The Importance of Research: Lessons from the Oscars

Carnegie Higher Ed Feb 28, 2012 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

If you caught Sunday’s Oscars, you might remember the parody of the Wizard of Oz focus group. For years, Hollywood has been using focus groups to test TV pilots and movie endings, knowing that input from your target audience is key to the success of any project.

Interestingly, even with this understanding, Disney just may be sitting on the brink of an epic failure with its soon to be released $250M movie, John Carter. Based on the Tarzan books, the big budget flick seems a little “out there.” With a PG-13 rating, it’s not really geared towards Disney’s bread and butter, kids and families; yet on the surface, the storyline doesn’t seem all that appealing to teens and adults either.

So with some of the top creative and marketing folks in the industry, I’m left wondering how Disney can make a quarter of a billion dollar mistake?  The answer, my friends, lies in Sunday night’s Oscars—you need to do the focus groups BEFORE you spend the money to make the movie

It sounds pretty simple, but we all know how hard it can be to justify spending money on research. On campuses, where marketing budgets are tighter and tighter each year, it’s so easy to jump right into creative campaign planning and design without doing the necessary research up front. Unfortunately, what often happens on campuses (and in studio exec boardrooms) is an insulated type of group thinking where ideas start to sound increasingly better the more you talk about them, making you unable to step out from the conversation and take an unbiased look at the idea.

That’s where research can come in. Concepts, taglines, and other marketing strategies need to be vetted and tested with your target audiences before you invest time and money into designing and launching a creative campaign. Failing to do so is kind of like taking a “Mickey Mouse” approach marketing, wouldn’t you agree?

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