Successful brands intimately understand their consumer. They know what turns “her” on (and off) and connect with her on an emotional level, and custom research can be your window into her world. It’s a tool for thorough understanding of consumer desires and purchase triggers, which allows brands to win loyalty and connect with her in ways that improve marketing effectiveness, optimize product portfolios and accelerate sales.
Custom research also act as a pre-market litmus test that can lead to tweak a formulations based on consumer feedback, and can save brands from costly mistakes or worse: losing credibility in the market.
The most cost-effective and strategically-focused online or in-person studies involve ascertaining responses from a statistically relevant number of highly targeted participants. That means for a facial moisturizer brand that sells for $50 per 3 oz. bottle, for example, surveying women who regularly shop for prestige skin care and whose income is above a certain threshold makes more sense than a blanket survey.
Here are popular targeted custom research studies that an agency like TBC conducts to unveil consumer attitudes, intentions, interests and awareness. Results of these studies have proven to save the day (and sometimes the year!) for many beauty brands.
Permissions-based (Concept) Testing
Whether you are a prestige skin care brand known looking to expand into at-home beauty devices or an Indie darling with a disruptive cosmetics concept you want to bring to market, permissions-based testing reveals consumers’ thoughts on your intended new product or SKU expansion.
- Permissions-based testing reveals:
- Consumer attitudes and receptivity on/to potential product offerings;
- Any barriers to purchase or usage;
- Price point thresholds. Permissions testing results provide the green light needed to proceed, the yellow light to adjust the offering or the red light to avoid potential million-dollar mistakes.
Case in point: A major consumer products company known for hardware and home improvement offerings was diversifying its portfolio with a planned launch of an intimate personal care product. Targeted research showed that not only were women receptive to trying the product made by this traditional company because of the trust factor the company had earned, respondents pinpointed their preferred SKUs in the proposed five SKU system, the price point they’d pay and where they expect to buy the product. The results enabled the company to narrow its offering and distribution channel to meet target consumers’ expectations.
Brand Awareness, Perception & Competitors
Brand awareness, perception and competitor studies can gauge brand awareness, intent to buy, buying channel preferences, pricing appropriateness, and competitor products she’s buying instead of yours and why.
These studies measure:
- Overall awareness of your product offering(s);
- Whether your brand story resonates;
- Reasons for purchasing your brand and your competitor’s;
- Her emotional connection to your brand;
- Where she expects to buy your product(s);
- How much she expects to pay for your product(s);
- Benefits she expects from your product(s).
This type of study is tailor-made for brands experiencing a sales plateau or decline, revealing why she’s not buying and which brands she’s buying instead. It is also frequently employed by brands that want to keep a pulse on the attitudes and preferences of their consumer to continually meet their needs, as well as those that simply want to know their consumer better. Strategic recommendations resulting from study findings are a road map for a healthy brand.
Case in point: A major cosmetics company was experiencing slight sales decline after a strong history of year-after-year growth. Sales distribution channels had grown, but in-store sales on average started to decline. After conducting targeted research of current customers, former customers and beauty consumers who have never bought the brand, the brand quickly understood its situation. Respondents who used to buy the brand or had never used it said they were the “old” brand with reliable but unexciting products that their mothers used. Their current consumers, they found, were largely over 55 years old. This gave the brand pause, and undertook packaging, messaging and branding changes that reinvigorated sales and enticed young consumers to the brand.
Your brand tells its story through images, packaging and, most importantly, messaging. How your brand talks about itself, and allows her to see herself as part of your world, sets it apart from others.
Message testing reveals:
- Whether brand messaging resonates with the target demographic;
- If the message speaks on an emotional level that will make your brand her brand;
- Which parts of the message resonate and which parts might be falling flat;
- Which messages most intrigue her to buy your brand and which are causing her to look for others.
Is your story her story? Whether you’re a start up or an industry giant, frequent consumer surveying for messages/claims authenticity is a must. Case in point: A small new shampoo brand, sold in limited markets in the U.S., wanted to branch out into the mass market, and were preparing for a scheduled meeting with a major superstore. The brand wanted to test its messages to make sure its target consumer understood its offering, found its offering appealing, and would be willing to try it. Through a method called “concept analysis,” where respondents in an online survey highlighted parts of messages that appealed and didn’t appeal to them, the brand had its answers. It now knew which ones were its top five most compelling messages and which messages to rethink or drop. The study also revealed some confusion about the product’s main ingredient, which the brand was able to rework and clarify before their big meeting and before hitting retail shelves. The brand took the survey results to the meeting with the superstore buyer to support the validity of its potential consumers’ support.
