Tag Archives: perceptual research

Getting to the Why

Tuesdays With Coleman

Years ago, I was presenting some results to an internal client. He was a sales rep who had seen dozens of quantitative research studies my team conducted. We had asked a question about social media, and he said, “Why are they using Friendster instead of Myspace [it was a long time ago]? What’s the difference?” We hadn’t asked that question in the study—it wasn’t one of the questions we were trying to answer at the time.

But sometimes, we do want to get further into the “why”.

There is a ton of information we can gather during quantitative research. In addition to that, it’s trendable and concise. You can ask a lot of “what” and “who” and “how” in quantitative research and get many of the answers you need to inform your programming strategy and tighten your marketing efforts.

But sometimes you just want to know more about the “why”.

Perceptual, or qualitative research might tell you that listeners love your music but don’t feel your personalities fit the brand—or vice versa. Maybe your station gets a lot of buzz and positive responses from its listeners but your ratings are going in the wrong direction. Or maybe you’re one of four similarly-performing stations in your market and you want to figure out what’s really resonating with your listeners and what isn’t and how you can separate from the pack.

We’ve all seen focus groups represented on TV. They’re written to come across as really dry, with boring questions and a monotonous narrator who goes around the room waiting for answers. I’ve sat in on a few of those (pre-Coleman Insights, of course). But in reality, the dry, boring focus group is pretty far from the norm. They’re also not like those focus groups in recent Chevy commercials. Yes, everyone wears a name tag, but no, very few focus groups end in giant reveals of big trucks and scrolling JD Power endorsements. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a facility where you could fit a truck in the elevator.

Chevy focus groups

Most focus groups don’t reveal giant trucks in elevators.

The biggest reveals in a focus group come from the people. These 8-12 representatives of your station’s listeners are there to answer your questions and tell you things you may never have considered. They may reveal things you had a hunch about but couldn’t confirm. The best groups are the ones in which your listeners engage not just with the moderator but with each other.

“I used to love to listen to KAAA, they had this crazy guy on in the mornings when I was a kid.”

“Oh yeah, I remember him!”

“What happened to him?”

“He went over to KBBB so I listened to him there for a while, but I hated the music on KBBB so I stopped and now I listen to KCCC.”

“Same here. They play too much Bruno Mars and it’s tired. KCCC is soooo much better.”

“What makes you like KCCC?” and so on.

Why Focus Groups

Sometimes we go into groups with an idea of what our participants will tell us. I love it when we’re wrong. I once co-moderated a focus group about strong characters on television. I thought they would love this one, be turned off by that one, think this other one was weak. Some of my ideas were turned around completely by the time I left. Our participants shared their thoughts clearly—not always succinctly, but that’s where I came in—and we were able to steer the client in a direction that was unexpected but ultimately made a lot of sense.

A while back, I did some focus groups where we were trying to guide advertising for a media company. The work we presented to our groups was slick and interesting. The first group had very clear opinions about one set. The next had clear opinions about another. Throughout the process, we learned a ton about why some of the copy worked and why some didn’t. Even in their disparate feedback, the participants proved to be savvy and articulate and enormously helpful.

This is front-row research. “Let’s find out what that man in the green shirt really thinks about the at-work contest he keeps mentioning.” “What did Theresa say about our morning show producer?” You can see firsthand how certain themes are consistent across groups and how some opinions are outliers.

From there, we take these insights and help you use them to shape your brand’s strategy.

Focus groups aren’t a replacement for solid quantitative research, but they’re a great way to expand, to fill in gaps, to answer tough questions. And they’re a great way to hear more about the “why”.

What’s My Brand Again?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Which radio station plays Classic Rock?

Which radio station plays Hip Hop and R&B?

Which radio station plays new hit music?

Chances are, you have a perceptual image in mind for one radio station that occupies each of these positions in your market.

It’s also true there’s likely more than one radio station in your market that plays Classic Rock, more than one that plays Hip Hop, and more than one that plays new hit music.

It is the one that is top of mind, the one you think of first, that builds brand ownership. In those moments when listeners choose a radio station to fill an instantaneous need, it is better to be top of mind.

Because more than one radio station plays these styles of music, it simply isn’t enough to play them. You must tell the audience, and you have to tell them often. That’s why simplicity is often the best way and slogans like “The Classic Rock Station”, “#1 for Hip Hop and R&B”, and “The Hit Music Station” just make sense. It’s what we call owning a Base Music Position on the Image Pyramid.

It takes a long time to build a brand. So when a change is made to a brand, it is even more paramount for the audience to be clearly informed of the change.

Let’s say my radio station plays mostly music from the 90s and 2000s, but research has identified an opportunity to play more 80s music. So, I significantly drop the percentage of 90s and 2000s music and inject a boost of 80s onto the station. Everyone says the station sounds great.

But did your audience really notice?

On a micro level, you may pick up some listening here and there and the audience may subliminally notice a change. But if you really want to get credit for the branding shift, just playing some extra 80s songs isn’t going to cut the mustard. You have to tell them. Over and over again.  Something like “The 80s Music Station” or “Nobody Plays more 80s” would make the change clear. Don’t forget, your station was playing music predominantly from the 90s and 2000s, so the audience’s top-of-mind perception of your brand is likely just that. You have to tell them you made the change to build the image you want.

What brand comes to mind when I say “baby food”?

Gerber Baby Food

Almost certainly the answer is Gerber. And Gerber still leads the U.S. market in baby food sales. But, like in other segments of the food industry, natural and organic disruptors have changed the game. Here’s a recent organic (pun intended) Google search of “Organic Baby Food”:

  • Earth’s Best
  • Plum Organics
  • Beech-Nut
  • Gerber

It shouldn’t be surprising that the brands that sound natural and organic lead the pack. What may come as a surprise is that Gerber has been making organic baby food since the 1990s, always used non-GMO fruits and vegetables in its purees, and has direct farmer relationships.

Yet it is Earth’s Best that says “No Genetically Engineered Ingredients” and Plum that put the word “organic” in its name.

Earth's Best Baby Food

Gerber has recognized the need to include the messaging in its marketing as part of a brand overhaul.

Gerber Organic Baby Food

They’ve learned, even as the market leader, it isn’t enough to just do something. You must also tell your audience about it.

Over and over and over again.