Experiential Research.


I once had a brand planning assignment for an agency that worked on Banquet Foods. Banquet is the frozen food division of Conagra, a mega producer with brands such as Duncan Hines, Birds Eye and Hunt’s under its purview. Banquet happens to be the value brand of the portfolio.

All the agencies working for Banquet, e.g., consumer advertising, PR, retail, B2B, direct marketing and digital, were to meet in Chicago for a big confab and unveiling of the new ad campaign. Everyone invited to the meeting was required to visit a grocery store in advance and plan a full week’s worth of food shopping for $50. My assignment was to shop as a lone bachelor. (I started with a case of beer and worked backward.) One big box of breakfast cereal covered breakfast for the week. Pasta, canned veggies, a frozen pizza, etc. Other shoppers weren’t so lucky, having to plan for a family of 5.

This experiment forced us to look at shopping from a different perspective. Most agency people are fairly well off. This was a visceral, important awakening for all participants. It was experiential research, a vital tool in the brand planner toolkit.

Here’s some advice for any-and-all business owners: always do experiential research. Not just paper or phone research. Get out into the land of the buyers and sellers. Buy and sell. Watch and listen. If a picture is worth a thousand words, experience is worth a million.