Topic at Hand

Navigating the Murky Waters of Marketing with Your Trusty Sonar – RESEARCH

Jaimi Koechel, Henry+Horne & Mike Jones, Resound

Now, submarine captains have a tremendously powerful tool to help them find their targets – sonar. Sonar uses sound waves to provide context to shapes and landscapes. With sonar, navigating is possible in the pitch black (it also provides guidance so the captain knows where to aim torpedoes).


We marketers also have a powerful tool for finding our way, and that is research. Just like sonar, research helps us define the landscapes around us and helps us out of sticky decision-making situations when everyone has an opinion.


How do we know? Plain and simple: experience. Research was a key player in our work on the Henry+Horne rebrand. Without it, we would still be dead in the water. Research guided us, protected us from our own biases, and made sure any changes were right for all the stakeholders.


First, we will take a step back to look at the big picture that is research.


Why do humans research?

Too often, we humans rely on our own perceptions, biases, and feelings. Research broadens our perspectives beyond what we can see ourselves, fueling decisions based on objective truth (or as close as we can get to it).


Research accomplishes two fundamental things for humanity:


  1. It uncovers ideas we would not have otherwise

  2. It helps us iterate on our ideas to make them better


This is why people agonize over Amazon reviews, try on 40 different pairs of shoes, and ask mom for feedback before buying stuff.


Why does research matter in marketing?

It is pretty hard to hit a target you cannot see or feel. Like when your friends hand you a stick, wind you up, and face you away from the piñata...good luck. Strategizing and executing marketing can feel just as disorienting. But, just like sonar, research helps us find our way. There are two primary reasons research should matter to marketers:


1. Your communication and campaigns should be authentic to your culture, identity, and audiences.

It is critical for your clients to have a deep and lasting relationship with your brand. People want relationships, not just transactions. A brand that is built on research will communicate clearly and with authority – and communication feels right.


For Henry+Horne, we used surveys and interviews (of both clients and employees) to develop firm values and personality traits that were consistent with the answers across the board. The whole rebrand was rooted in how Henry+Horne actually feels to people, so by the time we launched, everyone was on board. Clients said it felt right and partners loved to show it off. We did not just change things to change them. The research proved that.



It also proved helpful for employee buy-in – most left our rebrand training session with a deeper understanding of the brand and the reasoning behind the change. Funny thing, clients gave more pushback on the change in tax portfolio sizes than on the new logo and identity.


TIP: If you are conducting surveys and interviews, try to get as much data as you can. If you cannot involve every stakeholder, try to get a full cross-section of different clients and employees. Look to get as many perspectives as you can.


2. Research creates a framework for objective decision-making (rather than personal preferences).

Research makes it so much easier to sell change and new guidelines internally. It is tough to argue with cold, hard data! Research also protects against assumptions and biases. What you see and experience may not be how everyone else sees things. Use qualitative and quantitative data to secure yourself against bias – both conscious and unconscious.


With Henry+Horne, the new brand values and personality traits (founded on the research already mentioned) provided a solid foundation for the logo redesign, tagline, brand colors, the name display, and – ultimately – the new website. These decisions were not arbitrary or subjective; they were rooted in objective research. For instance, Henry+Horne’s new green gave a nod to the past, but it is much brighter and more in line with the friendly and approachable brand personality.


TIP: If you find yourself subjectivity creeping in to a project, ramp up some more research. Especially with digital marketing projects, A/B split-testing can provide a wealth of data for two competing ideas. Use a tool like Optimizely to test different designs, headlines, and even calls-to-action to see what resonates with your audience. 


You are not alone.

We get it. Research takes time and resources. But you have backup; use these tools to help.


Giant list of research tools from Hubspot

Okay, so this is not so much a single tool as an awesome round-up of great research tools. From survey tools, to census data reports, to user testing services, this list from Hubspot is a must for your research toolbox. 

Google Trends

This has got to be one of our (well, Mike’s) favorite research tools. Google has provided tons of search history and word-usage from books they have scanned. The ability to compare usage of keywords and phrases over many years provides for a wealth of new ideas. 

Google Analytics

This tool is a must for anyone using a website for marketing. It takes a bit of fine-tuning and creating some custom reports, but knowing what people are doing (or not doing) on your website provides a goldmine of ways to improve communication (and conversion). 



AAM surveys & research

Not sure how we could write an article for the AAM Minute and not mention the many survey data and reports from our industry over the years that are provided on the AAM website. If you are not using these, you should definitely start. 


Competitor Analysis Template

Last but not least, Resound is providing a template to help you do some competitor research. They use this spreadsheet tool in all their branding and website projects to get perspective on the lay of the land – where are opportunities to keep up (and get ahead)?