Questions to Ask a Market Research Company
17 May 2018
Over a third (38%) of advertisers and in-house marketers find their market research firm through searching online. Googling ‘market research firm’ is closely followed by direct referrals from work colleagues, friends, and family (33%), conferences (28%), and online directories (25%). Over half of advertisers and in-house market researchers (59%) use an external market research firm. With all of that in mind, it is important to know a little bit about your market research firm before deciding to dive in and invest in research with them.*

The following are some key questions you should ask a market research firm you are considering working with:

  • Are the research services conducted at the company or are they outsourced?
  • What is being outsourced, if anything?
  • Is the person who I initially met with working on the project? If not, who will be working on the project? Are they responsive? What are their responsibilities? What is their background in research?
  • Do they have a clear understanding of the business objectives? target audience?
  • Will they customize their approach to your needs? Are they doing the most with your budget?
  • What will the timeline be? Is it realistic?
  • Do their compliance and security procedures match your need?


Many companies outsource large chunks of the research responsibility to other companies, whether they are smaller/cheaper companies or to companies abroad. Sometimes this means that quality is compromised. Also, context can be lost if outsourced to countries where the first language is not English. For example, when coding open-ends Prince (the international superstar) was discussed and misinterpreted by an outsourced research firm as a member of the Royal Family. In order to make sure that context is not in jeopardy and that quality remains high, be sure to ask your market research firm about their policy of outsourcing.

Another classic pitfall for companies using a market research firm for the first time is that they are sold on the company and their capabilities by a salesperson/business development manager. However, when it comes to the actual project, the person that they had been speaking to during the proposal process and lead up to the project is nowhere to be found. Make sure you meet the researcher or team that you will actually be working with on the project before committing with a market research firm.

Make sure that you educate your market research firm on your target audience. They are experts in research. They are not necessarily experts in your product or your target audience (unless they are conducting target audience research for you!). Therefore, make sure to bring them up to speed on everything to do with your product/brand. Give them all of the information they need to know in order to act as merely an extension of your company (rather than an outsider).

Before deciding on a market research vendor, be sure to recognize whether or not they will be customizing their approach to your brand. Do the market research company have a firm understanding of your business objectives? Make sure that the company you are working with does not take a cookie-cutter approach to your individual brand’s needs. Your company is distinct and therefore the market research solutions should be aligned to fit your company’s unique situation. Market research is not a one-size-fits-all product and should not be treated as if it is. Also, if you have a tight budget, make sure you’re getting value for your money. It is vital that the research firm is really thinking about your research needs critically and deciding on a methodology that not only bests suits you but will kill as many birds with one stone.

Last but not least, when a timeline is presented, make sure to think about it and question it. Will it really be feasible for this company to write, program, analyze, present an online survey in one week – probably not. Be smart and speculate whether or not the timeline is really realistic.

Another important area to analyze about your market research company is compliance. In order for market research to be a success, the company needs to ensure accuracy, security, and efficient data collection. There should be rigorous checks in place to be confident that each respondent is of the highest quality. Security checks should be discussed in order to make sure that data collection is compliant; many companies need the data collection process to follow with HIPPA and Safe Harbor regulations. These regulations not only ensure security and privacy for your company but also guarantee that you get the most conclusive results.

At Provoke Insights, we are strong believers being nimble, critical thinkers, and asking questions. Make sure to ask if your research vendor these questions and take note during the proposal process to their responsiveness/agility as a company.

* Provoke Insights conducted an online survey in 2018 to determine what companies look for when selecting a market research vendor.

Why We Love Advertising Research
10 May 2018
Written by: Carly Fink

I grew up in the 1980s, and cable TV was seen as a premium service. We had an antenna with only seven TV channels. There was no internet, social media, or smartphones. Ads were mostly aired or shown on television, radio, print, or out of home (e.g. billboards). If you had a fun jingle or a catchy slogan your ad would be seen and hopefully remembered. Everyone was using predominantly the same media channels. As a result, someone my age often remembers the commercials they grew up with… From Mikey from Life Cereal to the Anti-Drug Campaign – “This is Your Brain on Drugs”.

However, the advertising landscape today is much more diverse. On average, a person sees over 10,000 ads a day. A cable subscriber has access to an average of 200 TV channels. To complicate the media landscape, millennials are cutting the cable cord and watching streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu on their TVs and computers instead.

People do not sit and exclusively watch TV or videos anymore. They are often using their phone, tablets, and computers while watching programming which allows them to easily tune out commercials.

