In the marketing and advertising world, the word “research” leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. People hate even thinking about having to do research, let alone actually doing it.

Why? Because “creativity is intuitive.”

I do not come to trash creativity, but I do feel the need to advocate for research. When done properly, it is extremely effective for marketing and advertising campaigns.

The first reason why professionals do not like research is because much of the research activity done in the marketing arena is done poorly. Newly hired marketing folks hired just out of college and even interns go around and round up people for focus groups, or talk to people for surveys, and there is no methodology, rhyme or reason as to how they did it. Focus groups, for the most part, are awful. Getting a group of people together to watch a series of ads does nothing. Why? The amount of biases that can happen within the room trump any effective feedback the tester can receive. You’ll see subjects attempting to outsmart each other, or even try to prove themselves intelligent or superior to the tester. Surveys, when written well, can do a good job. But alas, the majority of surveys are poorly written too.

The second reason may very well be the cause for the first reason why research is subpar in marketing and advertising: there’s no serious investment in it. How many marketing scientists do you know? In the last pitching or budget session you were in, when was the last time somebody made sure there was a line item for research? Marketers do not like research  because it is hard to sell to the client or department head.

“Yes, we want to put in $X in research to understand the thinking process of our audience.”

It’s human nature. We would rather put money and investment into things we can see versus the intangible.

But here is why research is essential in marketing and advertising.

1. Saves Money
A colleague of mine put it this way: a marketing campaign should be 80% preparation, 20% execution. I agree. I would rather spend the majority of time and energy making sure the activity is right, and the rest should take care of itself.

2. Provides Reasoning
The phrase “it was intuitive” might work in an art gallery, but not in a presentation to your client or boss. Research that supports your methodology will help give the creative more credence, and also will provide the creative team more freedom to do what it needs to accomplish.

3. Building Blocks of CRM
Whether we like it or not, marketing is getting more data-oriented. Using research can give us better grips on demographics, psychographics and overall behavioral traits of our customers. We can learn what our consumers like to see and read, and give them what influences them.

Note, good research does not control creativity. Good research improves, strengthens and frees creativity.

We should want more of that.