Friday, 23 June 2017

Bottom-Up Innovation

Branding Science’s approach to generating the new and improving on the old

I started Brand Garage as a fresh-out-of-Uni Research Executive, looking for a forum to voice my opinions on the wide range of approaches and methodologies in market research that I found can either be wildly progressive, or downright ancient.

This space would have to be absent of fear and ego. I wanted to avoid situations of someone more senior than me saying: “I’ve been in this business for years and trust me, that isn’t going to work.” Or “That’s how we’ve always done it, and it’s not a good idea to change.”

I’m a firm believer that ideas are not for shooting down, but for dissecting and re-assembling, until it is the idea that solves the problem. Or re-defines the problem for you, which can be equally useful.

Thankfully, the team at Branding Science gave me that forum, appreciating its potential for innovation, to the point where Brand Garage – our internal ‘think tank’ – is not only supported, but celebrated.

So, how do we ensure innovation in Brand Garage?

  • No-one above a certain senior level is permitted to attend these meetings (we range from grads to REs, SREs and RMs)
  •  We’re encouraged to argue, to challenge, to rip something apart
  • We are creatively agile - we achieve this through allowing ourselves to be iterative, constantly re-defining, readjusting and reflecting on our ideas
  • We don’t put pressure on outcomes. If we don’t end up creating an innovative solution, but come up with another question instead, then that is still a success in our minds
  • We will split the team into two smaller teams to explore different avenues of thought, rather than allow in-fighting to take over the innovation process

 (We’re also encouraged to go off site to meetings and order Pizza, which totally helps!)

As a result, Brand Garage has looked at:

  •          New ways to uncover emotional brand perceptions
  •          New ways to validly test TPPs
  •          New ways to trigger creativity internally during our analysis sessions

I’ve no doubt that this trust in the ‘people at the bottom of the pyramid, the young sparks, the people closest to customers, as the source of innovation’* is why Brand Garage has, and will continue to be successful in the future.

Email Branding Science at  to find out more about Brand Garage, or how our approach to innovation might be applied to your organisation! We look forward to hearing from you.
*quote taken from the TedTalk: How to manage for collective creativity, by Linda Hill 

Written by Sofia Fionda, Research Manager at Branding Science

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

In-the-moment vs. close-to-the-moment research

As researchers, I like to think that we’re naturally curious. Or just nosey. Either way, we’re always striving for the keys that will unlock our understanding of human behaviour.

We want to know what people do. More interesting to us though is why people do what they do. This is especially important in market research, because if we know why people do things, then we can potentially change or replace the behaviour in question. Hopefully changing behaviours that lead to our client’s products being more successful.  

Our nemesis on this quest, however, is often Post Rationalisation.

Post rationalisation - a defense mechanism in which behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation - is something we researchers consistently face when talking to respondents. 

For example, in an interview a dermatologist might give a detailed explanation of their prescription of a particular topical steroid, and how they came to this decision during the consultation, but can we be sure that their account captures the true drivers of their behaviour? Were they omitting that it was actually cost that drove them to make the decision? Or, were they just not consciously aware of what factors led them to make this treatment decision? Regardless, it can limit the validity of our insights.

Let’s look at why post-rationalisation during interviews can happen. Imagine you are in an interview room, either in a viewing facility or in a hotel, the chairs are comfy but unfamiliar, there are several papers on the large desk between a doctor and the moderator, the air heavy with the expectation that answers will be given to the questions asked.

As you probably guessed, this couldn’t be more removed from the environment in which doctors are making their decision – their clinic. Plus, it’s likely a long while after the decision was made.
To overcome these issues, we can try to get as close to the point of a decision as possible, removing some of the interview bias by assessing a behaviour whilst it is happening. This is what we refer to as in-the-moment research.

For several projects looking into drivers of prescription, we’ve used WhatsApp – the free messaging app – asking doctors to describe a particular patient they last saw moments after the consultation finished, using both the audio recording and text messaging functions. Having the app installed on a smartphone makes it very easy for doctors to do.

The methodology has produced some great, relevant insights for our clients about how doctors make the decision to prescribe one product over another, leading to many changes in brand communication strategies.

