Agency Outlook: Unthink Your Approach to Modern Research

Technology is constantly evolving and market research must follow in stride. One of our favorite creative agencies, EP+Co’s motto is to “Unthink everything,” and they’ve helped legacy brands unlock new paths by asking better questions. In this article, we’ll outline a few things Chris Plating, Chief Strategy Officer at EP+Co, shared with us about how legacy brands can reinvent themselves by changing how they use brand trackers and unthinking their approach to modern consumer research.

7 Steps to Unthink Everything

  1. Blow Up Your Brand Tracker

Some brand agencies spend between $150,000-$400,000 on a brand tracker, resulting in long meetings to discuss 70-180 page reports. Worse, the data has blind spots. In 2020, no one anticipated the cataclysmic change that would happen with COVID-19. Social justice and Black Lives Matter made a huge impact in 2020 as well, affecting the conversations we had about diversity. Unfortunately, agencies with traditional brand research techniques were stuck with historical data and the focus of protecting things, so it was difficult for them to move forward with insightful questions. 

  1. Don’t Trust High-Cost Research Projects

Research studies that are done 2 to 4 times a year have a 4 to 8 week launch and a 3 to 6 month shelf life. Often, when you receive a report that shows customer segmentation, category-wide changes, or competitive landscaping. You find yourself asking “why did that happen?” or “what does that mean for us?” when these reports are published. You do learn from bigger costly studies, but you’re stuck with only what you’ve learned. You are not able to probe deeper with the important questions that unlock more growth, profitability, and ROI. 

  1. Seek Inspiration from Broader Trends

Consumer behavior has dramatically changed throughout recent years. Consumers now go through 300 feet of mobile content every day on Facebook– that’s almost the height of the Statue of Liberty. Screen time has shifted from TV screens to more engaging digital platforms. The average US household consumes 38 times more internet data than it did 10 years ago. As a result, traditional research limits brands’ ability to have an ongoing dialogue with consumers. Although brands are able to interact with the consumers on digital platforms, they aren’t able to receive the same feedback loop as survey-based research is able to receive. Brands now need to have a unique point of view. Agile marketing research grants insights that help brands understand where they genuinely connect with consumers in order to build a deeper relationship.  

  1. Build a Toolkit to Tackle the Unknown

Challenges are always bound to happen, so brands need to be able to pivot in order to succeed. Research approaches should play into changes and embrace them as they happen in real-time rather than ignoring them. By partnering with an agile consumer insights provider, you’ll have the ability to increase how frequently insights are gained and how many types of contexts (from business development to creative testing) they can be used for. Research should be used as a tool to invite your consumers to participate throughout the creative process and bring them along for the ride rather than relying solely on your internal team to create products and messages that will resonate with them. 

  1. Make Knowledge Accessible

Beware of proprietary processes or activities that lead to being stuck in a black box rather than a transparent start to a conversation. Research should be one of the things that are accessible to all. EP+Co had a wide array of partners and brand planners that could help lead research. Their clients and internal team members started asking the agency to solve specific challenges or take tactical approaches to research as opposed to only highlighting their problems, so they set up a branded learning lab to showcase their research capabilities. Common applications include:

Business Strategy

  • Product Receptivity & Innovation
  • Partnership Analysis
  • Back-of-the-napkin Business Expansion
  • Consumer Segmentation
  • Competitive Whitespace Analysis

Messaging Strategy 

  • Competitive Messaging Assessment
  • Consumer Benchmarks
  • Cultural Conversation Landscaping
  • Consumer Journey Development
  • Brand Platform Development

Creative Development

  • Concept Testing
  • Creative Messaging Impact Assessment
  • Tagline Testing
  • Creative Messaging Optimization
  1. Make Content Creation Your Secret Weapon

Challenge your creative agency to help support your consumer insights teams in how you create. EP+Co repurposed an old, abandoned textile mill as the location for their prototyping and production facility. They equipped the 14,000 square ft. area with: welding, white screen, and green screen spaces, and black-box rooms. Animators are on staff to bring concepts and prototypes to life at a reasonable price. Storefronts and virtual experiences are also possible within this space. 

For example, eye-tracking and other methodologies are done to understand how consumers browse aisles and purchase products, something that a traditional shop-along cannot fully encompass. This approach not only offers a more viable and believable view of the creative that you want to test but also allows you to manufacture scenarios in which you can test consumer behavior. 

  1. Embrace A Culture of Disposable Research

Unknown events will happen, whether it’s as big as a global pandemic, a slight misstep by a franchisee, or a brand that catches bad publicity. It’s imperative that you can answer tough questions. Once you’ve done the foundational work to form relationships with the right partners, build a strong team internally, and shore away some of your budget for those bigger, more high stakes research projects, you’ll have the resources necessary to tackle new and unexpected challenges that will inevitably come your way. 

Ready to reimagine your approach to modern market research? Contact us.