The right data, right now

As companies try to navigate through this turbulent year, most find themselves on completely shifting sands – both in terms of understanding the risks, opportunities and perceptions related to their brands, and correspondingly, what to do about it. Research and insights that seemed rock-solid a few weeks ago are suddenly unreliable or not predictive enough. And depending on the industry or audience, it’s hard to know what data will be most relevant moving forward, what consumers and customers really think about a company’s brands, and what trade-offs they might be making as they make their purchasing decisions.

Everyone’s wondering how to keep their brand relevant

Organizations are asking themselves these important questions.

  • What’s happening in the market now with my brands?
  • What brand and consumer information does the management team need “right now” to close urgent information gaps and gain sustainable new insights?
  • What do customers want and need, from a product and experience perspective now and in the next quarter?
  • Given this, how might we best activate and/or keep our brand(s) relevant?

Getting answers fast is important. There’s a tremendous need for Minimally Viable Data (MVD) – the minimum amount of information required to make good enough, no-regret decisions that will move the business forward, build brands and keep them top-of-mind, while taking advantage of opportunities and mitigating risks.

There’s no time or money for traditional market research, with its longtime frames, big budgets, and in-depth, structured questions that result in finely cut data sets. And there’s simply too much at stake to rely on ephemeral insights from just social media “listening”. Knowing how many times a brand is mentioned on Twitter or how many likes it’s getting on its Instagram and Facebook posts won’t help chart a path forward.

And while some companies have market or brand “pulse” tools and analysis capabilities, they’re typically slower and less flexible than current times demand. In fact, it’s almost worse for decision makers in these companies because while they are swimming in seemingly relevant content, it’s difficult for them to cut through the clutter and get to the meaningful nuggets of consumer and brand insights that offer them direction, or help them develop “growth moves” and build activation plans.

Anonymous internal sensing is essential

One of the first-order needs is for internal insights. More important than ever – and the key to stabilization and re-imagination – is having a motivated and united work force, from top executives to front line employees. Also, truer than ever, is gauging how employees truly feel about shifting priorities and new plans to action. Your smiling sales director may be in complete disagreement with recovery priorities. And manufacturing associates may be secretly terrified of what they see as inadequate safety precautions. Internal digital town halls can provide quick and anonymous insights that provide the leadership team with a real barometers of hidden concerns, and help guide better decisions. (See Illustration 1)

Anonymous digital town hall – answering the question “What are the things you need to tell your teams right now?”

Speed up your external pulsing tempo

Without becoming paralyzed by information, businesses need to commit to a radically faster external pulsing tempo. How will people’s feelings shift when schools re-open? When they return to travel? What will happen during the second wave of COVID-19? What does that mean for our brand messaging and digital campaign next week (instead of next quarter)?

Pulsing research is key to digging into specific subsets of customers. How are older people feeling after several months of being referred to as frail and vulnerable? What about parents, who are worried about their kids’ interrupted education? Gen Z consumers who feel like the most important events of their lives have been canceled?

These possibilities require quick hit MVD that feeds into ongoing scenario planning, with each scenario projected over a time frame of three months, six months and beyond. (See Illustration 2)

MVD Brand Scenario Planning – Brand Dashboard Illustration

Using short research bursts, organizations can quickly take the pulse of consumer priorities and expectations. They can identify how brands may best create rapid, positive recovery impact through internal and external market learning. And when done continuously, these pulses keep companies close to factors that are becoming the most relevant to post-COVID consumers.

Final Thoughts

Disruptions are constant, and when approached in the right way, can be opportunities for acceleration. To keep actions up with the speed of an evolving storm, we suggest a quick read from inside clients’ organizations to identify questions that matter most to its leaders and the recovery agenda, using an anonymous, open-ended forum. When paired with an external market pulse on burning questions, companies can then fill in specific information gaps.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that this kind of research will lead to perfect outcomes. But in this moment, when so many businesses feel stalled as they wait for “the new normal” to emerge, we think companies are faced with only three possibilities as they place their bets for the future.

They can find the least amount of data needed to make the right call. They can acknowledge that in this environment, they may misread the data, and make the wrong call. Or they make no decisions. And in these fast-changing times, we think the latter is the most dangerous move of all.

Need help uncovering insights that will drive real growth? Partner with us. Reach out today.