However, we noticed that some of our doctors tended to treat the task like the recordings they made for their case notes. As a result, their responses were more rational than we would have liked. And though we were able to follow up with them via the text messaging function, they often got busy (as doctor’s do) and didn’t reply until the evening or even the next day. This meant that not all of our research was conducted in-the-moment, but rather, close-to-the-moment.

Is this a bad thing? We don’t think so.

This methodology still has its merits, especially if done in tandem with more traditional interviews, like face to face or over the telephone.

Our experience has taught us that we need to think more about the types of tasks we are asking our respondents to complete, and also how we are going to use the outputs. What’s more, rather than assuming we are going to get all our great insights from this methodology alone, we like to think about it more as a source of cues that can be taken to a face to face interview, a task that will allow the respondent to travel back in time to the moment they made their decision, offering a much more valid discussion around what drives their behaviour. Ultimately giving clients more robust recommendations as to how to optimise their marketing strategies.

For more information about our close-to-the-moment research and how it can help your brand, email us at: 

Written by Sofia Fionda, Research Manager at Branding Science

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Excuse me Doctor, I read this on the internet…?

I recently became aware of an article being shared across social media from a popular tabloid newspaper, informing readers that a bladder drug that is widely prescribed here in the UK increases a patient’s risk of developing dementia by more than fifty percent. In light of these risks, doctors recommend that it should no longer be used at all - information that was due to be presented at the European Association of Urology conference but was not yet publicly available.

Having studied Medical Sciences at undergraduate level and now working at Branding Science, naturally I was interested in where this information had come from. There was no reference made to the scientific evidence or research behind the claims made in the article, leaving readers (and especially those currently being prescribed this medication) unable to determine the accuracy or relevance of the statements made and consequently make a fully informed decision regarding any choices they may subsequently take regarding their treatment. Indeed on reading some of the comments it was clear that some readers were not in any way interested in the scientific rigour of the article and were taking the information presented at face value.  Some bladder patients were even saying that they were going to immediately stop taking their medication before even consulting with any relevant healthcare professional.

It is hardly surprising that the effect of what is seen on the internet can be dramatic, especially as patients can often feel overwhelmed by their health conditions and desperate to find a cure and feel better. 

So where do people go to try to find out what is best to do for their health?

Patients no longer rely solely on their doctors and nurses as their ‘primary and authoritative’ source of advice on their health.  Nowadays they will be influenced by many different factors. With the internet at the tip of our fingers, patients will commonly look online for more information about their condition, medications or symptoms.

As an industry, pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to the patients taking their drugs and the doctors who prescribe them. We can use various aids to inform doctors (and patients) about the benefits and risks of a particular medicine (often supported by the intelligent use of market research), but there is little or no rigorous control over content is released by the media, or what information (positive and negative) may be shared by patient support groups and on online support forums, or, indeed what is gleaned by talking to trusted friends and family. 

But surely having a greater access to information is a good thing?

It can be, especially if it increases awareness of specific health issues or leads to a patient feeling better able to manage their health. Yet what happens if the ‘information’ is unhelpful, inaccurate, and delivered in a way that isn’t easily understandable or indeed relevant?

Look up “best treatment for cancer” online, and there are over 200 million websites for you to choose from. Alongside the up-to-date, evidence-based sites, there are also a large number of deeply unscientific sites promoting among other things “natural cures”, ‘specialised diets’, strange exercise programmes’ and even DIY cancer cure kits!

How do people navigate the web and filter through the vast array of sites to find those that are free from bias, authoritative and grounded in evidence? Are people looking at these information sources and able to decipher the medical terminology and jargon along with any detailed scientific information published online (as well as the information that isn’t factually correct) in order to be able to make an educated choice?

So what can we do?

The internet will never replace the profound human dimension of the doctor-patient relationship. Understanding how an illness affects a patient, and the importance of finding the right treatment for them, helps empower patients to better manage and feel in control of their health. Healthcare professionals need to identify reliable healthcare websites, give information to patients that is accurate, and build relationships that encourage open dialogue so that patients feel able to come to them with their concerns.

Here at Branding Science, we believe in patient centricity and care about getting it right for patients. Through our intelligent market research techniques and understanding of patient insights we help our clients to build a brand that truly addresses the needs of patients and fosters a relationship of open communication with healthcare professionals.

Email us at to find out more about how Branding Science can help you build a brand that understands and meets the needs of patients

Written by Linzie Reason, Marketing and Communications Executive at Branding Science