, claims or pricing that you are testing.
Maybe more alternatives should be tested? Maybe you should consider a MaxDiff question design? Maybe your target audience should be broader or more narrow? Whatever it is, there are no shortcuts. And you might have to lynch a couple of darlings along the way.
If it sounds like a lot of extra work, find inspiration in this case from ING Bank Romania: the first round of visual testing did not come back with results as strong as they wanted, so they quickly decided to include a second round of testing with a new set of visuals.
What’s a few extra weeks if the outcome is stronger evidence on which way to go with your product, service or brand?
In conclusion, you can - and should - always challenge your research design and the questions and options presented to consumers to evaluate if the mediocre results can be explained by that. If the reason isn’t there, then consumers are just not that into you or your idea. Accept it, lynch it and move on.