Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Future Of Brand Research?

This is a quick post, since I missed mine last week! However, the subject is not a small one - brand research. As many of you know Sentient Services believes that the closer research can mimic actual brand interaction environments the better that research is. What do I mean here? Well, if most of a customer's brand experience is with a brand online, then it makes sense to conduct the research online (e.g., an online bulletin board focus group instead of an in-person focus group). Why?
  1. If a customer is telling others about a brand only online, then you want to hear and measure their within "native brand language" 
  2. We love focus groups and love traveling and they are great for a myriad of subjects. However, if normal brand interaction is not part of a group, then it makes sense to measure brand interaction on an individual level and not within a group setting.
  3. If others are receiving peer-group brand feedback online and via social media, the research needs to use the same format. By researching within the format that future communications will take place one can get a better grasp of vernacular, content, and motives to use when making brand research recommendations for implementation.
The idea for this post came about after playing with new social brand site - SocialSmack. This new site allows users to "prop" (thumbs up) or "drop" (thumbs down) different brand experiences they have online and in the real world. These reviews then are shared on Facebook and other social networks. Just like watching a live Twitter stream for brand reactions when news breaks, new sites like this combined with language analytics may start to form the baseline for future brand research.

They won't replace focus groups, back-room M&Ms and the nuances that only having a skilled moderator and 8 consumers in a room can bring (think collages, innovation sessions, white boarding website tasks and all sorts of other stuff that keeps us in business!). However, as researchers we have our eye on these new brand engagement platforms that live beyond the typical measured and researched "customer experience" CE scorecards. The customer experience is now everywhere, and discussed everywhere. Research needs to be the same. What are your thoughts?

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