The packaging is the first, and sometimes only, introduction to a product. In a glance, is it extolling your brand’s main messages and benefits? Does it cause her to reach out to touch, test and, importantly, to buy?
Packaging studies are used to test existing packaging and/or to explore new package concepts that measure whether:
- Packaging is easy to understand and use;
- It entices her to pick it up off the shelf;
- It compels purchase;
- It effectively communicates product benefits;
- It effectively blends form and function;
- It tells the story of the brand.
The physical package with a few dozen words of messaging and all-important consumer claims are pivotal brand elements that must be wisely interwoven. Case in point: A trusted beauty brand was undergoing a secondary packaging re-brand and had a number of options under consideration. The brand didn’t want to speculate about the package that consumers would like best—it wanted the opinions of its target consumers. After testing of its current consumers and the consumers it wanted to attract, the brand understood exactly which packages were clear winners, which ones enticed those new to the brand to pick up the package and try it, and which ones could remain on the drawing board.
Celebrity or Doctor Brand Permissions-based Testing
Celebrities and doctors wishing to offer a new beauty line come to TBC to test consumer’s permissions and likelihood of purchase. Permissions testing explores:
- Consumer brand associations and awareness levels of the celebrity/doctor;
- Consumer attitudes towards the specific celebrity/doctor;
- The consumer’s potential shopping patterns for the celebrity/doctor’s proposed product offering/line.
Consumer permissions based on their view of the celebrity/doctor This type of testing allows the celebrity or doctor to know if, and how, she’s ready to accept the new brand with open arms, how much education (about the celebrity or doctor) the consumer will need in order to accept the offering, or, if it’s better to hold off on a huge investment. Celebrity or Doctor permissions-based testing provides the tools needed to move forward with confidence.
Case in point: An award-winning dermatologist was developing his own line of anti-aging skincare products and wanted to gauge whether his target audience knew who he was, trusted that his new products could deliver expected results, and would be willing to regularly buy his products on a direct TV network. Results showed that his intended buyers could not differentiate who he was among many dermatologists with skincare lines. They responded positively to the product images and messages, but in order to make the impact needed, he learned that he need to educate the public on who he was, why his products were different than other dermatologist-brands, and why his audiences should trust that his products work.
Advertising Testing & Awareness Benchmarking
If you plan to spend serious marketing dollars on your next television, print or online advertising campaign, testing the effectiveness of your campaign can act as your indisputable barometer of ad campaign success. This type of test can run two ways:
Advertising Testing: Prior to your ad hitting the airwaves, test whether your ad’s message and storyboards are compelling to her. Is it speaking to her in a way that will cause her to buy? Or will she dismiss it and move on after the first three seconds? Knowing exactly what resonates with your target buyer builds a more effective advertisement.
Advertising Benchmarking: By polling your target beauty buyers for your brand’s awareness levels before your campaign, and then benchmarking after, you’ll know the profile of who you reached, how she felt about the campaign messages and visuals, and it will measure the effectiveness of the ad by the degree in which the awareness needle moved from pre-campaign to post-campaign.
These research studies are proven to help brands plan and execute smarter, more successful future media buys.
Case in point: An Indie fragrance company was creating a television ad for the first time. Not wanting to squander limited dollars on this big media investment, they sought the opinions of a very targeted group of potential buyers. In an online survey, women were asked to watch a video of the proposed commercial. As they viewed it, an “image mapping” tool measured where their eyes looked first, second, third, and which images they particularly focused on. They were then asked a serious of questions about the portions of the ad that appealed to them most, and which appealed to them least. The brand found that respondents weren’t focusing on the product in the ad, but on the flashy background imagery. Up to 40 percent could not name the product after the ad was finished. The fragrance company made the necessary adjustments, re-tested, and went on air with a successful ad.
Targeted Consumer Studies Help You to Know Her on a Deeper Level
The most effective research studies are deep conversations with targeted consumers that provide your team with a rich and detailed portrait of your potential and current consumer. Study results provide a platform of data and insights that are actionable from the moment the research report is complete, giving you clear insight into the your buyer, including:
- Complete demographic profile;
- Level of appeal for your product, your message, your package or your ad;
- Buying desires, habits and behaviors;
- Buying motivations, permissions and intentions;
- What will bring about an emotional connection with your brand.
To position your brand for success, connect with consumers and to side-step as many potential pitfalls as possible, go to the source and conduct the appropriate consumer research.