I’ve Been Baking

Shortly after stay-at-home went into effect, I—and countless others—decided to take up bread baking. After searching for the “best bread recipe ever,” I followed the instructions the best I could, but the bread never rose: the yeast was expired. I spent weeks on a quest to find a store with yeast in-stock. Soon, my obsession paid off, and I went to work baking my perfect loaf. It came out super average. Even with the right recipe and the right ingredients, something prevented the supreme bread experience I sought.

Applying this example to research, it is obvious that the right methodology, the right tools, and the right thinking/expertise are all critical to take high quality ingredients and turn them into excellent output. 

In terms of REAL Insight methodology, this means capturing behavioral and System 1 feedback whenever possible and weighing those differently than stated responses. Methodology is also important in ensuring those high quality ingredients are deployed with the right scope for the question and in the right way.

Technology has always played a role in research, but this year, its use has accelerated and hit high gear. We benefit from having access to these technological tools that we could not have developed ourselves, but technology isn’t a solution; it’s a tool that needs to be expertly utilized. Technology shouldn’t distract respondents, and we want to ensure their focus remains on the task at hand—not on how the data is collected. Tools that are too complicated, unreliable, or distracting only frustrate and disengage participants.

With DIY experiencing exponential growth as well as faster and cheaper research taking focus, the question remains: What is the role of specific expertise? As with any business investment, it comes down to value. However, it often takes time to determine if the trade-offs with faster and cheaper are worth it. Suppliers delivering average value with standard pricing will likely fade away. But partners delivering true value—one that drives brand growth—will continue to be worth the budget line-item over the long run.

At REAL Insight, we conduct authentic research that reflects the truth that leads our clients to make the right decisions and avoid costly mistakes. In this era of research where real ingredients are harder to come by and manufacturing timelines are tighter than ever, you need partners who can efficiently and cost effectively deliver recommendations you won’t regret acting on. 

We are here to make sure your bread turns out perfectly every time.

Check out Part One and Part Two of these series!

Our take on research right now

This is certainly a unique time for Americans as we see bold steps being taken on a broad scale to curtail the spread of this virus. I have come to appreciate the prudent steps being taken and the unity that has emerged from people joining together to solve a shared problem.

Our Leadership Team at REAL Insight has been talking regularly and tracking the progress to better understand the potential risks of in-person projects as well as what research should be conducted in this environment. After all, we are big believers of context: both physical environment and mindset are both behavioral drivers.

REAL Insight has conducted technology-enabled mobile and online immersive research for over 7 years, spanning over 100 projects, in both domestic and international markets. If a remote testing option is the right fit, here is where and how we can help:

Foundational exploration into attitudes and behaviors?REAL Immersion: Moderated online/mobile study with video/photo/written response activities
Exploratory package design or creative development?REAL Iteration: An online multi-phase creative development process with the same group of consumers
Agile/Rapid Feedback on just about anything?REAL Agility Toolkit: A scrappy, not crappy REAL Immersion
At-shelf performance of concept product or packaging?Remote REAL Optimization: Mobile missions to shop specific store/category where prototypes are cut into the shelf
Keep a pulse on your foothold during this uncertain time?REAL Year: In-depth, small-scale virtual community available for bi-weekly or monthly touchpoints/activities over a 6-12 month period
Consumer or shopper journey mapping?REAL Immersion: Moderated online/mobile study with video/photo/written response activities

At REAL Insight, we feel our team, client, and participant safety is most important, which means limiting travel and in-person research for the short term. The good news is we have options and are here to help you think through these upcoming projects. Our commitment to you is to give our honest viewpoint about your current questions and if and how those are best addressed over the next few weeks.

Scrappy, Not Crappy

AGILE! SPRINT! LEAN START-UP! SCRAPPY!

We are in an age where many paradigms are shifting quickly. Brand equity isn’t functioning the way it used to. Consumers are demanding more transparency and authenticity from companies than ever before. Start-ups are taking on big companies and winning more than ever. Non-traditional success stories are becoming more of the norm for innovation as consumers are getting better at blocking out the expected.

As this challenging and rapidly evolving environment puts more pressure on successful new product launches, companies are adjusting their approach and timing. Some have adopted more formalized approaches—like innovation sprints or other agile frameworks—while others are doing what they can to innovate faster and cheaper than they have in the past.  

We love this new emphasis and its results. Brand teams are engaged around understanding real needs and solving problems. They are less likely to get bogged down in the weeds too early or miss fatal flaws until it’s too late. Consumer interactions are happening earlier in the process. These are all good things.

The process is good, but as research and psychology nerds, we also know that not all research is good research, and that scrappy can sometimes mean crappy.   Some of the common pitfalls are:

  • The method, although fast and cheap, isn’t right for the question
  • The method is right, but you aren’t talking with the right people
  • There isn’t enough objectivity or expertise present in the execution

REAL Insight has developed a new toolkit we call REAL Agility to support teams in this new faster/cheaper world. Our methods are scrappy, but because of our objective expertise and contextualized methods, we can help your team avoid the crappy pitfalls.

