USPS: A Thought-Leadership Research Case Study
24 Jan 2020

Thought-leadership research for content marketing strengthens a brand’s credibility, generates awareness, increases engagement, and build new leads.

Marketing Problem

e-Commerce companies often have difficulty with return management and reverse logistics. Issues include fragmentation, siloed functions, and some companies even have no return operation policies in place. These problems often cause issues such as redundancies in costs and efforts.

The United States Postal Service was looking to help businesses deal with the accelerating realities of the online purchase returns landscape. Therefore, to provide the most pertinent information, the government agency wanted to understand: 

  • How do retailers structure and communicate their e-Commerce return policy? 
  • What types of logistics solutions are in place to set them up for success with returns?
  • Create a competitive benchmark to help companies understand that their returns policy is up to par. 

So, the government agency on-boarded Provoke Insights in order to create thought-leadership research by conducting quantitative research to help companies understand if their returns policy is up to par. Thus, the aim of the research was to provide original content on this topic for USPS to generate engagement on the USPSDelivers blog for logistics and operation professionals. 

Market Research Solution

Provoke Insights conducted an online survey among 300 professionals involved in the reverse logistics process. With that in mind, the survey was designed to gather content marketing insights on the following topics: 

  • How companies self-assess their returns policy;
  • Barriers, challenges, and concerns that companies have when it comes to returns;
  • Solutions and tactics in improving efficiencies during the reverse logistics process.

Results of the Research

USPS was able to use the research for content marketing and thought leadership purposes. They published a report on the USPSDelivers blog – read the report here. The B2B target audience can use the results to understand how to improve the reverse logistics process.

The market research firm found that implementing new technologies is an essential way to help the reverse logistics process and that a tenth of companies don’t have reverse logistics policies in place. 

Most importantly, USPS was able to position itself as a thought-leader in the field and differentiate itself from the competition. The results were recently published the full report on and it can be found here.

Sustainability Marketing: Adapting to the New Consumer Mindset
17 Jan 2020

As climate change makes news every day, consumers are deciding to take action into their own hands. As a result, consumers are more interested in the sustainability of the products they purchase, and it’s affecting their decision process. 

It’s important in this new world that companies adjust, and many are. Consequently, new subscription services are banking on sustainability as a marketing point to sway environmentally conscious customers. How can your brand keep up-to-date with sustainable marketing?

Sustainability: The New Consumer Mindest

Consumers are more concerned with how companies are affecting the environment. For example, 90% of consumers believe that companies and brands have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people. Similarly, 83% of consumers, when deciding between brands, will always pick the one with a better sustainability record. In addition, 70% are willing to pay more for products and services that help protect the environment or don’t infringe on human rights. 

Certainly, these results are the sign of a new consumer mindset. Generally, customers are very concerned about how their providers are affecting the world around them. Brands have fallen victim to their own unethical behaviors being brought to light. For instance, Starbucks decided to get rid of plastic straws after a viral video of a turtle choking on plastic in the ocean. Fast fashion clothing brands like Forever21 and Urban Outfitters have also been criticized for their hostility to workers and harmful clothing material. Moreover, companies have to be careful about their practices, because consumers are watching.

Sustainability Marketing

As a result, brands are deciding to double down on sustainable and environmentally sound practices in order to appeal to this new generation of conscious consumers. This has resulted in a few different things; new companies starting with a message of sustainability, and legacy brands making an effort to revamp as sustainable and eco-friendly.

As an example of new brands, startups recently raised record numbers to deal with packaging waste, with hundreds of millions raised across ten different companies. But there is also the clothing brand Rent the Runway, which sells customers on renting dresses so that they can still wear what they want to an event without participating in fast-fashion. There’s Feather, the furniture rental company which rents out furniture on the premise that furniture will not go to waste.

As for legacy brands, Burger King has recently launched Impossible Burgers, using fake meat in order to appeal to vegetarians and carnivores who are worried about the environmental impact of meat production. And there is Patagonia, who has made news for donating millions to combat climate change.

