We’re seeing the pace of change in human resources (HR) accelerate as digital technologies change the way we work, as digital natives enter the workplace, as labour law evolves and as competition for the best talent heats up.
Where did all the research go?
By Desiree Gullan, G&G Digital Executive Creative Director
In traditional agencies, research is a nucleus its the alpha and omega of brand strategy. It means a deep, reverberating comprehension of products or services, the people who make them and the people buy them. It means crystallising strategy and campaign to align with this understanding.
In this know-everything, do-everything digital age, some agencies scorn the value of brand immersion. They ride out into battle without the right cavalry. And because there are a select number of digital channels, with rules and algorithms governing each, these agencies believe theyre commandeering their troops in the most efficient way.
The truth is, research and brand immersion still matter. Smart advertising doesnt exist without it regardless of whether youre playing in the digital or traditional ad space. No truly innovative campaign can be birthed without it. There remain key areas of research every agency should be driving, and encouraging their people to do so too.
Research lives everywhere
But we dont have a research department and we cant afford one. This is the first obstacle agency leads will present in trying to fight against the necessities of research. In truth, it doesnt matter. Research should be endemic in every department of every agency.
Every employee creative, client service or development should make it their mandate to understand their clients better than the person sitting next to them. If youre marketing a sock brand, your people should be wearing them. Marketing a coffee company? You shouldnt be sipping anything else.
Agency teams should constantly search for real-life insights from the people around them both on and offline and use these to inform their work. If they dont know the brand, they shouldnt have the audacity to try and send an email to the client or put a word on paper they dont have the right.
Its not only up to the client to conduct research about their own brand. Your research as their agency can add a useful and colourful layer to the clients research that theyll thank you for.
The easiest place to start with research is to get all people involved including client in one room, and dont let them leave until theyve told you everything they can about their brand. These brand immersions can do so much, but only if the people in the room are tuned in. Dont let team members sit in on a brand immersion if theyre going to steal oxygen they should be taking notes and asking questions. Valuable team members will.
Areas of focus
Research does not mean a swift scroll through a clients Facebook or Twitter page. It should be a controlled and systematised process. Key areas that will inform advertising work for the better naturally include the reputation of the brand amongst both its real target market and aspired target market. In fact, in-depth research might help you identify and redefine the target market it happens.
It includes current, past and international advertising both digital and ATL. Discuss digital campaign ideas and novel concepts with the people youd like to target. Ask them if theyve seen any that resonate with them and why. Find out whats important to them.
Identify the competitor products theyre using, follow on social media or have noticed in the digital space and why. Formulate a knack for spotting whether theres a disparity between the desired brand promise and what consumers are actually hearing or seeing in the digital space.
When formulating a research model, make sure to build in research about your agencys reputation with your clients. They wont always divulge their grievances when faced with a fresh-faced account executive, but give them a neutral, anonymous platform and theyll tell you harsh truths. A client satisfaction survey is a quick and easy way of gaining insights into what your clients really think of you.
Just as with brand research and immersion, its what you do with the information thats key. Turn it into a workable and easily implementable action plan.
Agencies mistakenly use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost not for illumination but for support. The words of David Ogilvy still ring true today more so for digital agencies than ever. Let us not forget them. Lets illuminate ourselves with research.
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