Message/creative testing research: We have for many years done message/creative testing research using qualitative (focus group) techniques—to gain insight on what certain messages/creative executions convey to the target audience:
One prerequisite for meaningful discussion about brands is a sense of clarity about the definition of the central term. The word “brand” is commonly used in at least three ways:
“A brand is a distinguishing name and/or symbol (such as a logo, trademark, or package design) intended to identify the goods or services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods and services from those of the competitors. A brand thus signals to the customer the source of the product, and protects both the customer and the producer from competitors who would attempt to provide products that appear to be identical.”
Aaker, then, uses the term in the first of the senses we have given, and we tend to follow him in this regard. The chief merit of this definition is that it focuses on the brand as a marker of identity. Broader uses of the term attempt to have the brand include elements of the relationship between producer and consumer. While this relationship is of course vital, we believe such a relation, in order to be successful, depends on the prior establishment of a clear, stable, and appealing identity. A brand, then, is a name and/or symbol that establishes identity and invites relationship.
Our experience conducting brand-related research encompasses research exploring all aspects of brand, including:Brand image: How a brand is perceived and what images it conjured up in the minds of consumers is important because it helps the customer process information about the company in question, helps to differentiate the brand from the competition, creates a specific reason to use the brand-name company, creates positive attitudes toward the brand name, and serves as a basis for extensions into other product lines. Several aspects of brand image might usefully be measured:
Brand Personality: We use a variety of projective (metaphor-based) approaches in studying brand personality: brand personification, brand/product sorting, collage, group perceptual mapping, thought bubbles, image/photo sorting (NOTE: we have 200 laminated photos we often use for this kind of exercise), to plumb brand images and associations. We seek to understand for our clients both the rational and emotional connections with their brand. And within any given projective technique, we use laddering-style probes to get as far beneath the surface of consumer response as possible.
Brand Positioning: Brand positioning is partly an extension of, and partly independent of, brand personality. We use the same techniques as those discussed just above to understand how our client’s brand is positioned in the consumer’s mind—both rationally and emotionally—against competing brands. There are two stages of qualitative brand positioning work: the first explores competing brand differences in the minds and hearts of consumers; the second tests alternative positioning concepts that have been developed (typically by an agency) from the first stage.
We have had the opportunity to be heavily involved in branding and positioning research for a variety of companies and organizations—ranging from large technology companies, to sports leagues, to television, cable, and satellite networks, to dot.com companies. We have been involved in both “image” and “brand equity” research, and in how the result of research can be translated into strategies that maximize the leverage inherent in a brand name.
Because brand is a prime means through which consumers relate to a company, a product, or a service, it is vitally important that a brand carry with it the types of associations for the public that will increase the likelihood of reaching and keeping the target audience.Our goal in these studies, which have included both quantitative and qualitative research, has been to explore consumers’ current associations with corporate “brands,” determine how closely those associations fit the company’s preferred brand image, and identify the types of positioning approaches that will bring brand perceptions more in line with the company’s mission and goals. Much of our brand-related work includes the testing of positioning statements. In fact, over the years, we’ve developed what we consider especially effective techniques—both qualitative and quantitative—for assessing the effectiveness of positioning statements. Our techniques are designed to not simply identify the most appealing positioning statements, but to explore reactions to statements across a variety of dimensions—believability, relevance, persuasiveness, associations engendered by the statement, etc. In some research studies we’ve conducted, we’ve found that the positioning statement considered most “appealing” among respondents is not necessarily the one that sends the most effective message—or that engenders the most positive feelings about the company. We’ve had the chance to examine proposed positioning strategies and statements from a number of different perspectives. On one level, this work always includes an examination of consumers’ visceral reactions to positioning statements and strategies—the types of affective, emotional responses these statements engender among the target audience. Moreover, our positioning work also includes an exploration of the key dimensions that consumers use in assessing positioning statements. Essentially, we deconstruct consumers’ general reactions, examining the degree to which they find each statement relevant, believable, and compelling, and identifying individual concepts or themes within the position that are striking in either a positive or negative way.
