Why Risk Isn’t Always Bad – IHOP vs. IHOB
12 Jun 2018
Provoke Insights was quoted in an article in NBC yesterday — you can check it out here. The article discusses International House of Pancakes (IHOP) decision to rebrand as IHOb — International House of Burgers. The temporary name change shows that the restaurant is serious about its burgers not just its pancakes.  

Carly Fink, the principal and the head of research and strategy at Provoke Insights, was asked what she thought of the famous breakfast chain’s strategic move. She noted that it is risky. However, risk can have both positive and negative results. Risk is not necessarily a bad thing; it can often pay off!

A name change is a major shift in a marketing strategy. IHOP is one of the top names that consumers think about when they think about breakfast. Changing the name will impact this perspective and result in consumers’ association shifting away from breakfast and to lunch/dinner instead. The key here is to avoid losing its association with breakfast.

IHOP has been trying to increase sales for lunch and dinner for some time for many reasons, one of which is because a restaurant can often charge more for meals later in the day. We can be sure that IHOP marketing team spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of changing the brand name for this marketing initiative. One way this risk can pay off is by causing controversy. There is value in controversy – it gets people talking. This has proven true for the IHOP strategy, as it has already caused a huge stir on Twitter, with Burger King changing their name to Pancake King and other burger vertical leaders commenting on the name change. The initiative has been somewhat successful, with an influx in press and chatter very visible.

There is a need to be careful. Acronyms can cause complication. Acronyms are often engrained in people’s memories and consumers find it difficult to stop using old ones. It is important to conduct research in order to determine if the name change will cause confusion among consumers. Will people be aware that the chain still sells pancakes? How else, besides the acronym, will IHOP promote burgers? It will be key to see how their advertising focus, such as its television commercials, changes in the following months. If ad spend is less focused on breakfast would this impact the brand overall equity?

It is also important to remember that this is a global brand, and as such, each market/country may react differently.

The burger market is very saturated. Entering the direct competition with the burger industry will be difficult as IHOP is not known as the king of this vertical and there are many brands competing for the crown.

The risk may pay off, though. A name change could help their positioning. People might start to think of IHOP when they think about lunch and dinner. The key when a brand is changing their name or acronym is to conduct thorough research about their consumer, the brand, and their advertising initiatives to make sure no wrong turn is taken! Will the name change really move the needle? Or will this simply take away from breakfast spending, resulting in loss of revenue? Check out more about naming research on the Provoke Insights blog.

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.

What is Advertising Research?
14 Mar 2018

In the advertising and marketing industry, research is used to identify and define marketing problems. Research is often incorporated into the following aspects of the advertising process:

  • Industry or competitive analysis
  • Pitch process
  • Concept generation
  • Ad ideation
  • Consumer/target audience development
  • Segmentation
  • Ad pre-test
  • Ad post
  • Tracking the ad’s success
  • Branding initiatives
  • Content marketing
  • Thought leadership

Primary and secondary research are methodologies commonly used when evaluating advertising. Although this can seem like an unnecessary expense, it is far from it. As they say: “Failure to prepare is preparation for failure”. This upfront research cost allows your communications to be more targeted, set up for success, and ultimately drive more sales.

Primary research is research that is not already out there. There are two types of primary research: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative research is directional in nature and used to garner ideas and insights. Traditionally, this type of research has been conducted at focus group facilities, over the phone, or even in one's home. However, new technologies such as online focus groups, bulletin boards and social research have brought this type of research into the digital space which allows the research to be timelier and more cost-effective. New technologies such as virtual reality are revolutionizing this type of research. 

In advertising, qualitative research is great for the initial feedback of campaign ideas, concept testing, and bringing a specific target segment to life.

Quantitative research derives conclusions about specific target populations through methods such as online or over-the-phone surveys. This number-oriented methodology reaches out to a large number of respondents in order to be statistically representative of a population. Quantitative research is often used for advertising tracking research, brand equity research, concept testing, consumer, and segmentation research.It helps you predict if your advertising campaign will be successful.  

Secondary research uses data that was not gathered for the current initiative but for some other previous purpose. You can commission a market research company to develop a customized secondary research report, purchase syndicated research, subscribe to research databases, or simply conduct a web search. Check out our article about free research databases. Often this type of research is beneficial to advertisers when better understanding trends and the competitive and industry landscape. It is also useful if you are looking to conduct an ad audit of your competitors.

