What every marketer should know about consumer insights

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Posted Mar 07, 2023
Eliza Jacobs

We recently hosted a live roundtable discussion with two marketing leaders. The goal was to shed some light on the value of research to drive marketing campaigns and get some advice from marketing leaders walking the walk when it comes to getting to know their target audience. In this post, we’ll share some snippets of the conversation but be sure to check out the on-demand recording for the full conversation!

Let’s meet our experts

Lisa Kudukis, Jeannie Hannigan, and Eliza Jacobs

Lisa Kudukis

Lisa Kudukis is the Vice President of Marketing & Innovation at Dunn-Edwards Corporation, the US subsidiary of the world’s fourth largest coatings manufacturer, Nippon. She is focused on growth of the business, brand, and creating best-in-class marketing efforts with the launch of DunnEdwardsDURA.com and the Dunn’s Paints brand nationwide through home improvement centers. She looks forward to the future of Dunn-Edwards, with the many possibilities and endless opportunities that exist. 

Jeannie Hannigan

Jeannie brings over 10 years of marketing experience to Little Leaf Farms, one of the best-selling packaged salad brands in the Northeast. As Brand Manager, Jeannie uses feedback from Little Leaf Farms’ enthusiastic base of consumers to develop brand campaigns, partnerships, packaging innovations, and more.

Prior to Little Leaf Farms, Jeannie owned and operated Front Burner Social, a digital marketing consulting company with clients in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries. Off the clock, Jeannie enjoys cooking and entertaining at home in Boston, cycling, and playing with her dog, Salem.

Eliza Jacobs

And last but not least, moderating the discussion was me, Eliza Jacobs, the Sr. Learning Enablement Manager at aytm. 

Working within the Learning Enablement group, I partner on the creation of learning programs and content that serve both internal teams and external clients. Before aytm, I spent over 15 years in market research and was most recently the Director of Consumer Insights & Analysis at PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) where my research measured audience behavior and preferences. 

What is the value of consumer insights to marketing?

Our panelists may come from vastly different industries, but they agree that market research is a critical component of how they approach marketing.

Jeannie: “Any marketing project that we have in the queue, whether it’s campaigns or new product launches, it all starts with consumer insights. We like to use that data to make really well-informed decisions of what to do next and how to come up with solutions to things that consumers need.”

Lisa: “Research is all about where it starts, right? And so we try to depend on the insights from our consumers and our customers to really drive where we're investing, whether it be in a marketing campaign or in innovation tactics. As a smaller player in the grand scheme of things, we have to be very, very careful about how we invest in order to break through. And by really grounding everything in insights, we're able to make the right bets.”

Examples of research driving marketing efforts

When it comes to driving marketing decisions, it’s one thing to just say “research is the right thing to do,” but it’s another thing to actually walk the walk. Lucky for us, both of our panelists have led research projects for their respective organizations and have first-hand experience seeing the impact research can have on driving marketing decisions. So, we asked them to share some concrete examples of how those projects have had a positive impact on their marketing efforts. 

Dunn-Edwards fine-tunes value propositions

Lisa explained that DunnEdwardsDURA.com had recently launched, marking their first venture into the consumer market. Their direct-to-consumer brand came with the unique selling point of making paint color selection as easy as possible for their customers. Dunn-Edwards had been pioneers in color advising, and over the past 12 years, they’ve collected a wealth of experience and expertise in the field.  So they had a pretty good idea of what would connect with consumers but still wanted to validate their assumptions throughout the launch. To do that, they used aytm to conduct a national panel survey, providing them with valuable insights into their target audience's preferences. Not only did this research validate some of their hypotheses, but it also surprised them with findings that led to changes and pivots in their business model.

Lisa: “We did not want to go to market with something and have this huge investment without at least testing the waters with consumers first.”

Little Leaf Farms pre-tests and optimizes brand campaign creative

Next, Jeannie talked about a campaign Little Leaf Farms launched last year. It was their first-ever brand campaign and included audio and video streaming, and even a billboard. She went on to explain the extent to which many consumers love Little Leaf Farms' packaged lettuce. Every day, they receive calls, emails, and social media messages from satisfied customers expressing their love for the product. 

The campaign used this valuable feedback and incorporated it into various forms of creative advertisements—calling them "tastemonials." But since this was their first brand campaign, Jeannie wanted to make sure it was as successful as possible. That meant testing it with consumers. So, they presented their top 20 tastemonials to a panel of packaged salad consumers in the Northeast and gathered feedback to understand which testimonials would resonate most and which fell flat. With this information, they were able to select the top-performing messages to maximize the impact of the campaign.

Jeannie: “Just having that insight into what people like, what don’t they like, that definitely brought forth some insights that we never would have had otherwise and we knew that we were going to launch a really strong campaign having tested it.”

