Is Research Necessary? For China, and Elsewhere?


In the age of big data, some may question the need for research as part of building a brand in China.  Well, it is is not as simple as downloading a spreadsheet or looking at some platform back-end data – research is more important than ever.

What is Brand Research?

Research can be simply defined as information that serves a purpose. In the context of a brand, that is information that serves the purpose of building brand value.

A key tenet of brand value is the idea of presenting a differentiated offer to consumers, a perception that make them to decide on you vs. another brand – the essence of the positioning, a founding but often forgotten tenet of modern marketing.   Perhaps nowhere more than China is this essential, due to the increasing level of competition from international and local brands.

Big Data while offering insight on consumer behaviour from a meta-perspective is unfortunately ownable by many, rather than your brand alone.  A useful starting point, but not enough to ensure differentiation.

How does Research create differentiation?

Big Data comes from a general, rather than a brand-specific or challenge-specific perspective – it is simply “what happened”.   Research, when designed correctly, is the “pursuit of information to inform a specific marketing outcome”.

That could be – an in-depth consumer profile include pschological dimensions, a segmentation that included attitudes rather than just behaviours, an intuitive mapping of consumer behaviour to the key characteristics of your brand, a localisation of your brand to align with cultural expectations in a particular market (such as China).  All things data could inform, but not ultimately answer from a human perspective.

What is being suggested, is that Big Data can not provide “insight” – as the key definition of insight from a branding perspective is that it is differentiated or ownable by a brand.  From that end, it means data takes you only so far, at a critical point, insight must be derived from the brand’s perspective, rather than a general one.

This is why, the start of many of our projects at SMART@Resonance are from clients “I have these numbers or backend data, but how do I turn it into something WE can use to engage/communicate/inspire”.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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