It’s not only streaming services that have complicated advertising. I love observing people and seeing how walking around in public has evolved. Now, you often see people taking smaller steps so that they can walk and access their phone at the same time. Or how many times have you waited on a long line at a retailer and not taken out your phone? This results in a major loss of eyes on out-of-home advertising, store’s window advertising and point-of-purchase advertising.

This makes it extremely challenging for a brand to stand out from the crowd. As a result, advertising research becomes more important than ever. Research provides so many opportunities for your brand to become more relevant, memorable, unique, and important to your consumer base. It is a smart way to get ahead of your competitors. From conducting secondary research to understanding trends to segmentation research to advertising tracking, there are multiple ways to be stand out and smarter about your advertising.

Creative Test – Research for an Ad Campaign
08 May 2018
Launching an advertising campaign is an expensive undertaking. While producing the creative is one cost, the media buy can increase the price tag extensively. Not only does the ad creative need to resonate with your potential customer but also stand out from the crowd — regardless if it is a TV commercial, print ad, or digital banners.

The average consumer sees up to 10,000 brand messages a day. Today, people are often consuming more than one media channel at a time. For example, consumers often watch TV while playing on their smartphone and working on their computers. As a result, it is harder for brands to stand out in this crowded space.

Therefore your message not only needs to resonate but also be memorable and persuade your audience to take action (e.g. learn more, go online).

There are also several pitfalls that agencies may not even consider when advertising. It is key not only for your advertisement to be memorable, but also appeal to your audience.  Sometimes the smallest nuances may have a large impact on prospects. Is the advertisement somehow offending your target audience? Often people do not realize that an ad may be culturally or ethnically insensitive.

A word, a line, an image, or color may also prompt the consumer to think of another brand or industry. You need to make sure your creative idea works for your specific brand. Pretesting allows for instinctive/knee-jerk reactions from the audience and provides you with the safety net to prevent a campaign from having mishaps. It also provides recommendations and direction to further enhance your campaign in order to ultimately improve ROI.

How to pre-test?

Pre-testing can take many different forms.  Below are just a few examples:

Brand Concepts

The Highlighter Tool can be used to distinguish which areas of the concept are liked and disliked by your potential customers. Respondents can pick certain words that please them and highlight whatever has an alternative effect

Message Testing

Using the advanced analytics technique, MaxDiff, we can determine which message resonates most with your consumers. This trade-off analysis would tell which message will directly influence the target audience.

Initial Concepts & Messaging Combined

If you have many different images, messages, and support points, our Advertising Optimizer uses the advanced analytics technique, Conjoint Analysis, to find the perfect combination for your audience.

Print, Digital, and Storyboard Sentiment Testing

This technology allows the exact dimensions of a print or display ad. Respondents can click on what they like vs. dislike. You can also use this technology as multiple frames of a story to gain feedback for a commercial before it is in video format.

Commercial or Radio Concepts

As the video or audio plays, respondents click what they like vs. dislike and have the ability to provide feedback in real time.

What’s vital to remember market research before launching an advertising campaign is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is why at Provoke Insights, we look at each campaign’s business objectives, target audience, industry, and competition before developing a concise research plan.

It is worth your while to save time, money, and face to invest in research and get the creative right the first time.

Types Of Research Every Advertiser Should Know
08 May 2018
Are you involved in your company’s advertising campaign? Do you work at an advertising agency? If so, market research may be key to enhancing your advertising initiatives!

Below, we will discuss four popular market research methods that every advertiser should know and we will synopsize why businesses should consider using it.

  1. Target Audience & Segmentation Research
  2. Creative Testing & Concept Exploration
  3. Research for Content Marketing
  4. Brand Tracking


Target Audience & Segmentation Research

Who is your target audience? Who has the highest propensity to not only purchase your product or service but also have the highest Lifetime Value?

If you are launching a new product or just reevaluating your audience, it’s time to know which segment is most profitable.

It is also important to consider segmentation  – your marketing and advertising can’t speak to everyone all of the time – you may want to prioritize cohorts or use a segmentation to optimize your media and messaging.

Creative Testing & Concept Exploration

Are you launching a new advertising campaign? Prior to launch,  test your creative and concepts. This allows you to leverage your advertising and messaging to its fullest extent without having to learn from your mistakes. If you think you might need concept testing or optimization of creative research – we have two blogs on them here and here.

Research for Content Marketing

Research for content marketing makes your brand a thought leader by using research to get press placements. Bring your research to life by using it as a catalyst for B2B and B2C awareness, engagement, lead generation, and conversion. Tactics include online videos, infographics, sales materials, email marketing, thought leadership pieces, press releases, and guerrilla efforts.

