In the Mad Men days of advertising, it was typically left to the creative director to sit in his office, gaze out his window for a spell and then emerge with “The Big Idea” that would drive the campaign’s success. But even in those Mad Men days, people who worked in advertising understood the value of consumer data. (Think: Peggy in a room with a one-way mirror and a group of housewives testing shades of lipstick.) That’s because, even in those Mad Men days, data lay at the core of advertising effectiveness.
Any university course on how to launch a marketing campaign typically requires students to gather two types of data: quantitative and qualitative. Both types of data are necessary to reveal important aspects of the ideal audience for a product or service. Professors assign this because they know that understanding who you are trying to reach will inevitably reveal how best to reach them.
“Just the facts” data: Know who they are
When many people think of quantitative data, surveys generally come to mind. And, indeed, surveys are very useful and should be included in your audience research. But there are a plethora of ways to gather such data and countless sources of it already online. What’s more, if your product or service is similar to something already on the market, you can gather your own data by spending half a day watching people purchase it. You can document the demographics of people who buy it, which products are the most popular and how they choose or decide on a purchase.
“Touchy-feely” data: Know what they think
Qualitative data, by nature, requires an investment of time, because qualitative data is all about listening. The best way to obtain it is to do so yourself. First, develop a questionnaire of open-ended questions. Then, spend a few hours where people hang out and ask some of them if they would mind you asking them some questions. Try to choose a place with people who match the demographics revealed in your quantitative data. Interview as many people as you can and record their answers, if possible.
Data-gathering and synthesizing takes time. But it is time well spent, as it will inevitably lead to advertising effectiveness. Understanding who you want to reach will almost always suggest the best approach for reaching them.