An analyst’s role within marketing can be varied, but one thing that remains constant is the need to conduct thorough research at the beginning of a relationship with each client. We are required to know our clients and their world both inside and out, and this requires a significant time investment. I have a few tips that help me--and will hopefully help you--gain a better understanding of the client during the discovery phase of a project.
Look Beyond Traditional Marketing Metrics
Generally, we all have our own standard set of sources and metrics that we use in a discovery phase--online search, media spend, digital metrics, ROI. While they can provide a nice picture of where a brand or campaign is currently at, these metrics don’t provide a complete picture of where a brand has come from or where it might go.
What I’ve found to be extremely useful is to look through anthropological and sociological journals in order to benchmark a brand against the culture in which it resides. Why? Because what is increasingly becoming important for brands is not how often they’re seen, but how they’re engaging in a culture and a conversation.
Particularly for B2B, industry journals, and publications, articles on partnerships or joint ventures and even a quick social media audit tell us a lot about the chatter going on around a brand as well as the type of conversation the brand is engaging in. Through this benchmarking, we can more effectively map the opportunities for a brand within, or potentially outside of, its cultural sphere.
A brand is created by humans with the purpose of connecting with humans. So it makes sense to evaluate a brand according to research that also studies humans and human culture.
What’s fun about the discovery phase of any branding-related work is that while the aim is to gather insights and context, how this is done is completely open. This is not, and should not, be limited to surface information you find on Google or on your company database.
It’s a good practice to question any clues or answers you find--to dig deeper and understand the complete picture. Calling up a service center is a great way to ask about how one product fits with another, for example, to get a sense for the brand architecture. Additionally, pushing questions further in interviews to get a deeper understanding about relationships and to clarify feelings toward clients or partners is vital to understanding the reality of the union between two businesses.
This is a time where you can bring something fresh and interesting to the table as well as something that might not be completely related to the brand or brief at hand. Insights can come from anywhere! If some part of your research makes you question, wonder, or feel inspired, it will most likely do the same for others. Take the time to flesh out these pockets of inquiry as they can open some really fascinating doors.
Research and insights sometimes have the connotation of being narrow and focused on a single output or duty, but this is far from the case. The discovery phase of any project can allow us to think just as big, if not bigger, than a creative department. Just as we play with models or tweak approaches, we should also play with ideas and lines of thought. See how they work with other ideas, by themselves, dissected, mashed up, and pushed even further.
Through this we can discover some fascinating insights. At the end of the day, you are experimenting, and only through experimentation can you discover a new opportunity or approach. Obviously not every idea or solution is viable, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that ideas are morphed and developed into something thought-provoking so we can create content that is inspired by varying but inter-related concepts.
What Comes Next?
Having this larger contextual understanding is vital information to have, but what can we do with it? An analyst’s role is to not only source information but to bridge the gap between research and content development. We have to be able to communicate the opportunity to the content creators. An analyst, in many ways, has to predict what the future holds and what role the brand might play in that future.
Because great brands don’t just fit in with the current environment, great brands shape the current environment and push the boundaries of the future. This is why an analyst’s role is so important as we uncover the truths that propel a brand forward.