There is a point, often closer to launch, where a scrappy approach isn’t able to provide the answers you seek. In those moments, REAL Insight can provide more robust (yet timely) solutions—like a REAL World Assessment or REAL Optimization—to help you launch with confidence. 

Innovation teams, stay agile. We love what you are doing and are excited to continue helping you on the journey.

Finding the Reality Amongst the Noise

In our modern world, the gap between in-person realities and online perceptions can feel vast.   Life, as seen on social media is filtered, perfected, and potentially polarized. These perspectives can feel exciting for those who have embraced this curated worldview and scary for those who would rather not. 

Connecting with people IRL feels much more familiar and normal.  I still have the same love for my kids. I still laugh and am silly with friends and coworkers.  I still have my hobbies, still celebrate birthdays and holidays, dinners still need to be prepared, etc.  Although my social media interactions have a big impact on the amount of dopamine I have coursing through my body, it hardly tells a full story of how I feel or what my life is actually like at that moment.

As marketers, it is important to acknowledge the macro noise we are inundated with via our devices while cutting through it to reveal actual behavior.  Feelings, attitudes, and senses of security can fluctuate rapidly, and keeping a current pulse on their key customers’ thoughts and mindsets can be very valuable for brand teams.

REAL YearLook is an online community solution we offer that goes deep with a small group of the right people over an extended period of time.  Over a full year, we connect with this same group for three days each month and look at happiness, confidence, shopping, and usage behaviors. Additionally, we introduce specific stim/concepts for feedback, when applicable, and tailor add-on activities to answer specific questions. This longitudinal look is useful for intuition building and concept feedback on digital messaging and communication, promotions, media/shopping channel prioritization, and innovation.  More importantly, the length of time in addition to our experienced researchers enable this digital method to move past the typical social media posturing to create a safe space where participants can be transparent and vulnerable, leading to actionable insights.

Our REAL Intuition Journey is another way to connect with consumer segments in a profound and authentic way while also providing brand teams with the opportunity to personally invest and be impacted by these connections.  This approach involves customizable online and in-person approaches with broad team engagement that builds strong, unified intuition across stakeholders.

We recently completed this type of project for a client in a unique situation. They had been hearing loud complaints from a certain segment of consumers, but simultaneously weren’t hearing much of anything from others.  By cutting through the filtered feedback gathered via social media, the press, etc., they realized there was much more openness and acceptance from the segment they assumed would be adverse, whereas there was more hurt and opportunity to improve relationships with the segment they hadn’t heard from.  This research had a big impact on how they expected to allocate their marketing dollars, the message to communicate, and the audience that needed to hear that message.

As you have needs to connect more authentically with a specific group of people, shoot us a note.  We would love to talk through which approach might be the right fit or at least send you white papers on these methods. 

Looking for an Authentic Spark

As you know, perception is reality for shoppers. Relying on traditional concept evaluation tools presents a challenge; concepts are already fully explained before the consumer can share their thoughts even with more iterative, on-trend methodologies. Yet, concept understanding at-shelf is essentially a barometer of how much effort and cost will be required to gain traction.

Concepts are successful when they are seen, understood, valued, and deliver on expectations. As a company that specializes in in-context research, REAL Insight takes the lead in determining if packaging is noticeable on shelf, answering questions on consumer perceptions and gauging concept understanding.

unnamed (2)When learning about packaging impact, concepts are surrounded by likely shelf-mates. In this unique, in-context testing environment, we often gain significant understanding around category assumptions and concept performance. However, we are frequently brought in when innovation projects are nearing launch. At this last stage in the process, we frequently see concepts heavily challenged by ingrained assumptions or hard-to-rectify first moment of truth issues. Prioritizing at-shelf learning earlier can be beneficial for more nuanced concept testing and a successful launch.

With few product launches having significant marketing support out-of-aisle, these offerings need to be intuitive on-shelf to more easily gain traction. Understanding concept performance is helpful in prioritizing projects and determining what type of launch may be needed for success.

unnamed (1)To truly win in the category and gain insight to the degree of enthusiasm, the harsh reality of the typical CPG retail category needs to be accounted for: effective concepts need to change a behavior and prove they are a better solution than competing options. Seeing a shopper’s emotional reaction upon discovering a new product—bright smiles and eyes lighting up—is significant.

REAL Insight has the solutions to help gain early-on concept learning in-store without requiring significant prototype creation or sharing concept ideas with retail buyer partners until needed and keeps in mind already tight marketing budgets. Consider it a companion data point to the other quantitative concept work you are already doing or as an alternative to commonly used speed-dating approaches; a complement that will be highly valuable in setting expectations and appropriately prioritizing ideas.

Ready to learn more? Reach out to Luke for more details!