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Published in September 2009


Stop the Creative Blood Loss

During Market Research
Allen Stegall, Partner
Bob Costanza, Partner

“Hello, I’m a Mac.”

“And, I’m a PC.”
More brand teams need to realize
If Apple used the same market research techniques to test this cre- that while market research is invaluable,
ative concept that is customarily used in the pharmaceutical industry, this
terrific campaign might never have seen the light of day. it can’t replace judgment.
Imagine the deal-breaking research comments that might have sealed
its fate.
“I hate it when you people bash the competition.”
“Where are the product features and benefits?”
What Should We Do Differently?
“It’s funny, but not very relevant to how I would choose a product.” First, we should broaden our scope. For example, why not put
Scout Marketing Inc.

Or, consider Geico’s “So Easy a Caveman Could Do It” campaign. together a panel of experienced marketers with specific therapeutic cat-
There is real genius here because the campaign achieved impact by mak- egory knowledge who might offer very different and equally valid rec-
ing fun of a class (cavemen) who are no longer around to be offended. ommendations? They have the experience to know that sometimes a
Depicting them as “offended” is part of the device, and a remarkable way great idea will make some people a little uncomfortable (remember the
to break through the clutter in the insurance space. Orkin commercial that showed fake roaches on your television screen?).
One can only imagine the pushback if this had been tried in the world There are enough personal contacts among marketers on the brand
of medical advertising. After all, even though there are no cavemen, there team to put such a group together.We believe this would serve as a ben-
is still the general notion that one should not offend. eficial complement to physician research.
In truth, there are many good, provocative, and powerful advertising Second, we should limit the research questions to those doctors can
ideas within the pharma industry. However, far too many of our best actually answer. Doctors can tell you what they think the main message
ideas end up on the cutting room floor in favor of “safer,” and lesser, alter- is and how clear that message is, but in a research setting they can’t hon-
natives.This happens because we are a safety-oriented industry, not only estly tell you which ad would stop them most. Nor can they tell you the
in marketing communications but also in the ways we evaluate creative relative power of one concept versus another on their future prescrib-
ideas in the market research environment. ing. But this doesn’t mean they won’t give you an answer if the question
is asked.
Third, we should do more “day after” follow-ups with the physician
research subjects.“Hi, Dr. Smith.Yesterday I showed you four ad concepts.
Our Industry’s Approach
Typically, a brand team takes three or four concepts into research in Which one comes to mind first?” Doing this would give us another objec-
order to decide how to proceed. Each concept is shown to paid research tive measure of how our concepts work subconsciously (and isn’t that
subjects in a serial fashion, often in three or four selected cities. where they are supposed to do their job?).
After a few warm-up questions, the subjects are asked to consider Finally, we suggest that more brand teams should realize that while
each ad concept.What are your general impressions? What do you think market research is invaluable, it can’t replace judgment. That market
they are trying to say about Brand X? Is it clear? Is it relevant to your research report you received probably doesn’t factor in the competitive
practice? What would you change? Ultimately, respondents are asked to environment, the difficulty in breaking through and registering a message,
rank the concepts, or somehow indicate their favorites. the size of your budget versus your competitor’s, where your brand is in
This all sounds innocent enough. And certainly the researchers make its lifecycle, or any of a hundred other important considerations.
good faith efforts to remain unbiased and select the “right” concept. But So, by all means, do the market research. But then consider and dis-
there are several ways in which this process can and does go horribly cuss the meaning of the research in the broader context of your brand’s
wrong. Not that this process will often lead to a completely ineffective marketing challenges. And talk to your agency team. They want your
ad, but it will certainly filter out any concepts that are provocative, unex- brand to succeed as much as you do, and they probably have the expe-
pected, or even mildly polarizing — even when that would be the abso- rience necessary to see past the limitations of a market research project.
lute best thing for your brand. Be Brave! ■

SCOUT MARKETING is a full-service healthcare marketing firm that brings the experience of seasoned healthcare marketing experts to the specialty pharma community.
For more information, visit www.scoutmarketing.net.

September 2009 VIEW on Marketing

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