Customer Satisfaction Work in the Communications Industry
Customer satisfaction measurement is some of the most important and sensitive work suppliers do for their clients. We have been heavily involved in the development of new measurement plans, large-scale revisions to existing plans, and administration of ongoing plans. Specifically, for a Fortune 50 company in the communications industry, we’ve managed a half-dozen customer satisfaction measurement
plans, each focusing on a different segment of its customer base.
One study for this client involved 400-500 annual, in-depth interviews with the company’s largest business customers. This client came to us looking for a process that would allow it to track the satisfaction of these key customers, which were its most important customers—but also the most vulnerable to competition. Our client needed to ensure their needs were being met—and where possible, exceeded—to prevent losing them to its rivals.
We developed a set of systems that allowed for immediate delivery of the most important information—information like negative rating results, urgent customer service situations, and changes in the designated decision-maker—all critically important information for our client’s organization. We transcribe each interview and summarize the findings on an account-level basis, including insight into each customer’s experiences and outlook for the future. We developed a method of coding action items to gain a clearer understanding of the best areas for our client’s focus, as well as strategies to display this information to leadership, to further facilitate the translation of interview results into action.
This research was used by the very top of our client’s organization, where it influenced personnel decisions and compensation packages for account managers. Over the course of the project, we experienced a 90%+ response rate from interviewees, who realized great value from the process. In the end, this work not only helped our client address business issues, but every interview served as
a customer service event.
The Taylor Group has been involved in brand tracking for many years: for the NBC Television Network and the National Basketball Association, and recently for DIRECTV and for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA—the lobbying arm of the music recording industry in the U.S.).
The value of brand tracking research in the entertainment industry lies fundamentally in the following facts:
Providing educators and tech providers the tools to drive educational excellence
From educators to students to providers of educational resources and technologies, Taylor works closely to help its clients in education and those developing new, innovative, educationally oriented technologies to understand the rapidly changing nature of education.
Both sides of the aisle readily acknowledge that to remain at the forefront in today’s highly competitive global marketplace, we need to ensure access to the best possible educational resources and technologies. We feel the same and have worked closely over the years with state departments of education, administrators, and teachers, not to mention K-12 and higher-ed students and even lifelong learners and alumni, to help all make sense of rapidly evolving educational technologies and solutions and identify those that offer the greatest potential for success.
Our education research spans small-scale, targeted UX research among students and teachers, as well as large-scale quantitative segmentation studies to help educators and those that support them apply educational resources and technologies in the most effective and targeted way possible.
What is Hybrid Research? Hybrid research simply means mixing methodologies. This most commonly means adding a qualitative element directly to a quantitative survey. The survey is the primary instrument, but building in a qualitative element gives your quantitative research flavor and nuance—the “voice of the consumer.”
Why Should You Consider Conducting Hybrid Research? While quantitative research still plays a critical role in driving business decision-making—and having access to volumes of consumer data feels scientific, rigorous, and modern—too often it gives a flat, static view of what are actually dynamic, diverse, and evolving human beings. Quantitative research is powerful because it’s driven by numbers, but increasingly companies are coming to realize that a singular reliance on quantitative data can be risky and even lead to false assumptions, if not rounded out with a qualitative perspective. Hybrid research can be a powerful tool for overcoming these limitations, while adding significantly to the insight gathered from research.
The Traditional Approach to Hybrid Research: Traditionally, our hybrid research has involved simply blending in-person, online, or video focus groups; in-person video or phone IDIs; or online bulletin boards with online survey research as part of a multi-phased research effort. The qualitative takes place either before the quantitative or after it. If before, beyond simply giving the customer a voice, it can play a crucial role at helping to inform the design of the quantitative research, suggesting how best to approach lines of questioning and even specific questions.
