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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Get the research model right

Read the three golden rules that can enhance your campaign’s research model. Written by a leading planning expert, turn now to this valuable, quick-glance advice on the use of methodologies.

Great advertising research starts with three simple but golden rules:

  1. Encourage rather than kill creative input.
  2. It is not what the communication does to the consumer but what the consumer does with the communication.
  3. Tailor research to measure individual campaign goals.

These rules can be applied to all forms of advertising research but the focus here is on maximising results from print advertising.


Poor research methodologies can lead to more extreme yet effective concepts being rejected. First, consider the number of concepts put forward for research. Look for initial stage qualitative methodologies that are proven to handle 8-12 concepts and avoid those restricted to four concepts; otherwise the really creative, impactful ones risk ending up on the boardroom floor.

Second, bear in mind that research can eliminate or miss motivating concepts by using 'show and tell' methodologies. These work well only if the model that you are using is 'if they like it, it will be motivating'. Be cautious with this model, for in some markets, such as pharmaceutical communications to doctors, liking = fits with my understanding = I don't need to do anything = little motivation to change. Great if you are the brand leader but not so good if you are a challenger or a new brand.

In short, great advertising research should identify what motivates respondents rather than simply what they like.


We believe that you need to understand what the consumer did with the communication once they saw it, how they interacted with it and where it ended up 'parking' the brand proposition in their mind.

We have tried or observed numerous methodologies that attempt to understand this thought process and have found one to be of particular value, as follows. The communication (for our purposes let's assume it is concept testing) is assessed by observing consumer communicating to consumer rather than consumer to moderator; with the consumer relaying their interpretation of the concept to the other person, without explicitly stating what the message is. The emphasis therefore shifts to how motivating the concept is to the consumer, the clarity of the message and any disconnects between the intended and actual message.

Not only does this avoid research becoming a critique of viewed artwork, based on what the consumer likes or dislikes, but we now understand what the consumer has done with the communication and whether that communication has a clear motivating proposition.


A final word... tread carefully with norms in quantifying advertising research and be prepared to be flexible. Norms are based on one advertising model and if that model does not fit your campaign for your brand in your market – create one. By creating the correct standards that you wish to measure and using these as a guide to success, research can help develop and enhance the creative excellence and motivational power of your campaigns.


Have you defined your key target group, including psychographic profile?


NoAgree definition before recruitment
Does the research encourage creativity?YesProceed
NoChange research company
Does the methodology tell you how the consumer has processed the communication into motivation?YesProceed
NoChange methodology
Does the methodology distinguish the communication based on the message?YesProceed
NoChange methodology
Does your quantitative research rely solely on 'norms'?YesConsider creating tailor-made measures

Article by
Kim Hughes

managing director of The Planning Shop International. He can be contacted on or +44 (0)20 8231 6888

19th September 2011

From: Marketing



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