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Knowledge is power

Marketing Research (as opposed to market research) looks at all of the elements of the marketing mix, including competition, markets, message communication and not least of all, the customers. Used wisely, it can be a powerful tool in helping you improve the effectiveness of your campaign. On the other hand, it can be an expensive way of confirming what you already believed to be true.

Marketing in general - and advertising in particular - are not exact sciences. There are too many uncontrollable variables to ensure that 1 + 1 will always make 2. Marketing Research aims to reduce the unknowns by gaining a closer understanding of consumer preferences, attitudes and behaviour, providing marketers with solid information to base their decisions on.

When and why to use research

Research can be used at any stage of the marketing process, pre or post campaign.

You may want to find out more about your target market's shopping habits, what they like/dislike about certain products, or their reaction to a new product idea to help plan your marketing approach for instance.

Or you may want to test reactions to different creative routes to see which gets your message across most effectively. Or find out how one proposition performs against another, or against your competitors.

Or you may want to measure if your campaign has changed consumer attitudes towards your brand.

Finding the answers

Carefully constructed research can provide invaluable answers to all of these questions, at a price. To be of value, it needs to be carried out on a broad scale, geographically and across your whole market sector. The smaller the sample, the less reliable the answers will be.

There are numerous methods used in marketing research, including focus groups, face-to-face or telephone interviews, mystery shoppers, mail or online surveys, consumer diaries and omnibus studies.

All of them have specific benefits and which is right for your will depend on your market and what you want to find out. And that's a whole different question.

If you'd like research that answers more questions than it asks, click here.