Marketing Research Defined

An earlier post defining word “marketing” might give the impression that marketing is some sort of external element that has nothing to do with game development. This wasn’t my intention and here I’m going to describe how companies can conduct a marketing research – and how it can help companies.

Explaining marketing research in one post is not possible without taking some shortcuts, but I try to give as much information about this as it’s possible with few hundred words. First I’d like to shed some light into definitions.

Marketing research versus market research
Some people might think market research that it means “asking people what they like or feel about some product or ad”. Consumer surveys are part of marketing research, but research involves much more than that. The basic idea of marketing research is to help managers to make better decisions.

Marketing research is sort of a communication link between company and customers, market and environment: marketing research generates and gives company information to help companies make better marketing strategies and plans.

This marketing intelligence might include issues other than simply product feedback. Research might deal with finding out legal constraints on advertising and promotion, brand imago, social values, policy studies and studies of business trends. Some research is used for planning, some for problem solving and some for control.

Market research (compared to marketing research) is the part of marketing research that is about researching the market place (customer needs, competition, opportunities, changes in the marketplace).

The goal of marketing research
The main goal of marketing research is to find out marketing information that helps companies to solve problems, help in decision making and reduce risks.

Why use marketing research?
Marketing research is much cheaper than game development, making a research before making a real product can tell whether product has chances to be successful. A very simplified example could be: instead of developing a new MMORPG game, marketing research could find out if there’s market for a new MMORPG game.

Stages of marketing research
I’m using Churchill’s book Marketing Research: Methodological Foundations to describe one way to create a marketing research. The framework for research is not always carried away in this manner, but it provides some insight on how to create the research. There are 6 stages in this research framework. I must say that these phases are described very briefly, and it would require more text to really give insight on these stages – I recommend reading the book for those who want more information on this.

  • Phase 1 – Formulate Problem: The first step is to find out what we really want to find out. This might sound bit stupid, but until we have a clear goal in mind about what we want to accomplish we cannot continue with the research.
  • Phase 2 – Determine research design: The next step is to determine what type of research design is going to be used: exploratory, descriptive or causal. Exploratory research is may involve reviewing published data, interviewing knowledgeable people, investigating trade literature and so on. When problem is more specific, we can use descriptive or causal research. In these research designs there could be data collection forms or test marketing.
  • Phase 3 – Design data collection method and forms: Sometimes we need to get specific information, and for this we need to find out data collection methods. For example: should there be open ended questions or fixed set of alternative answers? Should the purpose of research be clear to respondents? Are our questions really helping us to solve the problem? There’s more questions that needs to be answered, but these illustrate the problems in this stage.
  • Phase 4 – Design sample and collect data: Choosing the sample – the people who will respond to your survey – is important. There’s one example where marketing firm conducted a research where they checked demand for dog food, package size, design, advertising program and everything… but forgot the main concept: sample. They forgot to test the food with dogs – who wouldn’t touch it. The sample must be relevant and when collecting the data there must be some points taken into account like who is collecting the data and is the data collectors up to the job.
  • Phase 5 – Analyze and interpret the data: With great amound of data at hand does no good until it’s analyzed and interpreted in light of the problem. Data analyzing and interpreting might include analyzing by agre group, income level, and other characteristics.
  • Phase 6 – Prepare the research report: Not always necessary with great detail, but it must be taken into account to whom the report is written. There should be no jargon, or use of difficult words in the report – and it should be written for the readers, not just for those who did the marketing research and know fancy words.

Information sources to use in marketing research
There are lots of information available in the Internet, and here are some example sources:

And many other places – the Internet is filled with information.

Example usage of marketing researches
There’s plenty of situations where companies can use marketing research. Here are some examples.

  • Find out new opportunities in the game market (for example, would there be opportunities for online games, board games, different type of match-3 games and so on in the market)
  • Find out what your customers think about your game (or game prototype) – this could be done in gaming forums for example.
  • Find out what major changes has happened in the industry and how your company should respond to them (like “raise of casual gaming”, “wii console”, “XNA development kit”, “Launch of Windows Vista” etc.)
  • Find out what your current customers like about your game product and what would they want to see more.

And the list goes on to include everything that can help companies make better marketing decisions.

In summary it can be said that marketing research is very important part in game production – even people who haven’t heard words “marketing research” are probably using its methods in various manner (like asking feedback about their game demos). Marketing research’s major aim is to provide insight on strategic and tactical issues and help in decision making regarding various issues. The 6 stage research process provides a brief framework on how to conduct a marketing research.

Juuso Hietalahti