It’s become increasingly evident that for a brand to have heart, it needs to display bravery, guts, or as we say in seSotho: ‘Sebete’. This means not being scared to ask the right questions. Information is king after all. In this modern era, where there is so much, and often confusing, information at your fingertips, there really is no excuse for a brand not to have the answers relating to its ecosystem.

However, you get out what you put in. The trick lies in knowing and understanding what you are looking for and then adding appreciation and sensitivity. Here are some considerations and questions to ask yourself as you start the research process.

The why behind the why

We know the importance of interrogating your brands environment, but ask yourself why are you going through with it? Why do you need the research? Is it a tick-box exercise or is it a genuine exploration? Is it to gain a rapport with the target audience in question? Keep asking ‘why’ until the answer is so clear that another ‘why’ is just not possible. The ‘why behind the why’ will crystalise the reasoning and help your argument when it’s time to write your fearless strategy.

The WHOs and WHEREs of it all

I’m always surprised to see how many brands don’t really know who they are speaking to. They may know their market on a basic level, but not on a visceral level. On a particular youth campaign we had to drill down the definition of youth. Were we talking Youth League or a general youth? Finding the answers meant we could slot it into clear sub-segments, which allowed us to ‘geolocate’, identify and target their intent-focused platforms. You need to go to this level of detail if you want to be a brand that has an understanding and affinity to its target market.

What for?

What are you looking for? Do you have something to say? Is the aim to innovate? One way of approaching this dilemma would be to ask “What job is the customer hiring this product or service expected to do?”. This ‘Jobs Theory’, introduced by Clayton Christensen in his book Competing Against Luck, is an effective way to frame the question of what customers are really looking for. A clear understanding of this is a straight path to finding the heart of the problem or solution.

How did you do it?

Once you have articulated what you are looking for, you need to ensure that the method of research speaks to the quest. Whether its formal or informal, in-depth or desktop, you need to be clear about how this information gathering crusade is going to be implemented. Your methodology will dictate your outcome. Observe, interact and document.

Timing is everything

Knowing what information is and communicating it at appropriate times to those performing the investigation, is obvious. But, we needed to think about the different stages of the process, not only the end goal. During another campaign it was important for us to know WHEN customers were thinking of, or interacting with, our brand. We wanted to understand those micro-moments when decisions were made and preferences shaped.

If you consider these moments it will be evident in your strategy.

Without complicating it, all a brand is really attempting to do is increase its stock of knowledge, with the aim of differentiating itself or disrupting the market. If it can build authenticity along the way, then you’re not only giving it the answers, you’re giving it heart.