How to Develop a Brand that SELLS

A dusty old myth is still permeating the advertising industry—more so now than ever with the explosion of personal and professional social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And it’s leaving otherwise smart, some brilliant, business owners and advertising executives scratching their heads when following the trend reduces their brand to rubble.

Relying solely on consumer data, also known as market research, to drive advertising campaigns and, worse, overall brand development.

Market research is a moving, undependable, often downright false target for two main reasons:

1) What people think they want and what they actually want are often at odds. In the midst of a focus group or when filing out a survey, people might say they want green, but actually purchase red. It happens all the time. Not even the giants are immune.

PROVING IT: According to the Coca-Cola Company’s own executive research based on 200,000 consumer taste tests in the late-’80s, Coca-Cola Classic ranked third, Pepsi Cola ranked second, and New Coke ranked as the #1 tasting cola on the market.

Know anybody who’s had an ice-cold glass of New Coke lately?

Me neither.

Market research said, “Consumers like New Coke.” Consumer’s actual purchases said, “We’re sticking with the Classic.”

2) People want to appear smarter, better educated, and more worldly than they really are.

PROVING IT: Ask your staff or colleagues this question today: “Which section of the newspaper do you read first?” Nine out of ten people who actually read the Comics first will say they first read Arts/Culture, perhaps, or Health/Medicine.

The Comics are read before such sections as Arts/Culture, Society/People, Computers, Automobiles, Health/Medicine, Family, and Kids/Youth … but almost no one admits it.

REMEMBER: Advertisers behind a top-dog, sustainable brand use outside market research as supplementary information, never as the sole driving force behind advertising campaigns or overall brand development.

The other half of the story comes from within.  Look inside and your brand will flourish.

It’s not as hard as you think when you know what you’re doing.

Try it out.

Or contact me … leave a comment below.


About father1son

Father. Author. AdMan.
This entry was posted in Advertising, Free, Methods, Response, Sales, Tested, Tips, Tricks, Write and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How to Develop a Brand that SELLS

  1. A. Antonio Ramirez says:

    So blunt and so true. As a creative director, I´ve always worked based on market insights, but you can NEVER make great creative based only on them. Instinct is key. “Looking inside”, like you say. Great article!

  2. father1son says:

    You have a tough job as a creative director, Antonio, because you are, undoubtedly, faced with constant implications or flat-out assertions that start like this: “But market research says …” Gently remind your asserters (and yourself) that following only market research will put your brand in the most dangerous place of all—alongside of, instead of standing out from, everyone else.

  3. Good points, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Testing creative concepts is still important. The problem with market research today is that it’s design and processes have not changed with the changing market.

    Research practices must include “meeting people where they are” or investing in more grass roots approaches. Real ethnographies which are timely and expensive clips the wishy washy consumer comments, because you are observing and evaluating consumers in their own environment. So you have an opportunity to challenge them and connect the saying vs. doing dots.

    Also, the research industry is still color-blind. They have not brought in enough people of color, for example, who can shed new light on real vs. invented insights that will help research professionals develop new instruments and methods for obtain whole vs. half truths.

  4. father1son says:

    Exactly, Pepper. Testing creative concepts IS still important … but it’s only half the story. Too many agencies rely solely on market research to decide which headlines to use, campaigns to run, and strategies to follow, and then wonder why consumers didn’t respond to what they said they would in a survey or within a focus group. Consumer interest is a moving target, not something to base your entire creative approach on. There is a another way – another half to the story. Thanks for your comment, Pepper, keep ’em coming.

  5. Asjai Lou says:

    This is all very interesting and extremely helpful for my new adventure. I am a 27 year old African American with a back round in entertainment. Most industry professionals know me as a casting director, but from the many years of watching my mother, former Director of Productions for Nickelodeon, in which she was in charge of all branding, I learned so much from her. I have a friend who designs jewelry for fun, I thought her product would soar in the fashion industry, so I decided to test out what I felt INSIDE creatively, which was key to this article. I had no experience nor idea of what I was doing, however, we went from needing an investor to high volumes of sales online. It was amazing, from this designer other known designers, not to my knowledge, were watching me and now I have an offer on the table to become the Creative Director of a know denim line. Now for a while I asked myself why would they want someone who is not of that world? But as I read on I’m finding that advertising is changing and since I am from the new era of new ways and out the box thinking, they are eager to work with me.
    However, at this present moment I am seeking the knowledge of what market research can do for me and the tools a creative director must know, but it does seem like they are slowly trying to create a new way of things by bringing someone like me, with natural creative flare and understanding of social platforms. Im in need of clarification!!! Im a little confused on what exactly I should focus on and the tools I need to make my work as the Creative Director efficient. SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!!!

  6. jane says:

    How true! I was just talking about this very thing to one of our junior writers this afternoon. We just finished a phone survey with some of our readers and now we want to implement web analytics that enable us to see what stories people really read – and how much time they spend reading them. We can see how this compares to what they told us they want in the survey…

    The problem we see in the market is that too few companies/execs really make the effort to down to “street level” and observe what their customers really want. Too easy to sit at the desk with a spreadsheet. What a surprise it would be to many when they get real consumer reaction to products.

  7. father1son says:

    Good comment, jane. It’s not that consumer research isn’t important. It is. The problem is relying solely on consumer research, because you and your competitors (all of them) have access to the EXACT same research. If research says consumers want red, and both you and you r competition provide red, what’s the only difference between your brand and your competitors’ brands? Price. Whoever cuts their price the most gets the sale, but little profit and no customer loyalty … because they’ll just move on to the next brand with a lower price.

  8. father1son says:

    Asjai Lou:
    First, the easy part. Read this post:

    Next, the hard part. Try and separate yourself from the little voice that will push you to “do your own thing” and focus instead on the PROVEN techniques that make ads sell. It is hard. It took me almost five years to full accept this concept. But, when I stopped winning creative awards for my clients and started making them money, it was all worth it.

    Creative-driven and sales-driven are not always mutually-exclusive, just 99.999% of the time. Even in Advertising, you can’t serve two masters. One must be subordinate to the other. Ask yourself this before creating ANY ad: “Do I want people to tell me how creative this ad is, or do I want people to be so intrigued they BUY THE PRODUCT?” I’m sure you can guess which one your employer prefers.

    If you can put your employer’s hunger for sales before your thirst for creative autonomy, you’ll take a quantum leap in front of most of your peers in this stage of your career. And you’ll never be without a job.

  9. Tyler says:

    You’ve got a good piece here and I think it strikes the right chord. I think your Coke example is a bit off though. Their research may have been spot on (people like the taste better), but there are just a lot of other factors that came into play.

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