Advertising research is typically conducted by research vendors and commissioned by either advertising agencies or in-house marketers. This allows for the research results to be unbiased and gives an accurate representation of where the brand or ad campaign stands.

Tech Companies, What’s Your Marketing Strategy?
05 Feb 2018
In 2018, the technology industry is expecting to continue to grow at record rates. As technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), voice, and virtual reality are gaining popularity, new start-ups are emerging and current companies are integrating these new technologies. This is great for the consumer, but it causes an extremely competitive environment for tech start-ups. These companies become drowned out in the saturated marketplace and often fail before they’re even noticed. Often leadership believes the innovation is good enough to sell itself- but that is not true.

 What can you do to stand out from the competition? How can you get your message heard in a crowded marketplace?

Well, it is all down to brand strategy or positioning strategy. In fast-growth companies, like tech startups, it is vital to position your brand for success. In order to be best positioned, it is important to be aware of:

  1. Who you are targeting?
  2. What resonates with that audience?
  3. Where they will see your brand’s content?
  4. How they will interact with your brand?

1. Who you are targeting

Before you launch or soon after, target audience research will be your best friend. What age are they? What are their past times? What brands do they already invest in? We have written a blog on this here, if you want to read more.

2. What resonates with that audience?

Concept testing, messaging testing, idea testing. This type of research is all done very easily and it is something that will pay off for you in the long run. When you are so close to something – ie. working on a brand or website for months – it is hard to recognize what might not resonate with your audience.

3. Where will your audience first interact with your brand’s content?

What channels are your audience engaged in? Do they use social media? If so, which platforms? What television or streaming services do they subscribed to? What radio do they listen to? Do they have a smart speaker in their homes? What podcasts are on their radar? This is just a sample of the mine of knowledge you should gather about your audience before diving into a strategy.

4. How will they interact with your brand?

Lastly, considering you are a tech company and presumably, the brand is based online and has websites/apps as well as an e-commerce site, it is essential to conduct User Experience  (UX) research too. How will your audience use your website? What will funnel them through the purchasing process with more ease and with fewer cart abandonments? What user interface will make them want to visit your homepage and take a look.

With all of this research, you will be best setup to reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right place, and have them enjoy the experience. Even one or two of these techniques will help your tech company soar and grow at the high-speed rate you want it to. Provoke Insights, a brand strategy and market research firm based in New York City, offers all of these research capabilities. To find out more, contact us at info@provokinsights.com or sign up to receive our newsletter to learn more about the company.

Manufacturers… What’s Your Brand Strategy?
11 Jan 2018
While manufacturing in the United States has adopted new technologies to streamline operations, logistics, increase capabilities, and provide better products, industry growth is still slow due to overseas competition.  Though manufacturers are consistently innovating, 2017 growth in the industry has only increased by 1.6% [1]. What is the brand strategy?

Manufacturers often rely on their sales teams to develop and solidify relationships.  However, with such a competitive environment, it is short-sighted to not only focus on sales. Even a B2B industry should have a brand strategy in place.

First, every business should have a unique selling proposition to convince prospects to work with your company as well as to increase loyalty among current customers.  It makes the sales teams’ jobs easier by providing key differentiators in an industry where prospects and customers may see many manufacturers as all the same. This provides additional value for the brand beyond cost.

Second, it is pertinent to understand your customer wants and needs and determine if your company meets them. Plus, there should be a strong understanding of why prospects work with your competitors vs. you.  Other than price, what is that key trigger point that would convince them to switch manufacturers?  Often this can be done using market research with methodologies such as focus groups and surveys. For example, you can learn about what is unique about your brand vs. the competition, as well as possible emotional triggers you would not normally associate with a manufacturing company.

Also, it is pertinent to determine what marketing channels not only reach your customers, but can best communicate your brand’s story.

Even if your competitive advantage is not the most advanced or the cheapest, a market strategy is a way to tell a compelling story that helps your customer understand your brand in a simple and digestible manner.

As you can tell, there are many moving parts to a marketing strategy.  Provoke Insights can help assist with a marketing or branding strategy and research needs.

Read our blogs about why primary and secondary research is so important when launching a successful brand.

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[1]  “Over-the-year employment changes and tests of significance, seasonally adjusted. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov Dec. 2017.

The Benefits and Boundaries of Ad Tracking Surveys
19 Dec 2017
Ad tracking surveys are vital for ensuring that your advertising campaigns and communication continue to have a positive impact. By gathering quantitative data from consumers regularly, you can benchmark and audit a brand’s health and change strategy according to the outcome of the results. It is important for all ad tracking surveys to be customized to your needs, many setbacks are due to one-size-fits-all solutions that may not be appropriate to your brands needs.

