‘Marketing research key to brand equity, economic development’

Lanre Fasakin is the Chief Executive Officer of Communications and Marketing Research Group (CMRG). Having handled over 700 projects for indigenous and multinational businesses across industries, governments and non-governmental agencies, Fasakin a one-time President of the Nigeria Marketing Research Association (NIMRA), in this interview he explains the roles of marketing research in brand management and competitive economy among others. Excerpts.

Why is marketing research necessary in building brands?

Before the brand was born, research was there. Research is what tells the brand the position it will take in the marketplace. Research is there to check the extent to which you are able to meet consumer needs. That is the essence. Research helps the brand to optimise its potential in the marketplace. It gives the brand strategic focus and shows whether it aligns with the needs of consumers or not. It also tells whether your communication is resonating well or not with target market; whether the pack sizes that currently exist are adequate for current needs.   Research can help a brand improve its bottom-line. It tells the brand whether or not your competition is having that edge. Research, in summary, is the lamppost through which a brand can make progress. That’s why you have pricing research, communication research, and packaging research. Every element that makes up a brand needs research to be in tune with the current marketing needs.

It has variously been touted that the results from research stays on the shelf and are not deployed to proper use? Is this true and why?

My experience has been that the clients accept your findings if it confirms their stereotypes. Where research tends to say something different from their own thinking, they will knock it and criticize the process. But in eight out of ten cases, the client that commissioned the research already had an objective. In case of market research or social research, they use it. When you find research not being used is when you do a research for the public sector, where the government does not have the political will to execute. There is more to it, but usually, firms use market research. But they are more enthusiastic when it confirms what they always wanted to know.  There has been a long battle with brand managers in terms of what research says. But don’t forget that the brands in question are multinationals. They are forced to do it by their parent companies.

In the situation that we are in the country today, research could play a defining role and we have a couple of them, why are the results being churned out unable to help the situation? Or is the process faulty?

In terms of solutions, all over the world, I doubt if there is any country in the world that does it better than Nigeria. In our own setting, the day another minister comes, the findings are rubbished. Irrespective of change in administration, we should make government run as a continuum. I have seen the research done on fertilizer under the Akinwumi Adesina, the former Agriculture Minister. Findings there are still relevant for the next 50 years, but I am surprised that nobody is talking about them now. I am not too excited working for the public sector because the lifespan of the research is just the lifespan of the government.

How can marketing research contribute to the Nigerian economy?

It can help brands grow. If brands grow, the country’s gross domestic product grows. It can help existing brands appreciate their potential, thereby creating employment. Marketing research enables a brand to move from a zero awareness level to 10 to 20 percent awareness level and more.
When the fortunes of brands grow, you see people having more production lines. By extension, it will have a multiplier effect on employment and the GDP. At every point, we are always fine-tuning how formulations can change. It is instrumental in improving the local raw material content of a product. In the place of imported oil, it enables a firm to use palm oil to make soap, for instance. It enables you to make a product test to show that this one manufactured with a local raw material is acceptable or not. If you are able to achieve that, the product moves from being a foreign raw material-based product to a local raw material-based product.  And you know the multiplier effect on the economy.

For some time now, we have been talking about cassava bread but all to no avail. Is it a failure of research?

Market research will not force consumers to change their preferences. Market research helps the manufacturer to identify the preferences of the consumer. Let’s always have that at the back of our minds. Market research plays the mediatory role between consumers on one hand and producers on the other hand. Market research is what has happened to the old Omo to become a new Omo detergent.
You cannot make changes without taking consumers along. If cassava bread is not flying, ask yourself, to what extent is it aligned with the bread that consumers want to eat?  Rather than jump from 100 percent wheat flour to 100 percent cassava flour, let’s start with the combination. You may start with 70-30 or 80-20. If you do it, you gradually move up.

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