Building a successful brand or launching an effective advertising campaign requires some up-front market research. You have to understand your customers so that you can keep them coming back as well as reach more like-minded future customers. Research can tell you demographic and geographic information about your customers, how they get their information, what their preferences are and what barriers stand in the way of closing a sale. That's extremely valuable information.

Tabulating survey responses, analyzing website analytics, and sorting databases by every imaginable criteria can yield a colossal stack of spreadsheets. It can become overwhelming. More important than the sheer volume of information is what you do with it. How you use the data can mean the difference between poor and great marketing. The ability to interpret the research and turn it into a plan of action requires experience and creative thinking. For example:

• Even if you know a lot about your customers and prospects, you still have to craft a powerful message that inspires them to action. Your website, packaging, brochures and advertising needs to grab their attention and speak to them on their level. Design, writing and an understanding of consumer trends all matter.

• Your research should include evaluating your competition to see how their product and pricing compare to yours. Then you need to figure out how can you differentiate your product or destination from all the rest. Is your positioning and your message compelling enough to beat less expensive competitors? To differentiate requires thinking differently: creativity = differentiation. (click here for a white paper on the role of creativity in branding)

Too often market research is used to justify an existing strategy rather that shape a better one. Surely, good research will identify which marketing initiatives are working, but it also should give you the confidence to move your brand forward with bold new ideas. Good data should act as a lively springboard from which a brand can reach new heights.


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