Initiating a tracker prior to a full ad launch allows the ad to create KPIs to measure the success of your advertising initiatives. Then, once the advertising is launched, the desired outcome is for the ad to be remembered by as many consumers as possible, that the advertisement is credible, is perceived to be communicating its intended message, and is liked. It is also key to determine if the advertisement outperforms the competition.

There is an opportunity to move beyond traditional ad tracking surveys and measure advertising awareness to exploring a changing marketplace and bringing context to consumer behavior.

At Provoke Insights, our standard ad tracker will longitudinally track scores such as ad awareness comparing a brand to its competitors. We have also introduced the Ecosystem Ad Tracker to connect any dots that the ad tracker leaves unjointed. This supplemental product brings additional depth and context to what is happening in the industry. We will measure if KPI’s are being met, conduct social listening, and analyze secondary data to further deepen the knowledge, web and search results will be analyzed as well as industry trends and public relations.

For more information on Ad Tracking studies and our Ecosystem Ad Tracker to provide a 360 connection please contact info@provokeinsights.com.

2018 Trends: Advertising & Marketing Industry
27 Nov 2017
As 2018 approaches, advertisers and marketers are preparing for the new year, Provoke Insights is providing a comprehensive look at what to expect over the next 12 months.

In the last decade, the marketing industry has changed immensely from new technologies to more specialty advertising agencies. In-house marketers have pushed for more project based work and an ever-increasing number of consumers have cut-the-cord to their TVs.

How has this affected advertisers as well as in-house marketers? How has this impacted advertising and media budgets, as well as the longevity of the relationship between an ad agency and their clients? What advertising initiatives are marketers commissioning in today’s market? How satisfied are marketers with their job in this fast-evolving environment?

In 2014, only half of advertisers surveyed were very satisfied with the process. With the ever-increasing frequency of ad pitching, are agencies and clients still dissatisfied with this process? Are there areas that can be improved? What makes marketers most likely to select an advertising agency?

Provoke Insights, a brand strategy and market research firm, conducted a survey looking at both advertising and in-house marketers to best answer these questions. This extensive advertising survey among 736 respondents will help you plan the 2018 year right.

If you would like to learn more about the results of this research survey and receive the whitepaper of this research in December, just follow this link and it will be sent to you. Click here to learn more about other services Provoke Insights offers.

Concept Exploration: The Highlighter Research Tool
11 Apr 2017

Written by: Rachael Ryan

Concept development is difficult. What is the ideal message to describe the concept? It is the combination of art and science to craft the perfect imagery and set of words. Yet, how do you know if you have the best possible description? That is where research comes in!

The Highlighter is the perfect way to explore the various concepts that you may be mulling over and you can chop and change your concepts with the data collected to make the perfect one.  The research tool that allows you to understand your target audience’s initial thoughts about a concept and the way it is written. How does it work? It’s simple. It is a dynamic blend of qualitative and quantitative research.

Firstly, the participant can use their cursor to highlight a specific part of the text and a pop-up will appear. The pop-up will prompt the user to indicate whether they like or dislike the text or wording. Secondly, there’s an opportunity for the participant to provide an open-ended response to the text. This questioning will determine initial feedback to the concepts and if the concepts are relatable to the consumers.

The highlighter allows you to get a very granular point of view and pinpoint consumers likes and dislikes about specific wording in the concept. The tool prompts respondents to explain their word preference. Concept exploration allows you to refine concepts for further stages of research without needing to invest a significant amount of time or money. The consumer can even layer their highlighting to emphasize what they really like or really don’t like. The process is simple to execute and it’s effective. From there, you’ll be better informed to continue with the campaign and with the feedback you receive, your concept will be the most effective it can be. You can then continue to research with a carefully curated concept. It will be vital to research who your target audience is and where the concept will best resonate.

Why is this blend of methodologies suitable for concept exploration? Not only is it easy for the consumer to use, it’s also interactive so it’s enjoyable to use. The data collected is invaluable for the concept that is being created. You’re provided with qualitative comments on each part of the concept as well as quantitative data to back up the information so you can create a concept with confidence that it will resonate with your target audience.

