AS RESEARCH-DRIVEN ADVERTISING (BASED ON NUMBER OF HITS ON A WEB SITE) HAS BECOME MORE CRITICAL IN REACHING FOR THE RIGHT TARGET, HAS CREATIVITY TAKEN A BACK SEAT TO THE NUMBER-CRUNCHING REALITY?

Migliara: While marketing has become more and more of a data-driven process, by no means has creativity or creative taken a back seat. In fact, being on-target with message is just as important as being on target with the audience; the message needs to resonate and communicate in a meaningful way. Getting noticed and creating share of mind with the correct prospects or customers in a highly fragmented media environment is a critical advantage for growing businesses.
I would also add that research-driven marketing and better customer knowledge is now a necessary input to the creative process, and it supports relevant messaging. Knowing the buyer profile or their preferences goes a long way towards connecting.

WHILE CONDUCTING RESEARCH, HOW HAS THE CINCINNATI MARKET RESPONDED TO THE USE OF NEW MEDIA? ARE OLDER DEMOGRAPHICS BECOMING AS COMFORTABLE WITH IT AS THOSE WHO ARE YOUNGER?

Thaman: While most of our research is conducted on a larger scale than just the Cincinnati market, we have no reason to believe that the Cincinnati market is reacting any differently to new media. We believe the answer to any questions about new research techniques needs to start with proper study design, with the various techniques considered possible tools, not the silver bullet answer. For all research, reaching the right consumer is essential to the success of the project. It is imperative that sound objectives for the research be established, with a focus on how the results will be used, i.e., what decisions need to be made. Only when the goals of the study are clear should the decision be made as to the channel for reaching the target consumer. Too often study design is just a passing thought"”"we know what we want and here is how we want to do it." This often leads to disappointing results.

Assuming the study design dictates using new media, such as online interviewing, when properly executed it will work. The key is knowing what types of research can be conducted and what types of consumers can be reached. Addressing the specific question of "older consumers being comfortable with new media," the answer for research is yes. One must take into account, however, that the older respondent who is comfortable in higher technology areas will be somewhat different than the population at large. Depending on the product/service being tested, this may be a concern"”and there are ways to adjust the findings to reflect this. Of course, similar problems are seen for other demographic groups (i.e., representation, access, comfort with technology), which again emphasis the importance of thorough study design.

Migliara: Generally speaking, all of our clients are embracing web-based tools that collect, organize and make sense of all of the data collected. Our clients want to focus on tools which communicate performance information directly, clearly, rapidly, and with proper context. They also want the information to be arranged in a way that logically supports their business process and focuses on what is currently happening vs. history.

ARE ADVERTISING AGENCIES USING RESEARCH FIRMS IN A DIFFERENT WAY WITH THE INCREASE IN BUZZ MARKETING, NEW MEDIA, ETC.?

Migliara: As an analysis firm, we are using new media not necessarily to solicit the business intelligence but to deliver it. We are providing web-based tools that give instant access to business performance and intelligence down to the customer level"”tracking what works and does not work.

WHAT'S NEW OR BECOMING POPULAR IN MARKET RESEARCH THAT WOULD BE OF INTEREST AND POSSIBLE BENEFIT TO GREATER CINCINNATI COMPANIES?

Thaman: Marketing research today has many new tools available to answer business questions. The development of online interviewing and specialized software enables us to conduct a wider variety of studies, generally faster and at a lower price point than was available before. Today, with our ConScanâ„¢ and ConSelectâ„¢ techniques, we offer our clients the ability to screen a large number of new product ideas with more accurate answers and in half the time that it took just a year ago. We can provide concept assessment as well as help with the positioning of the concept. Providing direct consumer reaction to each statement within the concept itself (will lead) to better advertising, packaging and in-store promotions.

We are conducting in-home product testing with larger samples, more representative samples and greater speed than before with our ProSelectâ„¢ technique. This service provides new analytical techniques that provide much more detail into why a product performs at a certain level, and how it can be improved.

We are building custom respondent panels for our clients that allow them to test products frequently, without the normal lead time for finding the target customer.

Migliara: This is an exciting time for business intelligence. At least two developments offer enormous return on investment (and it does not have to be a huge investment). Web 2.0 technologies provide companies with opportunities to dive deeper into customer knowledge and to find the guidance they need for decision support. This can be quick e-mail surveys to test and tweak messaging before launching a campaign or gathering customer feedback on products and how they are used.  New technology is allowing marketers to avoid mistakes and increase success. Also, data can now be quickly gathered and distributed via intelligent, Web-based dashboards.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE SMALL TO MEDIUM-SIZED COMPANIES THAT ASSUME THEY CANNOT AFFORD OR JUSTIFY INVESTMENT IN THE KIND OF MARKET RESEARCH TOOLS/SERVICES YOU OFFER?

Migliara: Actually, we started this company with the idea that we would bring all of the best tools and techniques for sophisticated data analysis and business intelligence to small and medium-sized businesses. Data mining is no longer done exclusively by the big companies. We have invested in developing the specific expertise, analysis tools and data visualization tools to enable small and medium-sized businesses to do the same. A large investment in people or hardware is not necessary to realize quick and actionable business intelligence.

Thaman: The first question a company should be asking is: "What is the cost of failure?" The answer should include both the direct costs of implementing an idea/service (design, tooling, advertising, manufacturing, etc.) as well as the impact on brand/company image. Consumers don't forget the bombs, and too many failures will hurt the credibility of even a great new product idea, possibly dooming it to failure, too. When viewed within this context, marketing research is generally a small investment overall, and one that can help avoid the failures and improve the chance for success. Marketing research should be considered an investment that will build success, not an expense.