Before you commission new research, here’s ten things to do with the stuff you’ve already got.



In these tough times, you probably think that you’re sweating all of your company’s assets harder than ever. All of them? Well, maybe not.

At Sense Worldwide, we work with many of the Fortune 100, and it seems to us that global corporations just keep commissioning new consumer research, while ignoring the vast piles of the stuff sitting around their organisation.

Of course, the research companies are only too happy to oblige. It’s hardly in their interest to tell the CMO of your EMEA division that they answered the same question for your LatAm region two months ago.

So before you drop $1.5m on a global Attitudes and Usage study, here’s ten ways to dust down those reports, fire up forgotten hard drives and turn dead data into an insight that could transform your company.

In the present conditions, it could just get you to a big Blue Ocean at an economy fare.

    1. Share nicely. Build a secure place online where you can put all the topline findings from each piece of research. It doesn’t have to be a custom-built intranet: for much work, a Wiki on a secure server or even a password-protected folder on an internal system.
    2. Make sharing part of the deal. All your research companies should be asked to format a summary of their findings for your site. What was surprising? Did they unearth any new consumer behaviours? What’s changed?
    3. Make a War Room. Print out a bunch of your research documents – from as many products and countries as possible. Get as many post-it notes as you can carry. Get your team to write every finding on a Post It, then stick them on a wall. If you can’t make a war-room, do what we do – buy some big pieces of polyboard and build a ‘shanty town’. (see pic below)
    4. Ask ‘why’ five times. Interrogate major findings. Ladder them up from stated attributes “this aftershave smells flowery” to consequences, “I don’t smell like I’m trying too hard to be a man” to values, “The cool girls like guys to be a bit androgynous.”…etc. If you can’t find the answers, then you have a hole in your research.
    5. Go analog. Here’s a trick we learned from our friends at IDEO. Write each interesting nugget of information, whether a data point, a quote, an insight, or a random thought, on a Post-It. Then stick it up. Don’t stop until your war-room wall is covered with them.
    6. Stand back. Now you’ve broken your research into its atomic parts, stand back and read them. Look for the big, over-arching themes. “When people talk about health, they’re really talking about mental wellbeing.” “People say they want this, but actually get that.” Write those themes down.
    7. Cluster. Now start arranging the Post-Its around the themes. What’s emerging?
    8. When, where, why, what? If you’ve clustered your Post-Its around geographies (Where?), try clustering them around usage occasions (When?), or around customer need states (why?)
    9. What’s missing? Do you know what really rich consumers are doing? Or consumers who are too poor to buy your products? If your clients are big corporates, what are SMEs doing? Your research will tell you where your product is, and who uses it. Use your intelligence to work out where it isn’t, and who never uses it.
    10. Store the unanswerable questions. As you work through your research, you’ll come up with questions you can’t answer. Keep notes of these. Some of them will be the stuff that’s worth spending your next insight budget on.

One of our bigger Research Amnesties captured on boards in the Sense Loft

At Sense Worldwide, we call this process a Research Amnesty. It’s a name that helps people own up to the research they’ve never read, the intranets that nobody logs into and the giant decks that got printed out and filed somewhere. By going through the ten steps above, you can reduce everything you have to half a dozen useful pages. And if your mountain of research is anything like our clients’, you’ll have enough opportunities, insights and revelations to keep your marketing, sales and R&D people fuelled with insights for at least eighteen months. If you don’t fancy doing it yourself let us do it for you. Fill in our questionnaire to help figure out what you need.


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