Deep research key to success in today’s marcom industry

Newsroom 18/08/2023 | 16:19

From surveys to focus groups and from field trials to interviews, marketers at large brands have a range of varied and often expensive research methods at their disposal. And while market research investment is often the first budget to take a hit when an economic downturn occurs—it declined 3.2 percent during the first quarter of 2023, according to the IPA Bellwether report—, almost any big brand marketer will speak of the importance of research in guiding their decision-making and growth.

By Romanita Oprea



The same report shows strong market growth despite a challenging global and domestic economic environment. Data reveals that the net balance of firms registering upward revisions to their marketing budgets in Q1 2023 is +8.2 percent. This is considerably higher than the +2.2percent recorded in Q4 2022. The report found that 21.1 percent of surveyed firms had expanded their budgets, 12.9 percent had registered budget cuts, and 66 percent had recorded no change in spending.

“The latest Bellwether survey once again highlights the resilience of UK businesses who have endured both a pandemic and a period of plunging consumer confidence and multi-decade high inflation. Total marketing budget growth broadened out during the opening quarter, showing that more companies are tapping into their marketing resources to help them successfully navigate through economic turbulence,” said Joe Hayes, Senior Economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence and author of the Bellwether Report.

Budget plans for 2023/24 are also indicative of this cautiously optimistic approach. Expectations towards marketing budgets for the new financial year were strongly positive, in line with previous estimations. More than a third (36.6 percent) of respondents foresaw greater total marketing spend in real terms for the year ahead, compared to 16.9 percent that anticipated cuts.

“Research and development (R&D) investment is the strategic cornerstone of modern-day companies wishing to compete, grow, and thrive. This is true during good economic times and no less so during times of crisis when new and more efficient products can shield companies from decline and set them up for strong growth in subsequent recovery periods,” said Ron Soferman, Founder & CEO at RSIP Vision, for Forbes.

And that’s because studies conducted over multiple recessions have shown that companies that continue to invest heavily in R&D grow, while competitors that reduce these investments face increased risk of suffering from decline. R&D activities signal to both customers and investors that they can rely on the firm to produce superior products. The higher the leverage, the bigger the impact of profit and stock returns.

“It’s partially true that market research investment can be affected or reduced during an economic downturn as companies may prioritise cost-cutting measures over maintaining research activities. But while this may happen at the market level, things at Reveal Marketing Research are looking quite different. We are currently growing significantly because many clients who have used the services of multinational companies prefer us for more agile solutions and friendlier costs,” said Marius Luican, CEO at Reveal Marketing Research.

He noted that the same thing also happened in 2020, immediately after the lockdown. In such moments, companies that have done well and experienced growth in the past may stagnate or decrease their business, while managers may begin to feel a stronger need to document their decisions and act safely in a shifting and volatile market.

But what of SMEs, with their small and anxiously guarded budgets? Is investing time, effort, and money into research justifiable or are small businesses better off spending their cash elsewhere?

According to Alina Corodeanu, client service director at Reveal Marketing Research, investing time, effort, and money in research can be highly justifiable for small businesses in particular. Research is crucial for gaining insights, understanding market trends, identifying customer needs, and making informed business decisions. But what is important to emphasise is that, by definition, SMEs and startups are coordinated by visionary people who generally have great ambition and believe in their own ideas.

“They tend to be subjective, and subjectivity makes one liable to making mistakes and compromising an entire business. In their case, research is more important because it helps them manage their subjectivity. When you are excited about the idea you are trying to develop, research helps you come back down to earth, makes you understand certain areas where you might make the kind of mistakes that could irreparably damage a fragile business. In other words, research protects you from your own subjectivity,” Corodeanu says.

One could say that research is more important than ever in 2023, especially for smaller companies and those trying to enter the market.

“Research enables businesses to better understand customer preferences, motivations, and behaviours, as these are continually evolving, influenced by various factors such as technological advancements, cultural shifts, and global events. Research helps small businesses stay attuned to these changes, allowing them to adapt their products, services, and marketing strategies accordingly. In today’s data-driven world, it provides businesses with access to vast amounts of information and insight,” Corodeanu added.

By relying on data rather than guesswork, small companies can leverage data analytics, market research, and consumer surveys to make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and protect their business.

What can you do to convince potential clients to continue investing in research, even in hard economic times? According to Marius Luican, during periods of economic growth, certain management patterns are created. People continue to apply these patterns in their business, but actually, they are based on past experiences. During tough economic conditions, consumer behaviour, market dynamics, and industry landscapes can shift rapidly.

“2023 represents a different reality and research is what sets your business on a new path. This is the reason why we now have much more work to do. Even if research budgets are not as big as before, the number of projects has increased. Clients are choosing flexible research options provided by national research companies because they understand that we can help them get actionable insights that support them in the long run, keeping their businesses agile and in control,” the Reveal Marketing Research CEO noted.

Meanwhile, Andrei Bălan, chief strategy officer at MRM Romania, says that research has been and remains one of the research agency’s best kept secrets. They keep an eye on everything that’s happening in the field, but also run their own projects. From this category, he gave the example of the recently released “Truth About New Europe” study.

“In a world where data is increasingly accessible and chatbots can produce a synthetic research report on any topic in seconds, the difference increasingly lies in interpretation and the ability to essentialise what the data suggests. Our method in this sense is to never stop at the first level—the observational one—, but to operate with interpretations. We have developed a method to probe the data beyond this first level and apply several successive interpretive filters to ‘unearth’ a new connection that is revealing in one way or another,” he explained.

How creativity works

For those who are worried that research might be a boring step, this cannot be further from the truth because, for example, research design incorporates techniques such as gamification, immersive experiences or interactive surveys, which engage participants more effectively, elicit richer responses, and uncover unique perspectives. Plus, research skills are vital for many careers and industries. In creative advertising, it makes the difference in terms of providing accurate market statistics and customer insights or being aware of the latest trends in technology. Advertising research is needed in order to determine the effectiveness of a campaign or commercial based on the feedback of a consumer. This kind of research is vital as it analyses whether or not the ROI of an ad campaign has been achieved, which is one of the main goals in advertising.

As pointed out by Gabriel Dobarceanu, head of the qualitative department at Reveal Marketing Research, creative approaches can be applied to the data collection process, too. For example, using social media listening tools, sentiment analysis or data mining techniques can provide businesses with valuable insights from online conversations and user-generated content. Additionally, ethnographic research methods such as in-home visits or shadowing allow us to observe and understand consumers in their natural environment, capturing nuanced behaviours and insights.

“Creativity is also present during the synthesis and interpretation of research findings. Instead of relying solely on standard analytical frameworks, our researchers are encouraged to think more creatively, make connections, and uncover unexpected patterns or insights. For example, involving diverse teams with different backgrounds and perspectives to collaborate on the analysis process stimulates creative thinking and generates unique insights. Lastly, we use innovative formats in client presentations—such as videos, infographics or data visualization tools—in order to make the research experience more engaging, help our clients gain deeper insights, and make the information easily accessible and memorable,” Dobarceanu explained.


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