Moving audience research in-house: how brands are driving marketing forward in 2022

A lit up house in the evening.
Lorna Keane is the associate director for content marketing at GWI.

Things might be looking more normal (sort of), but the effects of the last year are still being felt across the world – not to mention in the world of business.

For marketing, it’s a familiar story; slashing budgets and mounting pressure to undergo serious transformation for 2022, because “the old way” doesn’t fit the bill anymore.

A 2021 Gartner report revealed marketing budgets were reduced to record lows of just 6.4% of company revenue – almost half what they were the year before. This, coupled with pressure to digitally transform going into overdrive meant CMOs had to adapt fast. What most were reminded of pretty quickly was the digital world is a packed space, and to actually stand out, it takes more than just testing tactics.

What it actually takes is knowing your audience better than the competition. But how well you know your audience comes down to how good, and easily accessible, your research is. This renewed focus on knowing your audience is forging a new relationship between brands and agencies, with some moving key capabilities like audience research in-house. Here’s why.

Consumers are still changing, and brands need to too.

If there’s ever been a good time to get to know how people actually think and feel, it’s now. The last year has seen consumption habits, needs and expectations fluctuate rapidly – and today, we’re faced with an entirely new reality.

Our upcoming flagship report shows consumers have grown more health-conscious, with anxiety and stress rising since Q2 2020. Professionals are demanding more flexibility in work. People are looking for more enjoyment from life more, showing a drop in concern over personal finances.

This is just a fragment of the story that’s changing for every audience and market. Competing in this new reality takes keeping a constant finger on the pulse of your audience to recognise and act on what exactly is changing.

It takes knowing them inside out – from where and how they spend their time, to what gets them out of bed every morning and what qualities define them. That kind of insight isn’t something you should be relying on an outside source for.

It’s something you should be owning, taking control of, and cutting and slicing to fit your specific goals – in the moment you need it.

Platform-led market research is driving teams forward.

Good consumer insights are essential to drive good marketing. That’s no big revelation.

We all know what it takes to get it right, but often it’s a case of how long it takes to get what you need. If you’re under pressure to create a campaign for a product launch, and you want it to resonate, but your research is taking forever and holding up the show – that’s not sustainable.

But teams today don’t need to wait months for good quality answers. Market research isn’t what it once was. With reliable insight into any audience and market at your fingertips in a subscription-based platform, it means you can act fast, but make sure the action you take is as strategic and targeted as it needs to be.

With this capability, brands are empowered to be properly data-driven in everything they do, while marketing ROI becomes less of a probability, and more of a guarantee.

A new dynamic is emerging between brands and agencies.

Agencies have always, and will always, be essential to brands. Their expertise and creative talent is something you simply can’t find everywhere – and it often spells the difference between a good strategy, and a great one. But the way they work together is changing.

If there’s one thing brands desperately need, it’s better clarity into their target audiences; their needs, desires, wants, habits. Brands are looking for more visibility, more control, and more ownership over this – and for good reason.

When it comes to moving audience insight in-house, one of the biggest benefits is getting a consistent (and constant) view of your audiences, across markets, sectors and regions. Getting that all important single view means being able to drive alignment across teams, no matter where they are, with strategies aimed directly at the right people. From there, you can slice and dice it however you need to suit your business goals.

For agencies and brands working together, this shift means sharing the workload in a more strategic way that offers brands the transparency and control they need, while agencies offer their expertise to make sure the data is put to good use.

After all, the real value isn’t in the data – it’s in how you look at it.

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