It is known that surveying and focus groups can give you valuable insight into consumer brand perceptions. They can also be used to test potential ad campaigns and positioning before they are fully developed to make sure they are in line with the targets interest. Surveys and focus groups can also be tricky as the way questions are asked can corrupt the thought process that would give you the most accurate information. You must also think about what type of information will be the most valuable to you. Are you looking for quantitative numbers to determine your plan of action or is it more important to have qualitative insights?

Recently during my internship at Ogilvy and Mather we were asked by a client to test three different possibly ad positions within a focus group comprised of specialist within a specific industry. The people that would be used in the focus group have demanding jobs and not much free time so it is important that the data gathered be as accurate as possible.

I will pose to you the questions we were confronted with. Would it be better to test the three positioning statements or test three ads based on the positioning statements and in either case should we use qualitative or quantitative research methods? Other factors one must consider that make justifying either approach difficult is what the client hopes to get from the data overall. For example are they looking for information to help refine the strategy of the positioning statements or merely to define the most popular choice based on a quantitative scale, unconcerned with individual insights the surveyed persons may have.

In our case the data was to be used by the client internally to justify to management the most popular positioning statement to base a campaign on. The decision was made to test the position statements opposed to ads. The reason being that thought the ads would be a representation of each positioning statement the interpretation of different aspects of the imagery itself can be interpreted much more subjectively by each individual. In comparison the positioning statement is a more direct communication of the proposed ideas and leaves less room for misinterpretation. We decided to look for quantitative data to deliver results that could easily be turned into percentages for presentation. We also pushed for some qualitative to gain insight into better refining our positioning.

There are many different combinations of research and testing available to you. All of which may provide you valuable insight. It’s important to always think through your research methods and make sure that the questions you are asking are going to get you the information you are trying to gather. And also to think about how the way you ask your questions will influence the thinking of your subjects.