Every so often I find myself in a conversation with a brand manager whose objective is to develop a concept, package or positioning that differentiates them from their competitors. Yet they propose to achieve this with the same research approach that everyone else is using. This leaves me scratching my head.
I think that by following the same protocols clients will end up in the same place as their competition. This conundrum is analogous to the challenges faced by the automotive industry when all companies used the wind tunnel as the linchpin of their design approach. The result of this was years of cars all looking the same, because they followed the same inherent, aerodynamic shape. Congratulations: parity by design. It was only when this similarity became evident in practice that the industry realised they did not have differentiation. Furthermore, when the pure aerodynamic design was explored in detail it was discovered that the benefits in terms of fuel consumption only really became apparent at speeds way above the legal driving speed in most countries!
Market research and insight professionals sit in an influential position to lead change for their companies in their pursuit of differentiation. Perhaps Jeff Hunter, formerly of General Mills, captured this thought best at the MRS Conference a few years back – here’s a clip of his presentation. He eloquently challenges us to seek alternate routes at the 1:57 time mark.
So, does your company seek competitive equilibrium? If the goal is to be the SAME then, by all means, walk into the wind tunnel. In this way you will follow the same exact methods as your competitors, act on duplicate insights and in all likelihood achieve very similar results.
But if you dare to be different, then partner with an agency that is nimble and excited by the opportunities that new methodologies bring. Can you imagine the innovation that could result from that kind of energy?