Brand Tracking

Have your advertising initiatives made an impact? That is why it is pertinent to start tracking your marketing initiatives even before you launch a campaign. Once the advertising is launched, the desired outcome is campaign memorability, consideration, likely to use and recommend. This type of research also gauges how it is performing compared to your competitors.

For all of the reasons mentioned above, businesses should consider market research for their advertising and branding strategy it is one of the most effective methods to improve your ad campaigns ROI (return on investment).

3 Common Misconceptions About Market Research
02 May 2018

Over the years, we have heard many false misconceptions about market research. However, three themes consistently stick out: 1) Anyone can conduct market research 2) Focus groups are always the best methodology 3 )Research is not worth the money. Below you will learn why these misleading statements are not always the case.

1.     Anyone Can Conduct Market Research

In today’s digital world there are many free and inexpensive online tools. As a result, companies may feel it is a cost saving to conduct research in-house over hiring a market research company. This is a common pitfall that many businesses conclude and is potentially quite dangerous. If a research study is not conducted properly, it often leads to inaccurate results. It could even potentially provide the wrong marketing strategy.

Market research professional’s number one job is to reduce the number of errors in their quantitative, qualitative, and secondary data. These experts have years of training and know how to avoid errors such as improper research design, poor data collection methods, inadequate sample size & design, and improper use of statistic procedures.

Furthermore, a third party conducting the research compared to an internal employee avoids any research biases. A person who is close to an issue or the everyday inner workings of a company may not have an impartial view when conducting the market research resulting in skewed findings.

2.     Focus Groups Are  Always the Best Methodology

Many of our clients love focus groups, and we often conduct this qualitative research methodology. It provides an approach that favors the most in-depth, revealing, and personal responses. However, this exploratory method is often costly and not necessarily the best approach to answer every research need. Given that this method only interviews a limited number of participants, the research is directional in nature.

Today, there are many online tools that can question a larger number of participants that not only provides results that statistically represent your target audience, but also provide qualitative methods to garner in-depth insights. These online exercises are great to test brand concepts, messaging, print and digital ads, TV commercials, and radio ads. More so, this type of research is often conducted at a faster rate and costs significantly less money than focus group research.

3.     Research is not worth the money

Often companies focus on execution needs such as a new website, media buys, or commercials. An area that is sometimes cut from the budget is a strategy based off of research. As a result, the marketing or business strategy can become compromised and be based on only assumptions. While in the short-term it may have saved a few thousand dollars, in the long-term your business may not be effectively reaching your target audience. This results in potential lost profits.

If there is a specific budget you need to work with, be honest with your research vendor. There are often cost-effective methodologies to help answer your business objectives.

Segmentation Research and Creating Personas
02 May 2018

Written by: Rachael Ryan

Segmentation studies allow for you to walk in the shoes of different consumers, so you can really understand their buying habits and interests. We’re going to discuss the importance of research and how you can use a segmentation study to create personas.

Segmentation is the process of conducting market research using a survey tool in order to group similar consumers by their purchasing habits, their common needs and attitudes. Segmentation can take many forms, two of which are ‘Needs-based segmentation’ and the second is ‘Attitudinal segmentation’. Then advanced analysis such as conjoint analysis or hierarchical cluster analysis is often used on the data that is gathered.

Once you have your segments, you can prioritize them. This can be done by determining who has the highest propensity to purchase your product as well as tell you how much they are willing to spend and each group’s lifetime value. This is invaluable information because then, your target audience will be the people who already want to buy your product and at a price that they want to pay. It will also allow you to understand the size of each segment, what percentage of the population they are and therefore you can understand each segment’s potential worth to you.

Segmentation will also allow you to find out what may have been missed opportunities in the past. You’ll be able to figure out which audiences are spending money on other similar items and what would make them switch their purchasing habits to your product/service. These segments can be targeted too.

Once you know who your segments are, bring them to life, by creating a persona. If there are various segments – you can pick out the similar traits, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and values they have and make one persona that you can then market to. It makes marketing to your segments easier, cheaper and more effective. We can see what your persona thinks and how your brand fits into that mindset.

Segmentation has many benefits and it is very important. But by creating personas you can walk in your consumer’s shoes. Name your persona (ie. Jack!), you can even draw them for everyone to see, understand their thinking and then you’ll know who you’re trying to get your message across to. When done right, it’s a great way to totally comprehend your segmentation and use it efficiently for every marketing strategy.

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