Market research - brake or engine for creation?

Is market research a hurdle for creation? Or is it rather the springboard for creative solutions? Opinions about this differ widely. If you really want to develop innovative and successful solutions in times of digitalization, market research results should be an integral part of a creative briefing.


By Mark Burow, Creative Director and Head of User & Brand Experience at Namics.

The days when market research was carried out on the street or on the phone through supported or unaided consumer surveys are now a thing of the past. However, if you want to put the user at the center of your solutions, you have to listen to consumers more than ever before.

Companies do not only need to know which color of their product is most appealing to consumers or which placement in the (online) store leads to sales success. Rather, today's competitive situation and the increasing demands of consumers require a profound examination of the target groups to be reached.

Today, such information is not necessarily collected on the street, but primarily digitally. Every customer leaves digital footprints via pageviews, their search and surfing behavior, or online orders. The interactions of customers and prospects thus become measurable and their needs can be predicted - sometimes even as they arise. However, it is often the variety and volume of data collected that presents companies with entirely new challenges. To really make sense of the data, relevant insights must be generated from it.

Insights driven marketing along the customer journey

It is no longer enough to collect demographic data or contacts; companies must also know the interests, preferences, fears and wishes of their existing and potential customers. The better a company knows its target group and its needs and wishes, the more stringently the customer experience can be designed across all touchpoints.

While the customer journey is becoming increasingly fragmented due to digitization and the growing number of communication channels, companies must act as closely as possible to the consumer today and in the future - no matter where and at what time. This must be taken into account when collecting and analyzing data and in market research.

Not every insight leads to creative and innovative solutions

An example: A leading company wants to redesign its intranet. If one analyzes the usage data of the existing intranet and asks the users what could be improved in the current solution, one mainly receives answers that target already known functions. For example, room management, digital address books, or quick access to cafeteria schedules.

If you translate these insights into functions, you get a satisfactory solution at first glance, but one that will not help the company in the long term. If, on the other hand, you examine which tasks employees complete with the help of the intranet, which other tools help them in their everyday work, and in what context they access the intranet, the answers can lead to completely new approaches and functions. For example, the intranet can be transformed from a pure information channel into a collaboration tool that shortens communication channels and documents project work in a central location that employees can access at any time and from any device.

As the example shows, the added value of market research is strongly dependent on the quality and relevance of the insights. If rather weak insights are used as a springboard for creation, the solutions are also not very creative or innovative. In these cases, the argument of those who claim that market research and data are poison for creativity and the spirit of innovation is probably also valid. However, instead of dispensing with market research and the collection of data, a change in thinking must take place in this area. Only if the emotions, attitudes and associations of users are brought to the fore along the entire customer journey can market research serve as a creative springboard for innovative solutions.

Insights as part of the creative briefing

Thus, the requirements profile for marketing agencies is also changing. Companies need agencies that not only implement and sell, but also provide strategic advice. In an upstream analysis or strategy phase, the relevant questions must be asked and data collected. These must then be anchored in the creative brief.

Instead of thinking in the infamous green field, creation is always thinking with the end customer and their needs in mind. This helps not only in the ideation phase, but especially in the prioritization of ideas: Approaches and features that cannot be consistently applied to a customer need are not pursued further. Only then do innovative solutions emerge that consistently place the user at the center and actually make a company successful.

Practical example Pathé

A successful example is the website relaunch of the Swiss cinema chain Pathé. With the task of establishing its website as the most important sales channel, the Swiss cinema chain turned to Namics, one of the leading full-service digital agencies for e-commerce in the German-speaking region. Instead of simply designing a website with an integrated store, the digital experts asked themselves what actually constitutes a visit to the cinema. Right at the start of the project, the customer journey and the motives of moviegoers in German- and French-speaking Switzerland were therefore studied in detail.

Namics found that for most consumers, going to the cinema is a social experience that begins before the film. Moviegoers coordinate their visit to the cinema well in advance - online and offline. It's a matter of finding an evening when everyone has time and deciding on a film. So Pathé's goal had to be not only to present the cinema program to users and sell the tickets, but to help users organize it.

This claim was placed at the center of the website's redesign. Thanks to the integration of Whatsapp, moviegoers can now select the film together and check directly via a scheduler with Doodle connection which date everyone has time for. With this service, Pathé not only supports the user in organizing a perfect visit to the cinema, but is also well on the way to establishing the website as a main sales channel in the long term.

In this project, the insights developed at the beginning of the project were the essential springboard for an innovative approach that responds to the real needs of consumers and today offers a value-added service that successfully differentiates Pathé from the competition.

More articles on the topic