When conducted subsequent to quantitative research, it can help researchers and their clients dig more deeply into issues raised in the quantitative phase or explore possible solutions to customer needs that emerge out of the survey research. In either case, a major benefit of traditional hybrid research is it gives the data from the survey a rich voice and personality that quantitative research alone cannot easily provide. We at Taylor have done a ton of traditional hybrid research and continue to do this sort of work today.
However, such traditional forms of hybrid research are not always easy to work into the research process. Two immediate drawbacks to this older, more traditional approach to hybrid research are cost and timing. The price tags that come from doing separate qual and quant research can become quite large rather quickly. And doing this work in sequence inevitably stretches out the project timeline.
A Newer, Better Approach: A newer, faster, and often less costly approach to hybrid research we at Taylor have been taking for a few years now involves building online one-on-one conversations or webcam interviews directly into our quant surveys, to explore key ideas in greater depth, probe on survey answers, or just hear the consumer’s own words. Using the online survey as a vehicle for scheduling an “offline” one-on-one, in-depth telephone, or in-person interview at the end of an online survey is another possibility.
Naturally, we do not expect or want all respondents to participate in both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of our hybrid research. Rather, we work with our clients to select carefully the online-survey respondents who will be invited to add a qualitative perspective to their survey input. Selection can be done at random or can be triggered by the respondent’s characteristics (demographics, attitudes, etc.) or survey responses. We sit with our clients during the study planning and carefully plot out a strategy for the selection of hybrid respondents that will ensure the client gains the most value and insight possible from the subsection of the larger survey base that also provides qualitative insight.
Then we design our quantitative research with the qualitative adjunct specifically in mind. The survey programming has built into it a trigger that pauses the quantitative data collection effort and asks the respondent about his
or her willingness to participate in a sidebar conversation of a more qualitative and in-depth nature. With his/her agreement, the respondent is directed seamlessly to a separate data-collection platform, where he or she will interact with a fully qualified moderator who will probe his or her feelings about a particular topic or issue in detail, in a chat session, video IDI, phone conversation, or online bulletin board. When this session is concluded, the respondent is seamlessly brought back to the original survey platform and either resumes his or her survey right where he/she left off or concludes the research effort and is compensated for the total time spent on this hybrid data-gathering foray. In some cases, multiple breakpoints from the quantitative data collection can be built into a survey whereby the same respondent is directed to the qualitative tool multiple times throughout the course of the survey to provide shorter, more direct qualitative input on multiple issues. Alternatively, different respondents can be invited at different points to provide their qualitative input, so no one respondent ends up breaking from the survey more than just once.
Ultimately, this sort of modern hybrid research is more expensive than just pure quantitative research, as you need to compensate those who participate in both the quant and qual components more than those who complete just the survey. Plus, marrying the qualitative facility with the quantitative survey platform introduces additional costs for technical resources and staff time. It also takes a bit longer to plan and execute this sort of hybrid research. In the end, however, modern hybrid research is typically both less costly and less time-consuming than traditional hybrid research. Clients who employ this new approach to conducting hybrid research not only gather greater insight than is possible with just pure quantitative research, but also stand to save meaningful time and money over conducting more traditional forms of hybrid research.
Acquiring customers is both hard to do and expensive, so it pays to know how to drive loyalty and retain the customers you have.
We have a solid background in research on the factors that most powerfully drive customer loyalty and defection. This includes the product, service, and packaging strategies that are most likely to promote customer retention.
Our experience examining possible strategies for customer retention and loyalty is far-reaching. We have conducted studies ranging from qualitative research to explore a satellite-TV provider’s customers’ reactions to four planned executions for a customer loyalty advertising campaign to a major quantitative study for a national communications company to segment their customer base by the relative importance of key value drivers for customer retention and loyalty. And, we manage an ongoing customer satisfaction studies for a major financial services company to measure levels of satisfaction with service, the most important drivers of satisfaction, and the circumstances that lead to customer loyalty or defection.
