Good business decisions rely on good research to back them up. When brands trust inaccurate market research or strategies, costly errors are bound to occur. If innovation projects aren't based on sound research, whether it’s primary or secondary research, product teams waste time developing features that consumers don't actually want or need. And if you don't have reliable market data before beginning a branding project, you run the risk of not resonating with your target market.
If you want to conquer challenges and deliver successful outcomes, it's crucial to conduct good research.
But what exactly is "good" research?
It starts with a sound methodology. In this article, we'll cover how to separate good secondary research from the less desirable, and the value of good data in delivering results to a brand. Let's jump in and take a closer look at good market research and strategies used for analysis.
Why is Having "Good Research" a Big Deal for Brands?
When market research is bang on, it helps brands make informed decisions. It can provide insight into trends and customer behavior, allowing businesses to adapt and stay ahead of competitors. Solid secondary research about customer experiences, technology, and competitors helps companies zig when others zag—avoiding poor innovation projects, market saturation, and financial loss.
New Coke—Flawed Research
New Coke will live in infamy as one of the biggest blunders in market research history. In 1985, Coca-Cola made the decision to alter its iconic recipe to compete with Pepsi's market dominance. However, they failed to conduct sufficient market research—neglecting to test the reformulated soda with enough customers or investigate the potential backlash from loyal Coke drinkers. The result? A market flop and a hasty return to the original recipe.
Without proper research methods, a brand can make costly mistakes—not just in terms of market share and financial losses, but also damage to reputation and customer loyalty.
How do you sort the good from the bad research?
When figuring out if data is legit, you have to be a bit of a detective. Whether it's market research, consumer research, or choosing relevant content or media sources, it's essential to use a methodology to test your data.
How to Start Assessing Data
Finding reputable sources and information doesn't have to be a daunting task. But you do need a process that will weed out the bad information from the good. Here's an excellent place to start when it comes to secondary research.
Use Trustworthy Sources
Don't rely on any old website or article as your definitive conduit of knowledge. For secondary data, using sources with a solid reputation that are known for producing high-quality information is essential. Government websites, academic journals, industry publications, and well-known companies in your industry can be good places to start.
What defines a "trustworthy source"?
Unsure if a study you found on the internet is the real McCoy?
A trustworthy source will cite where they got their information and include links to credible research.
They will also have a transparent process for collecting data, such as using surveys or conducting in-depth interviews.
A legitimate source will have a track record of producing reliable information rather than making bold claims with little evidence to back them up.
How does this look in practice?
Let's say you're in the medical industry. A reputable secondary source may be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Mayo Clinic. An unreliable source may be a small blog with no citations and little information on where the data comes from.
In short, a trustworthy source won't be afraid to show their work and back up their claims with evidence.
Do a Bias Check
It's also critical to consider a secondary source's potential biases. For example, a market research study conducted by major competitors might not provide an impartial view of the industry. And consumer research sponsored by a particular brand may also have a bias towards their own products and services.
Website domains matter
When you're considering a source, don't ignore the website domain. Websites do have difference, from .org, .com, to .gov. Here's a quick breakdown of the most common domains—
.gov—Government agencies and websites
.edu—Educational institutions, such as universities
.com—Commercial businesses and websites
Of course, this doesn't mean that all .com websites are untrustworthy—or that every nonprofit is trustworthy. It's essential to look at the specific website and determine if they fit into the criteria of a trustworthy source, as mentioned above. But in general, these domains can give you some insight into the potential biases of a source.
Don't rely on outdated info
Some studies have longevity while others have a quick expiration date. Take a closer look at when the secondary information was published or last updated. If it's significantly out of date, it may not be as valuable. However, some industries may require looking at historical data to contextualize current trends, so consider the specific needs of your project or research objective.
Ask, “why is this information being shared?”
Often, publicly available information has an angle or agenda, so it's essential to consider the motivations behind the information being shared. Ask these questions before you rely on a source's information—
Are they trying to sell a product or service?
Do they have a political or ideological agenda?
Is this newsworthy or only entertainment?
While understanding the purpose behind the content can be tricky—it's vital. The intent behind a piece of content, a study, or a survey can impact the value of the evidence.
How Do You Vet "Good Research"?
Good research involves a clear and transparent process for collecting data and citing sources and links. This information is collected and analyzed using strict guidelines to ensure clarity and reduce bias. Here are a few factors to consider if data is high-quality or not—
Accuracy—When looking at the accuracy of the data presented, consider if the information is supported by evidence and verifiable sources. Review it for any obvious errors or inconsistencies.
Completeness—Ensure that all data required is presented and provides a complete picture of the topic.
Consistency—Are the methods and data collection procedures consistent throughout the study? Consistent data will have no conflicts in information within or between reported findings.
Timeliness—Research should be current and up-to-date related to the societal climate.
Validity—Is the data authentic and proven to be valid? Ensure it's derived from known sources and is stored in an appropriate and standardized format.
Methodology—Review the research process and ensure it follows strict guidelines for data collection, analysis, and reporting.
Sample size—In many cases, the larger the sample size, the more reliable and representative the data is of a larger population. The ideal sample size will vary based on the type of information being gathered (surveys, focus groups, etc.).
Poorly conducted studies and unreliable data can lead to inaccurate conclusions and missteps for a brand. It's essential that all organizational teams carefully review the credibility of research before using it.
We've outlined some key factors to consider when evaluating the quality of research and highlighted the importance of relying on credible data for a successful business strategy. But not all research is created equal, and flawed research can lead you astray. Even some of the world's strongest brands have fallen victim to inaccurate or poorly conducted market research.
Understanding the value of good research in all facets of a business is crucial for making sound decisions and achieving success. Always review the credibility of a source before relying on its information—and don't be afraid to dig deeper for more insights or alternative perspectives.
So the next time you consider content to use or a source to rely on, remember to review the research methodology and make sure it passes muster. Your brand's reputation depends on it.
Not all research is created equal, so if you need a trusted research agency to do the heavy lifting (and follow good research guidelines), we’ve got you. At Rebel, we conduct primary research and develop strategy to help ambitious companies make profitable leaps into uncharted territory. Contact us to learn more.