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There's no substitute for research.

When you're doing branding, campaign development, or marketing strategy, there's no substitute for good information. Now, there are several ways to get that information. And sometimes, you get surprises you didn't expect. But those happy accidents are usually the results of hard work.

A few years ago, we did some comprehensive research with alumni of a community college in Tennessee. The response was enthusiastic and generous. And the respondents gave us great insights into both language and expectations...and led us to the campaign, "We're here to get you there."

Another time, we were working for a non-profit which was trying to spread the word about a particularly awful side of domestic violence-battery during pregnancy. We poured over reams of secondary research and came up with one powerful fact-women in America are more likely to be battered during pregnancy than at any other time. And that became the theme of our campaign.

Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with about fifty well-qualified prospects in a series of focus groups for a specific healthcare service line. We wanted to know whether their attitudes matched our positioning. We learned some surprising things about customer expectations. And (this is often the case with focus groups), the folks volunteered broader information that will have an impact on the rest of the service mix.

Based on the research, the client has begun making adjustments in both their physical space and their service approach.

We and our clients can often come up with the right answer, just based on experience. But that same experience and emersion into the client culture can give us blind spots. That's why it's so important to go outside of the circle and gather the facts. There's no substitute for research.

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