We have a strong background in identifying those factors that most powerfully drive customer loyalty and retention. A primary focus of our work is the attempt to:
Custom-Designed Research: All research projects The Taylor Group manages are 100% client-proprietary and custom-designed—from start to finish. Most studies begin with an RFP from the client, to which we respond with a thoughtful, well-considered proposal detailing our understanding of the business objectives, our recommended approach to addressing these, timing, and fees. From there, there is often back-and-forth with the client, during which we work together to refine the design and determine the ultimate scope, timing, and fee. Building up from this foundation, we maintain this consultative approach through the design of the research instrument to the setup of the analytical plan and the reporting of the study results. Clients can consult with us throughout (if they like) on what is the best approach to addressing their research objectives. No project is considered complete until the client has reviewed the findings thoroughly and had the chance to tailor the insights provided to their particular interests and focus and those of their end clients.
Project Fees: We conduct studies both small and large for our client companies, from just a few IDIs to large-scale tracking studies that span years and have annual budgets of $100,000 and up. Research studies we have done in the past for clients have ranged from $20,000 or less for smaller-scale, one-off studies, to $250,000-$500,000 for the most intensive, ongoing efforts. Whether the work involves just quantitative, just qualitative, or both can have a significant bearing on fees, as does the nature of the population within which the client would like us to sample. All of that said, we are always willing to work with our clients to develop the most effective approach possible to addressing their most pressing research and important research needs while remaining mindful of the fact that research budgets are seldom unlimited.
Project Timing: Project timing can vary from as little as under two weeks for smaller-scale, short-fuse studies to 4-5 weeks for more involved one-off studies. It is challenging to say what a “typical” study would involve, in terms of timing, as we seldom undertake “typical” studies. One-time studies involving a combination of qualitative and quantitative research phases (often conducted in sequence, with the findings from the initial phase informing the approach to the second) can require upwards of two months to complete. Ongoing tracking studies can take 3-4 weeks to ramp up and last for months or even years, once fully implemented.
Consultative, insightful, and actionable: Our reports are implications-based to provide our clients with a clear and actionable roadmap for applying the findings in the real world. We never simply dump data on our clients. We always try to take it one step further to provide insight enabling the clear application of results—to guide, advise, and consult. And, because we have broad experience across multiple industries, we can offer rather unique perspectives in our reporting by applying insights gathered in one industry toward informing the results of studies we conduct for clients in other industries. Our clients often tell us this cross-pollination of ideas across industries broadens and enriches our reporting and offers value-added that provides them with a real advantage over their competitors.
“Typical” project workflows/timing: The workflows for our qualitative and quantitative research we have provided below reflect “typical” engagements with our clients. That said, many studies are atypical, and we are always prepared to tailor our approach and the project timing to suit our client’s needs and interests. For example, simple, highly focused, fast-fuse projects can be completed in as few as just two weeks. On the other end of the spectrum, some larger and more entailed projects can become much more involved than what is typical and can carry on for anywhere from eight to twelve weeks. The bottom line is, we are prepared and willing to work at whatever pace and level of detail our clients require. It is important to note that it is not uncommon for projects to consist of a hybrid approach, including both qualitative and quantitative phases. In some cases, we recommend a qualitative phase up-front to inform the quantitative phase to be sure all topics are being covered. In other cases, we recommend the qualitative phase follow the quantitative phase to further explore and do a deeper dive into what we learned in the quantitative phase. When all is said and done, we approach our work on a project by project basis—everything we do is customized and tailored to meet our clients’ needs and expectations. Qualitative flow (in-person or online video focus groups or IDIs)—total project timeframe of from 6 to 7 weeks, varying by project type/approach and scope
Quantitative flow (online survey to include advanced analytical approach, if necessary—i.e., MaxDiff, conjoint, etc.)
All of our work is distinguished by our dedication to design creativity, methodological rigor, client service, and most importantly, the application of results to effective business action. We strive to be the research firm our clients use for their most important projects.