“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Here is a common scenario RMS runs into with clients regarding market research. Client A tells us for the past few months they have been running a major advertising campaign: television ads, print ads, radio ads, Internet ads, social networking PR, etc., which they have spent tens upon tens of thousands of dollars running. Then they say “We want to know how well our advertising campaign did.”

Obviously, you can look at a sales uptick, but that doesn’t really get to the core of the effectiveness of advertising. Certainly from here, RMS can design a comprehensive image and awareness campaign to ask the targeted audience how aware they are of Client A and Client A’s campaign, what they remember seeing/hearing/reading, and how the campaign has impacted them. From this data, we can tell Client A the following basic high-level results:

The data above describes a telling story. Client A is #2 among the three competitors in both awareness and image. As far as advertising campaigns – television had the most reach with residents in the past three months.

Valuable data? Of course! Can the researcher really dig into how effective the advertising campaign was though? Not really. What clients, like Client A, don’t often realize is the importance of a benchmark. What if I was to say before the advertising campaign, Client A’s awareness was 38%, now it’s 73%? “That’s great news!” Along with that 35% point increase in awareness, the image of Client A dipped from 82% positive to 64% positive. Great news? Not so much.

Although the advertising campaign boosted awareness of Client A, it impacted the audience’s image of Client A negatively. The messages conveyed in the ads had portrayed a negative image for Client A. Without a benchmark, Client A would run another advertising campaign next year using the same messaging and same mediums as the previous and further drive their image into the basement. Yet Client A wouldn’t know what to compare the results to until they ran two poor advertising campaigns.

Completing a benchmark study beforehand gives Client A a starting point, a base, a status quo of key statistics before a major advertising/marketing venture is undertaken. It provides a measuring point to gauge all future efforts for a business. It provides Client A with actionable data on next steps, seeing where the dial has moved with statistically reliable data. A before and after look at data is key. So, the question is, by running a benchmark study, which charts are more valuable to you? The charts above or the charts below?