Keep the voice of the customer front and center

Most marketers understand the value of getting to know their consumers. But how can you bring their voices into the decision-making process? Often, it starts with getting buy-in and actually allocating resources to conduct the research. With that in mind, we asked our panel for their thoughts on prioritizing research within their teams. 

Lisa brought up how research has the advantage of removing internal biases from the equation, as this can often skew decisions.  During their testing phase, she and her team were able to isolate various tasks and obtain unbiased feedback from their target audience on things like taglines, feature prioritization, and label design.

Lisa:  “We all had our own opinions, but the bottom line is that we put it in front of our target audience. They were ultimately the ones to decide. And so it took all of that subjectivity out of it, and we backed up the final decisions with data which I think every marketer wants to have when they're making decisions like that.”

Jeannie: “Yes, exactly! We're an opinionated team as well. But being able to say, ‘hey, we know that these quotes are the ones that will resonate best with our consumer base’ is just incredibly valuable.”

Data helps create internal alignment and gain buy-in

It’s essential to have objective data and research to support any marketing decisions. So armed with insights and consumer data, marketing teams can present proposals to other internal teams and stakeholders—providing a clear explanation of what the data shows, why they believe it’s worth pursuing, and how they plan to execute it. Taking this approach makes it easier to gain support and buy-in across the board.

Incorporating research into larger marketing strategies

Lisa also emphasized the importance of packaging everything together—that she wouldn’t propose any research project that did not have a broader program linked to it. This is because their research wasn’t merely conducted to carry out an annual brand health study or an annual market research study, but rather, to inform a broader initiative or project. She added that research was becoming more expected than not, particularly when resources were tight. And if they tied research to a revenue-producing initiative, there was no question about the investment in the research needed for their marketing efforts.

Advice for overcoming obstacles

Every research initiative is different, and every team is unique. But we wanted to ask our panelists about some of the common obstacles they face. In particular, we were looking to learn more about some of the most challenging parts of doing research within their current roles. Also, what empowers them to keep doing more and more research?

“I’m a marketer, not a researcher”

This is something we hear a lot from marketers tasked with doing research—this idea that because they’re not “researchers” they feel intimidated by the idea of leading research projects. But the truth is, with the right resources, guidance, and maybe a helping hand here and there, anyone can uncover valuable insights no matter their level of research expertise. 

For example, Lisa and Jeannie are both marketers who have used aytm to gain valuable insights into their target audiences. And while Lisa admits she is not a market researcher, her curiosity is what drives her to seek answers. Having aytm as a tool to support her in this process has been really helpful, and she’s reached out to our team for advice, or even to handle entire projects. 

Jeannie agreed, sharing similar sentiments and noting that using aytm has allowed her to feel more confident in her research abilities. In particular, she mentioned that the comprehensive support provided by our research team has helped her learn appropriate ways to phrase questions and get the answers she needs.

“Research is too expensive and takes too long”

As the conversation continued, Jeannie reflected on past experiences when research seemed too daunting and expensive. But since discovering aytm and other agile research tools, she's come to realize it doesn’t have to be that way. Research doesn't always have to be this big, expensive, months-long undertaking. 

Lisa seemed to fully agree with Jeannie's perspective, adding that DunnEdwardsDura's research was a prime example. She talked about how they were able to launch and turn around that research in just four days, and they received the results just in time for a big pitch with a retailer. The quick and affordable access to valuable data ended up being a game changer for them.

“We just don’t have the resources”

We also discussed this common belief that market research is an expensive endeavor—a reputation that Lisa had seen reinforced throughout her experiences working at larger corporations. But now she can see how DIY research can really make a difference for teams with limited resources. She commented how amazing it is to have all of this at your fingertips—whether it’s polling your own employees or talking to people at trade shows, there are a ton of approaches that can provide valuable insights for those seeking to understand their target audience without breaking the bank.

Lisa: “How much are you willing to risk by not doing the research? That probably sounds a bit simple, but if you can spend a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars to validate some really strong hypotheses, wouldn’t you want to know early before all of that program development happens? There are times when I don’t think people can afford not to do some sort of research, especially when there are so many low cost options to go out there and hear from people.”

Jeannie: “I would add that you can start small and build from there. Tie the project to something that the company can monetize and is tied to a broader business goal. Sharing tangible results from a study can be really impactful too rather than talking about things in the abstract.”

We’re so grateful to have been able to hear from Jeannie and Lisa. Their perspectives and experiences really shed a lot of light on how marketers stand to gain a lot of value by partnering with providers to help them reach their research goals. But this was just a taste of what we explored during our time together. 

Interested in everything else we covered but missed the webinar?

Watch the full webinar recording on-demand

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