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The most common brand research mistakes

By Magda Adamska / 29 November 2021 The most common brand research mistakes

In one of our previous posts we analysed four types of brand research study which have proved to be most effective in solving business problems and, as a result, most popular among brand marketers.

Today, we will explore the most common mistakes made when designing and conducting brand research.

1. Choosing your research partner unwisely

A badly designed survey can lead to conclusions which are incorrect and, as a result, harmful to the business. That’s why it’s so important to only work with trusted research partners who understand your business problem and are capable of helping you solve it.
The easiest way to find potential partners is by asking your colleagues (whose judgement you can rely on) for recommendations regarding not only the research agency itself but also specific teams within it.

Certain types of research could be easily done in-house, especially if they are not complicated and require access to your customer database (e.g., Net Promoter Score study). However, the more sophisticated pieces (e.g., customer segmentation) should always be performed by a specialist research agency.

One thing is also worth mentioning in this section: it’s a bad idea altogether to expect your creative agency to conduct brand or market research on your behalf (see point 3). Unfortunately, it’s a popular practice even in the most well-known companies.

2. Messing up the research design

Although with a carefully chosen research partner, you’re more likely to avoid methodological mistakes, sometimes they still happen.
One of the most common is carrying out a qualitative study instead of a quantitative one, or the other way around. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies are not interchangeable and should be used for different purposes. If you want to understand what the majority of your target audience thinks, conduct a quantitative study. To get a deeper understanding of a problem, choose one of the qualitative techniques. Doing the opposite will lead to wrong decisions.

Presenting the results of a qualitative study in numbers and percentages (it happens!) is a marketing crime, as is using quantitative surveys to uncover consumer insights that respondents themselves are not aware of.

Other mistakes related to bad research design include using a wrong sample (e.g., choosing a narrow segment when you need results representative of the general population), writing surveys which are longer than 12 minutes (after 10 minutes respondents can be expected to pick their answers rather randomly, just to finish the survey) or not randomizing answers.

3. Being biased

Brand and marketing research, depending on how it’s conducted, can prove almost anything, even contradicting theses. If you are serious about getting objective results, you need to be careful not to let your current knowledge, beliefs and opinions affect the design of the research study.

One example of such a mistake is phrasing (often unconsciously) the survey questions in a way that suggests “the right” answer (e.g., “Which brand do you think is the best shampoo on the market? Brand X or brand Y?”). Another example is using a wrong scale, such as when asking about the price respondents are willing to pay for a product. You will get different answers, if you set up the scale range from 1$ to 1000$ compared with when it’s between 1$ and 100$.

4. Testing and killing creativity with research

We have mentioned it before and will repeat it one more time: it’s your role to judge whether a creative idea is good. Research doesn’t measure creativity, it measures effectiveness. Research can help you decide how an idea contributes to your brand’s image, figure out whether the concept needs fine-tuning to be more understandable or identifiable with your brand, measure whether it builds purchase intent etc.

Some of the most prevalent mistakes made in this category include asking respondents if they like an idea (it doesn’t matter!), comparing the new logo to the old one (in 90% of cases the old one will win as people like what they know), letting focus groups choose the best creative idea. Focus groups can help you identify the weak points of ideas such as a lack of credibility or uniqueness, but if you want to see which concept is the most effective among your target audience, you should test them with quantitative research.
If you make these mistakes, you risk killing great creative concepts.

5. Making wrong decisions or not making them at all

Firms which can’t afford their own research sometimes use data and conclusions published by other companies to substantiate their own decisions. They do it without checking how the research has been conducted even though it might have been carried out and published just to create a buzz (so called PR research). Next time you read about, for example, Millennials buying only “authentic”, ethical and purpose-driven brands, and come to the conclusion that this can be a sensible strategy for your company, check the sales results of such brands first. Better still, check the sales results of brands which represent none of those things. You might be surprised.

While using someone else’s research is often a mistake made by small businesses, big corporations often do entirely the opposite. They do a lot of research, often out of habit, and then ignore it. People are so preoccupied with their jobs that they don’t have time to attend presentations of research results or read the research reports. Don’t be that marketer.

If you need help with research or want to hire Magda for a brand project, email her at

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

BrandStruck ithe only online database of brand strategy case studies.
BrandStruck’s mission is to empower brand builders worldwide with the best brand strategy practices and insights, showcased through 250+ case studies of the world’s most admired brands.

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