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POV: Does research in communication lead to tunnel vision?

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | January 03, 2013
Communication banks on research to add that extra testimonial. Nothing boosts the marketing communicator's confidence about the aptness of a message as research-backed insights. But, is research becoming a crutch for marketers?

Narayan Devanathan
National Planning Head, Dentsu Marcom

As with many questions that are this broad in nature, the answer to this one, too, lies somewhere in the middle. I think the way the question is phrased is also interesting. Is research a crutch? No. Is research "used" as a crutch? Absolutely. Does that lead to tunnel vision? Not necessarily.

Narayan Devanathan

Rahul Jauhari

S Swaminathan

If you had a limp or a weak leg, you'd be foolish or too proud to not use a crutch. Similarly, if your brand has a "limp", why wouldn't you use a crutch, especially if it can help you redress the "weakness in your leg"?

On the other hand, if you didn't have a limp or a weak leg, would you still use a crutch? Not only would you look foolish, but you'd probably develop the limp you didn't have in the first place. Why would you subject your brand to that? Why would you develop a dependency you didn't need in the first place?

Rahul Jauhari
National Creative Director, Everest Brand Solutions

Consider this from a marketer's perspective. Would it make sense for a marketer to be continuously in touch with changing consumer demands, attitudes and beliefs? Of course, any amount of knowledge (not information) will help a marketer deliver greater value to his ultimate consumer.

Consider this from a planner's perspective. Would it make sense for a planner to be continuously in touch with changing consumer demands, attitudes and beliefs? It would.

Now, consider this from an agency's perspective. The marketer has a business issue. So he turns to the agency. The marketer knows his business issue. The agency can either go purely by what the marketer says or understand the consumer, who is the other stakeholder in the business issue. All these are places where research can hugely help.

This brings us to what makes research so hated by so many in advertising. As a creative person, I love to know more - product insights, consumer insights or trends. As business issues become complex, it helps to have insights that will enable one to craft a great communication solution.

S Swaminathan
CEO, Hansa Customer Equity

Research in communication is not a crutch, it is becoming a necessity. With the proliferation of media, marketers face challenges in understanding what kind of messages work with consumers in different media for their brands, and identifying the ones that deliver better ROI.

With the advent of new media, marketing campaigns can be targeted across various media platforms, helping marketers fine-tune their messages more quickly. We are moving into an era of "agile marketing". Going forward in the near term, the traditional form of research for communication will be replaced with what I call DOE (Design of Experiments).

A whole set of messaging and experiments of campaigns and messages will be tested and refined continuously. One leading brand uses DOE to check which email pitch is working with children and teachers. A travel company tests over 17 factors in 20 different campaigns, which includes copy, logos and design. The DOE correlates messages and ad sizes to consumer recall and the final purchase.

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