How can you use market research to build great marketing campaigns?

Annabel Venner is one of the industry’s most respected CMOs. A purveyor of smart, well thought through marketing tied back to research that gives genuinely useful insight.

In this talk, Annabel shares how to use market research to create marketing campaigns that make sense and drive results.

Notes from Hannah Silverstein. Thank you Hannah!


Annabel Venner, with her wealth of experience working for Hiscox, Coca Cola and more, shares with us some sound advice on how to use research to build AMAZING CAMPAIGNS. The advice and knowledge she shared with us, are particularly awesome because they can actually be taken and then directly implemented, which we love.


Our main goal as marketeers, is to create distinctive AND effective marketing. Conducting research is imperative in order to understand who your marketing is to appeal to, how and why – and of course what works and what doesn’t about it.


How to use market research to build great campaigns

1. REALLY get to know and understand your audience.

Annabel suggested a number of methods to find out more about your audience. While it’s as simple as going out and talking to them, there are a number of ways you can get great customer information, no matter the budget, such as:

  • Accompanied mystery shoppingUnderstand behaviours and thought processes of online and offline shopping within your product category
  • Ethnographic research – Observe people first hand, using the product or service you are trying to understand. Then go and sample it or try it for yourself
  • Roundtables – Encourage critical and thought-provoking discussions, opinion sharing, and product testing. Make sure you have a good facilitator though!
  • Pop-up online communities – If you don’t have time to nurture a community long-term, build a pop-up community, or ask questions to existing communities
  • Email existing customers – Start a conversation with them, get to understand what they face and how they feel- but be short, sweet and direct.
  • Semiotics – Decode information to understand brand associations, and perceptions.

Ultimately, you’re hoping to dig around for insights that will help lead you where you need to go. Spend time on this as this information will help dictate everything else you do from this point.

2. Be clear with your briefs!

Use the one-page brief template. Be direct and be clear. Allow them time to reflect and respond to your brief. The agency will then almost always create their own internal brief after you’ve sent it to them- ALWAYS ask them to see their internal brief before they start working, so you are completely on the same page.

A template for providing one page briefs

One page creative briefs

3. Be constructive with your feedback

It can be so demoralising if you get it wrong. Too often we focus on the details, without looking at the bigger overall picture and how it fits the brief. 

So, first look at the bigger picture with the GUIDE acronym (because us marketers do love an acronym!)- then second the DISCCO acronym for the details…

Communication idea/strategy  – GUIDE

Gut – how did it make you feel instinctively, delve into the emotion it creates

Understanding – do you understand the idea

Insight – is it based on the insight in the brief

Delivers the brief – eg on brand (check brand arrow), on brief in terms of brand message and consumer goal

Engage the audience 

Executions –  DISCCO

Distinctive – does it differentiate, “in it but not of it”, cut through

Idea – does it link/relate to the strategy

Single minded – are we focused in the communication?

Context – will it work in the environment

Clear – is it communicating clearly

On brand – delivers against the brand arrow

4. Set a clear aim, and outline the KPIs clearly.

Be clear on what the ad is aiming to do. What does it need to achieve before you run it?
Set and agree these action standards- share this with your agencies. 

Once the ad has been created test it before launch it – if you have the budget for it that is.


5. Measure evaluate and review the work. Learn from it

Using traditional quant and qual research and newer technologies like facial coding and eye tracking apps can be invaluable.

Just a reminder that research methods have changed with Covid, BUT there are some positives such as:

  • Faster results without compromising quality
  • Agility. There are ways of testing online quite quickly. In one week, you can test a few and come back 
  • More collaborative working. Everyone is getting to know each other better- we are all working from home, working together. 


Q and A

What would be top 3 research methods for a small B2B company?

People think B2B is really boring, but you can actually be really creative in a B2B. It isn’t just functional work, companies [people] want to be emotionally engaged too. Your customers really want to talk to you. Find the time to do it. For example, have breakfast meetings with clients, 8/8.30 am for a meeting and chat for feedback. They will find the time for you if you do for them.

Do you reward customers/ participants who take part in research?

It depends. Agencies charge you and offer financial rewards, but in the past we have just given brokers (round table participants) little gifts like a branded umbrella. For our own customers, we just asked them to participate. Please are pleased to be asked and volunteer their time. Just be careful because the customers who are most keen to give you feedback are most likely to be your most loyal customers. 

You mentioned mentorship. How would I go about finding a marketing mentor?

If you have a network of people you know, most people would be flattered to ask. But if you want a mentor- you have to drive it. Really think about what you want to get out of it. For example, where you are having challenges, things that you are struggling with. Some may be careers. It’s a mix of different things. But remember, mentoring and coaching is very different.Before you approach a prospective coach, really think about what it is you need help with, does that person have the skills to help you. For example insurance is a very male environment, so I mentor women in insurance. Make sure the mentor is a good fit/match. Be direct about the problem/area you want support with and ask if they can help you

Do you have any tips with new businesses, where there are no customers to ask, or you are exploring new sectors?

Identify your target customers. Use stimulus when you talk to people- examples of x y and z, then ask for their response. Like Henry Ford said- people would have said they wanted a faster horse if I had asked, they wouldn’t have been able to think about what a car even is.

When do you use marketing personas?

Personas can be a useful tool- particularly when talking to different segments to people outside of marketing world. Although they would never appear in a brief, they were clear to us internally. 

How do you go about creating pop up online community?

FaceGroup agency are the agency we used (?) to do that. Digital platforms allow for quick feedback. Fast responses are needed now in the covid world- fast responses when things are changing so much. Data is historical, things are changing a lot and changing fast.

For brands with small budgets, what should we prioritise in our budget for market research, or is it best to DIY it?

First focus on understanding your customers. A lot of that you can do inexpensively. If you are going out and creating a campaign, you need to spend a bit more money to understand if it will resonate with your customers, and if it will drive the results you want to see. Your marketing plan should have one clear focus of what you want your customers to do, what is the ONE big thing you want to solve for the next year. Use tools like Warc, and the IPA for continuous education on what matters.

How do you decide what to prioritise?

What is the problem with the customers that you are trying to solve? Is it that people don’t know who you are? Is it that they know you but don’t think youre for them? Start at identify the biggest number one problem. Then work out how to solve it, by asking the right questions. REMEMBER that brand awareness is super important to drive awareness and long term brand growth and commitment. Yes we can look at the tactics, but its Brand work drives the most effectiveness over time.

How would you go about making sure you’re finding real insights?

Insights are often a gut feel. It’s hard to know if you’ve found a really good one. Spend time working it out.

This event was live on 3 Feb 2021, 12:00