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Marketing research

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The basis of all marketing activities is the “marketing concept.” This management philosophy suggests that companies should first determine the wants and needs of their target customers and only then create products and services that satisfy those needs.

The extent to which an organization satisfies customer needs better than its competitors determines the degree of success in meeting organizational objectives.

The marketing concept therefore identifies the ultimate goal of an organization as that of creating customer satisfaction.

To determine customer needs and to implement marketing strategies aimed at satisfying those needs, information is vital.

Managers need information about customers, competitors, and other forces in the marketplace.

The role of marketing research is to assess the information needs and provide managers with relevant and up-to-date information to help them make decisions.

Using appropriate information will reduce or remove uncertainty and so improve outcomes.

However, there are instances when a decision must be made quickly, and the lengthy process of extensive market analysis cannot be carried out.

The problem
Consumers in the US weren’t ladling out enough Progresso soup. During the 1997-98 “soup season” (September to March), sales of Progresso slipped 6 percent from the year before. How could Pillsbury get more people to try the brand and boost revenue?

The marketing research
After reviewing existing research, Pillsbury went out to talk to consumers, primarily women aged 25 to 54, including those who bought Progresso products and those who did not.

In focus groups, researchers learned which attributes or feelings people associated with Progresso.

Some participants mentioned Progresso’s distinctive flavors and premium ingredients; others talked about its Italian-sounding name.

The qualitative research also found that most consumers who bought Progresso had discovered it as an adult.

The Progresso label, with its appetizing picture of steaming soup, caught their eye and they just bought a can to try, they said. After one spoonful, they were converted.

However, not enough shoppers were crossing over from condensed soups. Progresso requires no additional water or milk and condensed soups account for two thirds of the market, according to AC Nielsen data.

Many focus group respondents who didn’t eat Progresso recalled fond childhood memories of slurping down alphabet soup on wintry days.

For the most part, their pantries were stocked with the same condensed offerings that they enjoyed when growing up.

Progresso didn’t make children’s favorites, such as alphabet soup. Advertising was needed to remind consumers that Progresso was a soup for adults, a step up from the condensed varieties of their childhood.

Solving the problem
Nelson-Henry developed 30 advertising ideas for Progresso, and focus groups helped narrow the list to three campaigns.

Further qualitative research uncovered what worked with consumers. First, people loved humour.

One spot, called “The Lunchbox,” featured a young male office worker eating a bowl of a competitor’s condensed chicken noodle soup.

Next to him is a child’s lunchbox. An older female colleague teases him about what he’s eating and for clinging to things from his childhood.

“You’re an adult now,” she says, and suggests that he try her bowl of Progresso chicken noodle, with its all-white-meat chicken and chunky veggies.

There’s even a side-by-side comparison of Progresso and its condensed-soup competitor. The tagline “Discover the Better Taste of Progresso” reflected insights from consumers about how they felt like they had “discovered” the brand.

With Ipsos-ASI, Pillsbury tested the copy for two campaigns with consumers in 1998. “Discover the Better Taste of Progresso” relayed the intended message and persuading participants to try the brand.

A national television campaign was launched in October, the prime soup season, aimed at women aged 25 to 54.

To complement the TV spots, Pillsbury sponsored a “Great Discovery” contest and invited consumers to submit recipes for homemade soup.

The main prize-winner would inspire a future Progresso offering. The brand’s blue label also sparked an idea for a “Blue Is Better Sweepstakes,” in which all of the prizes had a connection to the colour blue (the main prize was a blue Volkswagen Beetle).

The payoff
During the 1998-99 soup season when the advertising was on air, Progresso sales rose 12 percent.

Statistical analysis (regression models) indicated that 60 percent of that gain was due to the campaign.

Tracking by Winona Research also showed that awareness for Progresso hit 48 percent, an increase of 17 percentage points following the campaign.

The Progresso experience leads us to a definition of “marketing research” by the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research:

Marketing research is a key element within the total field of marketing information. It links the consumer, customer and public to the marketer through information that is used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; to generate, refine and evaluate marketing actions; and to improve understanding of marketing as a process and of the ways in which specific marketing activities can be made more effective.

The phrase “total field of marketing information” recognizes that marketing decisions are not only supported by marketing research.

Further information sources are now competing with the “traditional” view of marketing research.

Among these are data suppliers, such as call-centers, direct-marketing agencies, database-marketing firms, customer loyalty programrs and internet database providers.

Furthermore, the ESOMAR definition points out two important phases in the marketing-research process (Malhotra and Birks, 2003):

1. “Define marketing opportunities and problems” (problem-identification research): Undertaken to help identify problems that are not immediately apparent, but are likely to arise.

For instance, problems with marketing strategy, such as the product being rejected too quickly by customers, or problems with the product design. Appropriate research will help diagnose the problem.

2. “Generate and refine marketing actions” (problem-solving research): Once a problem or opportunity has been identified, “problem-solving research” is undertaken to help develop a solution. The findings are used to support decisions that tackle specific marketing problems.

Problem-identification research and problem-solving research go hand in hand.

Which factors would fuel the growth of international marketing research?

Keywords: marketing, marketer, marketplace, marketing research, products, services, wants, needs, customers, competitors.


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