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What 'Research First' Really Means

By: Daven Mathies

January 15th, 2024
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Put on your lab coats; it’s time to dive into our research methodology. Research is what gives our work staying power. It’s how we remove subjectivity from our decisions, both strategic and creative, and deliver an effective product that helps you reach your goal, whether that be brand awareness or sales.

We call ourselves a research-first creative agency because that’s exactly how we work. We don’t start on the creative process until we’re confident we’ve done the work to understand your brand, customers, and competitive landscape. We’re not here to win advertising awards; we’re here to deliver functional creative that hits those KPIs.

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Getting to know all about you

For new accounts, research is critical to understanding your business, products or services, and audience. Our research here falls into two categories: owned and performed.

Owned research refers to the existing data your company has already collected, such as customer surveys or sales numbers. We love geeking on this stuff. Our owned research review lets us know where we’re starting, what’s worked (or not) in the past, and what gaps exist in the data that we should revisit.

Performed research, on the other hand, is novel research we conduct ourselves. This typically begins with an executive discovery exercise. In this phase, we speak with your company’s executives, listening intently to uncover everything they know (or think they know) about your brand, business, market, and audience. 

Next, we move into stakeholder interviews. These are formal, one-on-one interviews with people who are familiar with your brand, such as current or past employees, customers, vendors, or other industry experts. We keep these conversations confidential, rolling up the information we gather across multiple interviews into organized, anonymous data points, giving us a meaningful story that informs next steps. 

Stakeholder interviews give us a candid perspective of your business. How much brand awareness do you have? Does your brand compare favorably to your competitors in the eyes of customers? Is your brand seen as overpriced? These interviews reveal gaps in your messaging and whether your external perception aligns with your intended brand positioning.

Where interviews cover the qualitative side, our quantitative research gets into the nuts and bolts of how your marketing efforts are performing. This could include diving into web analytics to see what content is driving customers where, performing an SEO analysis, looking at social media engagement metrics, running A/B tests, and more. This helps us decide where to focus our efforts, either by building on what already works well or to shore up or replace underperforming elements of your marketing mix.

We call ourselves a research-first creative agency because that’s exactly how we work. We don’t start on the creative process until we’re confident we’ve done the work to understand your brand, customers, and competitive landscape. We’re not here to win advertising awards; we’re here to deliver functional creative that hits those KPIs.

Getting to know your competitors

Another component of our performed research is a competitive analysis. Here, we analyze the brand voice and visual identity of select competitors and compare and contrast them to your own brand. This is primarily based on their digital presence, including websites and social media profiles. While the information we glean here is largely qualitative, there are quantitative components, as well, such as reviewing typography and colors for accessibility requirements.

A competitive analysis is a great way to see how your competitors are positioning themselves as well as what things you may want to imitate. But most importantly, it defines the sandbox we play in and reveals how your brand can stand out. Should you change your color palette to avoid an overcrowded portion of the color spectrum? Should you update your brand voice so you don’t sound too similar to another’s? Are you using a homepage navigation setup that is at odds with the norm for your industry?

These are all questions the competitive analysis answers, leading to a set of recommendations for defining your own voice and visual identity.

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Moving forward with confidence

Qualitative and quantitative research give us a strong foundation to begin building a trustworthy marketing strategy. Research ensures our creative is purposeful, born of data and insights, and highly targeted to a specific task.

But our job doesn’t end there. We’ll continue monitoring and collecting data as we go, optimizing our strategy where we need to and refining our creative along the way. It’s a proven process we know well, one based on steady, calculated improvements leading to long-term success.


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