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Research First Assumption is the mother of many things

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Research First

Assumption is the mother of many things

Failed product launches, ineffective marketing strategies, flopped advertising campaigns, policy that fails to affect desired behaviour or behavioural change, electoral campaigns that on paper were a done-deal, urban planning that doesn’t reflect the need of residents, fake news – and the list goes on!

The list may be lengthy, but the reasons as to why things don’t always go according to plan are few – not investing in the right expertise, insufficient resources, timing and, perhaps most importantly, not fully understanding your audience before key decisions are made and public citations of opinion are flounced.

In this day and age of rapid advancements in R&D capability and public opinion validated through social media, it seems that more and more organisations are making key strategic decisions based on what they can do and what they believe they should do, rather than what they really need to do.

It’s a given that product innovation and new product launches are vital to long term business sustainability. Companies have become very good at adopting a rigours approach to R&D to move products along from ideation to launch. But all too often, the same rigour isn’t applied to the marketing of such products – including identifying the need exists in the first place.

According to Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen, of the 30,000 plus products launched in the US each year, around 80% fail. And why? Largely because companies have forgotten to integrate a consumer perspective into the 4Ps of marketing.

The unmitigated disaster of the Ford Edsel, launched in the US in the mid-1950s, is a classic example of marketing based on ill-founded assumption and misunderstanding of the target audience. The Edsel didn’t fail because of its automotive design or capability; it failed because Ford failed to view the implications of its decisions within the 4Ps through a consumer lens.

Public opinion, especially in the age of social media, has never been more influential. Failure to anticipate public reaction to an advertisement, a brand, or a product, can be detrimental – not to mention create a whole lot of additional work. Moreover, cultural awareness and a clear view of the socio-political climate is paramount. Pepsi, learned this lesson with Kendall Jenner and their ‘solving racism’ campaign. What should have been an easily executed advertisement turned into a year long public relations nightmare all because someone forgot to do their homework. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s doesn’t come as second nature, we have to research, understand and, if necessary, rethink.

Customer research always has been and will remain a vital step in validating the need for product innovation and creation, and in supporting design, pricing and positioning. And stakeholder research will always be a vital part in guiding the conversations toward the desired outcome.

Failure to gather the data and understand the meaning behind the data is akin to crossing your fingers and hoping all will be well. And as someone once said, hope is not a strategy.

So, the key take-out of all this - never assume. Doing so may just add to the list of mother’s many things that didn’t end well!

Research First – making the complex simple


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