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The Science of Naming Your Brand
13 Feb 2017

Written by: Carly Fink

Every year, Provoke Insights conducts Naming Research for several products and product lines. A good brand name sparks an emotion with the consumer.  The larger the name connection the higher likelihood that the name will  remain top of mind among your target audience. It is the cement that unifies the brand across all advertising and promotional materials.

Often a company comes up with a list of potential names that they would like to name the brand. A company may be internally passionate about a certain name but does that name really work? Which name ranks highest? Do the names resonate among your target audience?

A sure way to know is to test names utilizing Provoke Insights’ naming exercise. This survey includes:

  • Open-ended name association
  • Ranking of names
  • Testing the top names over 9 dimensions such as likeability and high quality.

The research can be tested across various segments to determine a name that works well with all prospects. We also have found names that could be potential offensive to the consumer or a specific demographic. So looking at the name across various groups of people can be very beneficial.

Testing names through survey research allows a brand to know which names are winners or losers. It tells you what attributes consumers associate with the name. Is the potential brand name perceived as high quality? Likeable? Memorable? Offensive?

We have save companies from disastrous launches. A name that might sound fun and catchy to a company may not resonate with the consumer. The consumer may have difficulty relating that name back to the product – simply put it could be a great name but just not right for the product.

Testing a name prior to launch is a sure way for your brand to be loved by your consumers. It also diminishes the risk of a launch going wrong.

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7 New Trends in Market Research in 2017
25 Jan 2017

Written by: Rachael Ryan

Now that the first month of 2017 is coming to an end, we thought we would write a blog post about the changing trends in Market Research. The market is constantly changing, therefore, there is a need to stay abreast with the trends in the research space. Here are 7 new trends that market researchers will need to take note of this New Year!

  1. New technology

Speaking of technology, market researchers will continue to have to adapt and learn. We will see acceleration in technological trends over the coming year as has been seen over the past twelve months. For example, biometric response and neuromarketing are becoming more popular offerings at research firms.

  1. Research for content marketing purposes

As we saw in 2016, there was more emphasis on using market research for content purposes. Content was 2016’s buzz word, but as we saw, content was important, so important that everyone started churning out content… which lead to an abundance and then what became important was high quality content – content that people actually appreciate and that people want to read/watch. In order to get that interesting, relevant, clickable content, research needs to be conducted. Click here for more on Research for Content Marketing Purpose.

  1. Unpredictability causes a craving for prediction

Global uncertainty is good news for market researchers as it means there’s going to be a growing demand for market research. This trend began near the close of 2016 but with global uncertainty in 2017, political, monetary and economic unpredictability will cause companies to try to predict whatever they can hence looking towards market research in order to avoid any unforeseen shifts or changes in the market.

  1. More and more data

The more data there is available the more need there is for more clear and concise data. Most importantly what is the data saying?  What is the story the data is trying to say.  More data does not always mean better.  This means that the market researchers need to interpret data and consolidate it into information that can be easily. At Provoke Insights, we believe in telling a story with the data that we gather and the research that we conduct. We like to simplify the data and make it easy for anyone to understand.

  1. Appending data

With big data, there is an opportunity to conduct market research and then append additional data to the findings in order to create a more robust story. Segmentation research is a great example of this.  We can create segments and then append secondary data to learn more about these group’s behaviors and media habits. For example, does your segment go to yoga classes or attend the opera, market research firms should look towards adding this secondary data to the appendix so that the client can get a more round picture of the stories being told. This is great information that would not necessarily be in the primary research that you are conducting.

  1. No quick fix

Though you might think that in 2017 market research will become more automated, well you might just be wrong. Market research will need to be more personalized than ever. At Provoke Insights we believe in creating a market research strategy for a company’s needs and then creating a deck that is fit for that company and that company only. We don’t have a copy and paste attitude towards doing our decks, presentations or videos. Automated research will cause companies to search for a more accurate and personalized experience, one that suits them rather than suits the masses.

  1. Asking why

In the past there has been huge emphasis put on big data and gathering lots of information – now companies are seeing the benefit in not only asking what the markets does or tends to do but also asking why that is the case. This is where qualitative research is the perfect backup for the quantitative research that is also being done. Using a mixed methodology not only provides you with insights into the market but it answers the questions that may arise from the numbers by asking for opinions.

Over 50 years later, the classic The Times They Are a Changin’ has never been more relevant and market researchers have to change with them. As I said, it wouldn’t make sense to ignore new trends in the market and carry on as usual in market research – we have to change with the changing needs of the companies that need market research and make sure that the market research being done is relevant to them in 2017.

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