You hear a lot of companies talk about “engagement” and “loyalty.” Every research supplier, consultant, agency, and media shop has a method they talk up. Theories abound. So do snappy names. And while theories (whatever they’re named) are a good beginning, answers that pay off are what you want in the end.

There are a lot of pertinent questions CMOs, brand planners, and strategists should be asking about their research. Predictions regarding real consumer engagement and loyalty, but especially about in-market behavior, can be a risky business if you don’t ask the right questions before you commission the research. Questions like, “Is the research predictive?” “Is it validated?” And “Does it measure emotion, how, and does that go beyond check-lists of imagery items?”

But ultimately there’s really only one question you need satisfactorily answered: What happened? The research said this. . . and what happened?

Winston Churchill wisely noted, “however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results,” so as 2010 came to an end, we took his advice, and examined how closely what we said during the year in our Tuesday and Thursday blogs, The Keyhole, actually matched up with market results. In short, to see what happened?

If you click on the ‘What Happened?’ link on our Brand Keys website you can listen to an introduction to our exercise and 21 recordings (or download a pdf): true stories that are the result of that examination – a look back at our blogs on categories ranging from sports leagues to smart phones, and copiers to cameras, and our comments about brands from Ford to Facebook, and Apple to Avis – to see if what we said would happen, did happen.

Yes, having research is good, but getting positive results for your brand is better. These days you need to walk away from the table if your research doesn’t match up with market results. Ben Franklin is reputed to have coined the adage, “Well done is better than well said” or, as you might suggest to your research providers in today’s parlance, “Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk.”

Because research ‘talk’ that doesn’t match up with what happens, can end up being an awfully expensive conversation.