Hindsight helping to provide foresight

Re-analysing past market research data is not simply a matter of recycling old information. The objective is to leverage existing learnings in a wider, more holistic context. Neither is it merely a case of going back over individual research projects one by one, but literally superimposing all the insights from these projects and seeing where common threads start to appear. Taken on their own, the reported insights might have little or no impact, but when seen in a cross-brand/cross-category context, they can start repeating and compounding, showing that something more fundamental is occurring.

With the research review projects we undertake for clients, we don’t use data analysis software, preferring instead to do the analyses manually.  This is because there are often subtle differences in meaning and expression that can only be detected with human involvement. Unlike quantitative data, qualitative data sets have many more assumptions regarding drivers of attitudes and values. What we are looking for are patterns that are quite different from those discovered when analysing data from individual research projects.

I liken the process of research reviews to analytical cubism, where the artist dissects the subject material then reconstructs it in a way that depicts its essence rather than its physical appearance. We will generally group ideas and concepts into ‘themes’ so that the data can be thoroughly explored and cross-referenced to ensure nothing is missed. Since we are usually reviewing a much larger data set than we would with a specific product or category research project, there is always a wide range of different connections that occur.

Something we find truly beneficial is identifying what “disruptions” are needed to alter the rules of the categories we are researching. When you couple the gleaned hindsight with the creation of a multi-dimensional strategic framework, you can begin to separate the black and white spaces - the areas of practical application - from the theoretical “grey space” areas. This multi-dimensional framework helps establish some suppositions as to the best ways of tackling these areas, focusing on those which may have the greatest prospects. From the resulting strategic overview, a series of potential directions can be drafted for future exploration and may be the subject of further research in their own right.

Whilst soft drinks and fruit juices can be influenced from a previous generation, alcoholic beverages tend not to carry the same influence.  Accurately defining the drivers of change is very important for marketing teams and this is where research reviews can be such a powerful process. Change just doesn’t happen by chance. There are a number of factors that contribute to bringing it about. By overlaying data from several market research projects and superimposing all the insights these drivers start to take shape.

Performing research reviews where past market research projects are re-considered can be very cost-effective - and they can provide marketing teams with an opportunity to uncover unique and relevant trends that can be further exploited. If the review process is performed correctly, the methodology should provide the internal confidence needed to explore the emergent themes; something that will ultimately lead to new brand extensions and positioning strategies. Research reviews, however, should not take precedence over conducting other qualitative projects, but rather should be seen as an adjunct to conventional research and a way to get more from it. However, when budgets are tight, well-conducted research reviews may well achieve the intelligence necessary to keep the organisation moving forward.

As we often say, hindsight which leads to insight to produce foresight can be a truly valuable (and perhaps untapped) asset.