A New Hope

It’s important that your brand keeps up to date with sustainability marketing. In order to stay on top of the climate crisis, as well as sell to customers, this new trend in branding and practices is good for everyone involved. Let’s all hope for more sustainable and ethical practices, for the planet and people’s sake!

Want to read more from Provoke Insights, find some more blog posts linked below:

  1. Don’t Let Your Marketing Dollars Go to Waste
  2. 2020 Trends: Advertising & Marketing Industry
  3. The Power of Census Data
  4. A New Way to Test Significant Differences
  5. Fin-Tech: How to reinvigorate your brand in a sea of sameness
  6. Research Norms: What are they and what they can tell you
Read an excerpt from our blog on the power of census data:

“The census is conducted out every 10 years. It counts all people – citizens and non-citizens. It is mandatory for citizens to respond to the census so that the government will have an accurate count of the population. This serves as the backbone of fair political representation and it plays a role in many other areas of public life.

Census data is some of the most reliable out there. As a result, companies including market research firms find this information essential. The statistics provide information such as gender, age, and household income. Also, it is possible to drill down the data by state, country, city, or even zip code.”

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Don’t Let Your Marketing Dollars Go to Waste
10 Jan 2020

So, you brought a new idea to the market. You have even gotten it funded. However, long term success is determined by finding the correct audience, identifying the right unique selling point, and understanding your purchase funnel. Research is a crucial way to make sure that your marketing dollars are spent correctly (and not wasted). Market research (at its best) is directly related to your marketing strategy. 

There are multiple steps in the research process that are important to take to make sure research is strategy-based. It’s not just your research methods, as any research could be used to inform marketing but it’s the overall approach to your research that will make sure that your marketing dollars don’t go to waste.

The Market & The Consumer

When launching a new project, there are two areas to consider: Where should you launch your product? And who are your customers?

So how do we answer these questions? Before commissioning any expensive primary research, it may be best to analyze secondary research (information that is already out there). For example, in a recent blog, we detailed the power of census data. You can learn a lot from existing studies!

Second, survey research gives an in-depth look into consumer insights. Surveys should be designed around a topic and with a clear strategic goal as a result. In other words, a company looking to design an ad strategy can use survey data to find out which media their target customers use, and advertise through those channels.

Third, qualitative research (e.g. focus groups, in-depth interviews) bring your consumers and data to life. In this type of research, you see people’s expressions and hear the consumer’s tone of voice. It also allows you to probe deeper into questions your company might have about consumer behavior.

Having a Clear Process so it Doesn’t go to Waste

Before even getting into the research, it’s very important to map out a timeline and the process of your research and stick to it. Marketing strategy depends on clarity, and having a step by step plan to accomplish the research is the first step to a direct conclusion (without any waste). 

Setting out time for each step, and understanding what each step in your research process is are key to obtaining results that help inform your strategy.

Having Clear Objectives: Spending your Marketing Dollars

One of the most important steps in this process is to map out what you are looking for. What are the objectives of the research? What will you do with the research? Make sure you are not researching for the sake of researching, research for a purpose. For example, if your research is too broad, you will end up just reporting facts without any actionable strategy points.


Clear objectives, clear processes, clear distinctions, lead to actionable strategy! It’s important to have clarity when conducting your research in order to have actionable results. You don’t want to muddy the research, or else you will not have actionable results that will ensure an efficient marketing strategy. 

Want to read more from Provoke Insights, find some more blog posts linked below:

  1. 2020 Trends: Advertising & Marketing Industry
  2. The Power of Census Data
  3. A New Way to Test Significant Differences
  4. Fin-Tech: How to reinvigorate your brand in a sea of sameness
  5. Research Norms: What are they and what they can tell you
  6. How Black Friday Can Hurt Your Brand

Read this excerpt for a blog from our series on Generation Alpha!

“Knowing your audience and prospects is a key way to improve your profitability! As a result, different generations have different behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. Thus, understanding the generation gaps will help you understand the needs of your customers. Generations give marketing strategists an easy way to target and focus their methods. 

