What can brand researchers learn from startups?

Startups are trending. But it’s not only because they’re seen as cool. Rather, it’s their ability to go from an idea or concept to a fully-working product so quickly.

When you adopt lean principles, you can start to see the flow from concept to draft to execution and, most importantly, the process of testing and improving a product or service. Brand researchers are catching on.

In today’s diverse consumer market where consumers are more powerful and well-informed than ever before, the ability to trial their campaign, product or service in a manner that’s open to change holds huge potential.

This might feel a little scary, as if you’re going into a campaign blindfolded. But with a bit of trust in the natural direction of your campaign, and a deep appreciation for the market that you wish to target, you can potentially take advantage of an incredibly powerful brand research tool.

Old ways of doing

In a traditional environment, it can take companies years to introduce a new product line. A great deal of time, research, funding, expertise, logistics, dedication and patience is needed to see a product through from concept to reality. Often, by the time the product has been refined and is ready for trials and testing, the intended target market has shifted entirely and the product might not even meet their needs anymore.

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While we’ve established this as the industry standard, and there have been some significant and revolutionary products developed this way, there is surely a better, more efficient way of earning customer insights. Is there a way to grow and transform your product even as the rapidly shifting consumer market shifts and grows?

Brand researchers can take a leaf out of startups’ books and invest in products and services that are built for in-market testing. Using the consumer feedback gained from this approach, brand researchers can create products and services that reflect true value at all levels of engagement.

Finding your MVP

The secret lies in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which is a product or service that poses the least amount of financial risk but offers the highest possible return on investment. Startups using the lean model often focus on finding the MVP, as it enables them to go to market sooner than would ordinarily be the case and often lowers the total product development cost.

The MVP is taken to market and rigorously stress-tested by the same consumers who would purchase the product once it’s released in its final form. The biggest upside to this is that it will be easier for the target market to understand the product and its value proposition, and there’ll be an existing engagement between the brand and its consumers.

In addition, brands will be able to quickly learn the ins-and-outs of consumer preference, helping them to differentiate the brand from its competitors. This is a terrific tool for creative testing as consumer groups can become aware of the product’s attributes and benefits right from the initial stages of development — allowing for product optimisation from the start.

Feedback, please

Consumer feedback is essential in the beginning stages of product testing. It stimulates the holistic and organic growth of the actual product, refining its value to a more sharpened one until the finished product can tick all of the boxes of its intended value service offering.

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Lean startups know the value of feedback. While it might be tricky to open the floor to suggestion, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who has always relied on his instincts and drive to achieve great business results, the value of actual consumer feedback cannot be overstated. The first small group of people that a product is marketed to during trials, no matter how small or big will mark the beginning of conversations centred on the product or service.

So what can brand researchers do with this feedback? Again, follow the lead from startups: alter, tweak, mend, change and ultimately grow the product or service, and aim to ensure the best experience for your consumers. The ability to change and adapt the physical and functional attributes of a product or service means that brand research is able to drastically improving the brand’s quality perception and growing its market share.

Evolving to changing consumer needs in real time is the best approach to ensure the successful introduction of any new product or brand. It’s time our brand research practices evolved with the times.

Remon Geyser


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