Our recent Roundtable was a discussion with clients on how to identify a strategic need that research can solve, how to get the most out of your research, and how to integrate insights throughout an organization successfully. In this excerpt, read perspectives from Kikke Riedel, Vice President of Strategy & Insights at the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), whose mission is to educate consumers about fluid milk. She is responsible for the insights behind the national milk marketing campaign, and works with a wide range of dairy stakeholders to deliver the kind of leadership that has delivered “got milk” and many other successful campaigns.
Q: How do you use research for strategic needs?
A: We don’t actually sell a product. We sell the message that that milk is good for you and you should consume milk. And so should your children. We can’t measure our success in sales or in distribution increases, or any of that stuff. We rely on primary research such as equity tracking to measure our success and whether we are getting traction in the marketplace with the messages that we’re putting out there.
Also, the dairy industry is light on consumer research. In many cases, MilkPEP is the go-to source for category information. Other national dairy organizations call and ask for strategic insights and guidance, which helps inform what we measure and the messages we create. Our research also provides insights to fuel our strategy and communications. For example, we don’t have the budget to reach all 96% of the households that consume milk. Segmentation work helps us prioritize our targets and pick which of these 96% of households, or even which people within the households, we should be talking to.
We rely on primary research such as equity tracking to measure our success and whether we are getting traction in the marketplace with the messages that we’re putting out there.”
Q: How do you decide on the priority research issues?
A: There are times when we’ve put a ton of effort and time into understanding customers, and the insights have fallen on deaf ears. Our stakeholders don’t want to do anything with the work. When we hear this kind pushback, we try to find the shared goals and agree on what we’re trying to accomplish with customer insights. We take these shared goals back and try to incorporate those into future research projects. Some of the issues can be addressed right away, and others will be priorities down the road in six months or so. We need to invest our time and resources on issues that matter to the stakeholders who are excited about working with our research so we can really impact the customers more quickly.
Q: How do you motivate the internal team to champion the research?
A: I bring them in early in the conversation, especially if I am anticipating that there could be disagreement among the brands out there and who is funding the program. The dairy business is a tough one to be in. There’s a lot to balance between the internal teams, the marketing agency, and the dairy stakeholders themselves. You can imagine that a farmer in the Midwest or someone running a processing plant has a very different idea of what makes a successful advertising campaign then a planner in New York City or Los Angeles. I need to thread that needle and come up with something that serves everybody. You can’t always create research that appeals to everybody. But because of that very broad range of stakeholders, we always have an abundance of issues to research, which is a good thing.
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