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What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You (or keep you from predicting the “Song of the Summer”)

I recently wrote up a new campaign proposal for a client that included a small-but-significant amount of research. The research would involve surveying a few groups of people within the target audiences of the client. While some budget would need to be devoted to research, I’m a big believer in making it part of the process, so we recommended it as part of this proposal.

Research will confirm or deny some things that you already know, give you some data you didn’t already have, and even provide some data that you didn’t know you didn’t know.  This information is often the difference between an effective campaign and one that’s not. Not only that, research can provide benchmarks that allow you to measure campaign effectiveness. There’s a lot of value in this step.

I always think of the importance of research in the context of a much less important endeavor – my group of friends’ annual competition to see who can guess Billboard’s official “Song of the Summer”. We all have our own ideas about what the most popular song of the summer is or should be, but we are almost never correct.

Our individual methods are based entirely on gut feel and anecdotal evidence and other mostly wrong criteria. Billboard’s “Song of the Summer” designation comes from, well, actual music industry data. Good thing the industry does its research or else we might spend a lot of time arguing for our own predictions. But the facts keep us all friends.

I’m in no way discounting the role that experience and intuition play in the development of marketing strategy. Going back to the “data that you didn’t know you didn’t know” I mentioned, though, we can all sometimes get in our own way when we assume we have all the answers, but actually don’t.

Research helps us to better understand the target audience for a campaign, and ultimately how to most effectively impact that target. If your aim is off, you may find yourself having to go back and spend more money to redesign your whole strategy. Don’t do that – do your research and get it right the first time!

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