Baby Boomers do not want to see texting acronyms; they are swayed by clear video, they care about their in-store experiences, and they like to compare prices. On the other hand, Millennials want to care about the product they’re buying, and want to have a positive impact on their community. In addition, Generation Z (those born after Millennials and before 2010) is most influenced by social media, as that’s where they receive most of their news.

There is a new generation on the block! Brands need to know how this audience differs from their current audiences. Provoke Insights will be releasing a three-part blog series to help marketers understand the newest generation, to reinvigorate interest. Generation Alpha, the children of Millennials, are making waves recently in the news. Coupled with their Millennial parents, a marketing buzz has started to precipitate around the arrival of these youngsters. But how do they differ from their parents? In other words, what differences will there be in marketing to Generation Alpha versus marketing to Millennials?”

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2020 Trends: Advertising & Marketing Industry
03 Jan 2020

Happy New Year, everybody! As 2019 and the past decade comes to a close, a new one begins. And as is a tradition here at Provoke Insights, time for our annual advertising and marketing trends article. In other words, a comprehensive look at what can you expect over the next 12 months. That is to say, what are in-house marketers and ad agencies up to?

A Decade of Change

The 2010s were a decade of change in the marketing and advertising world. Ad spend has shifted almost entirely to digital, in large part due to social media. Advertisers spend around $30 billion on advertising on social media. And advertisers spend a total of $57 billion on programmatic advertising (includes banner ads and advertising on Google and Amazon).

Surprisingly, video advertising is the end of decade trend for online ad spend, as connected video advertising is expected to reach $6 billion by 2021. It comes as cable cutters have driven down television’s stranglehold on the media marketplace.

5G’s Impact on Trends

The first big invention of the 2020s will be 5G. 5G is the upgraded cell service technology that will make phone speed incredibly fast, and is going to be further integrated in 2020. A study even projects that sales of 5G devices will increase to 73.7 million units by the end of the decade’s first year! 

How will this affect advertisers? Well, phone streaming is going to hit incredible high speeds, with better sound, and higher definition. Now advertisers will have to react to the market by developing more interactive creative, with high-resolution graphics and better sound. This leaves possibilities for a whole new wave of creative advertising to try and hold consumer’s attention. 

Amazon: How will Retailers Respond?

Amazon may have killed retail this last decade, as their online shopping service is now ubiquitous, and in-person retailers have notably struggled to keep up. What Amazon may have done best is integrating with brands to sell their products and taking a piece of the profit in the process. 

However, 2020 is the time that companies fight back against the omnipresent online technology giant. For example, Microsoft will be launching cashier-less checkout and dynamic pricing displays. The company Neighborhood Goods specializes in partnering with companies to create pop-up shops, which have made an impact as apart of the new experience-based shopping economy. And the Canadian direct competitor Shopify’s launch of fulfillment services makes it a strong challenger. Will they have a shot of dethroning e-commerce king? Unlikely, but they sure will try!

Research Trends

As the marketing world shifts, so will the world of research. And the research world is getting much more creative. As so much spend has shifted online, and as surveys generally have shifted online, new technologies are allowing market researchers to be more creative in how they collect information. 

One of these new trends is online artificial intelligence focus groups. New companies that have created focus groups that utilize AI are taking the research world by storm and allowing researchers to conduct larger focus groups and get results in real-time. Focus groups can consist of dozens of people now, take less time, and be conducted online from anywhere. Other utilizations of online surveys are launching, as quick surveys on websites as pop-ups are becoming more and more popular. Look for that to continue in 2020.

We hope you had a refreshing holiday season and are recharged and ready to go in the new year!


Fisher, Lauren. “US Programmatic Digital Display Ad Spending.” Nov. 21, 2019. Available at:

Ryan, Jillian. “Ten Key Digital Trends for 2020 What Marketers Need to Know in the Year Ahead.” Dec. 9, 2019. Available at: 

Read some of our most recent blogs here!

  1. Research Norms: What are they and what they can tell you
  2. How Black Friday Can Hurt Your Brand
  3. Why Trends are so Important in Marketing
  4. Experiential Marketing & Retail

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