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Lessons From Leno and Twitter Bombers: 3 Rules for Next-Gen Marketing

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At the Advertising Research Foundation‘s (ARF) 2010 Re: Think Conference in New York City Tuesday, CEO of social-media marketing research firm Communispace Diane Hessan presented the eight rules for next-gen marketing research. Based on feedback from over 200 consumer-insight professionals, these tips can help companies in any industry find their footing in today’s business world. Here are three that can help yours:

1. Manage Your Social Media Jitters. Hessan believes the Web is filled with all types of forces (snarky blogs, judgmental Twitter bombs) that will push and pull your business in a variety of directions. How should you respond to social media? Should you always listen? Hessan prescribes a balance between reaction and overreaction. For example, when Facebook altered its privacy settings last year, tens of thousands of users and bloggers protested the changes, and Facebook, heeding their advice, reversed the settings. Yet every blog post and unscientific Internet poll isn’t always worth listening too. Hessan cites the Motrin Moms ad “disaster,” an ad campaign aimed at mothers which felt a tremendous backlash from moms on Twitter. However, research by Communispace discovered that over 90% of online moms had never heard of the problem, and that when shown the product and advertisement, about 72% either liked the product or were neutral on it. Hessan explains the case in point: “We need to listen hard to consumers, for sure, but if your target consumers are not on Twitter, for instance, then you don’t necessarily need to change strategy because of an angry tweet or two.”

However, Hessan did say that social media has empowered many online users, who, at any time, can discredit your product. She suggests a “disaster recovery plan” for your most venomous bloggers.

2. Game-Changing Insights Don’t Usually Come from Testing. Hessan understands the value of research–after all, she runs a marketing research company. But she knows that not all significant insights will come from alpha-testing and consumer reports.

For example, Hessan references the recent NBC-blowup between the network and late night hosts Leno and O’Brien. NBC based too much of their direction on marketing research–we all know that from hearing Jay and Conan harp on it throughout the debacle in their opening monologues. NBC thought Jay would work at 10; that talk shows would work at time-slots typically devoted to dramas; and they predicted huge numbers for the Jay Leno Show. As it happened, the market research didn’t translate into success. The testing went wrong. The game-changing insight came from ongoing discovery, which Hessan views as a necessary part of marketing.


3. Don’t Underestimate the Power of n=1
. Hessan believes that not all the answers are in the expensive research reports, detailed pie charts, and color Powerpoint presentations. Sure, there’s safety in numbers, but not always. Hessan is always aware of “how the big breakthroughs often happen away from the spotlight.” Indeed, true innovations often occur outside the spotlight, and show that the its not the majority always providing insight, but the one lone voice in the background. Be sure to listen up.

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To read the rest of Diane Hessan’s rules for next-gen marketing, please visit her blog at Communispace.

[Sidebar image via LitReview]

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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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