If you cast your mind back to the Budget in late March, you’ll remember there was a particularly unpopular proposal to raise the tax duty on cider by 10 per cent. In Bristol (where at least part of the Marketing Donut is based), the response to this suggestion almost amounted to civil disorder - and we celebrated mightily when the motion wasn’t passed.
Whether it was the result of people power or the simple fact that there wasn’t time to push the proposal through Parliament, we west country types considered this a major victory. Cider is a way of life in these parts and the threat to make it more costly is not something that will be forgotten quickly, as this picture taken on the day of the leaders’ debate in the city last week demonstrates.
There’s a lot more life in cider than you might think. We’re not just rural hayseeds up this way, but a surprisingly inventive bunch. Take local cider producer, Brothers Cider, who allow their customers to drive their brand through crowdsourced products.
Consumers usually vote with their hard-earned cash. Here, they’ve designed a product themselves. At last year’s Glastonbury festival, revellers mixed all the flavours sold by Brothers - Festival Pear Cider; Strawberry, Lemon and Toffee Apple — into an exotic cocktail.
Sensing an opportunity, Brothers turned to Eric — their ‘doctor of yeasts and fermentation’— and asked him to create a more refined and commercially viable version. In the same week that Tesco launched the curious chilli-flavoured cola as a summer beverage, Brothers unveiled Tutti Frutti Pear Cider.
We caught up with Matthew from Brothers to find out more about what makes them tick.
You’ve used surveys in the past to gather information on what customers think of your products. Have the results led to any tweaks in the recipes or suggested future flavour possibilities?
“Fortunately, there were no tweaks required in any of the recipes following our annual survey. Though it did show our consumer base is open to new ideas and flavours.”
Are there any other flavour suggestions from your customers that you have discounted for being just that little bit too ‘out there’?
“We welcome suggestions on our website and collate them together for our customers to judge in our annual survey. Understandably, Bubblegum flavour was not a popular suggestion at all!”
Do you think the ‘cider tax’ will rear its ugly head again at the next Budget, irrespective of which party is elected?
“It’s clear cider duty has now become an election issue and it is good that the associated issues are now being debated so openly and passionately. Whoever has the keys to 11 Downing Street after 6 May will have to address the cider duty structure.”
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about marketing activity since Brothers began?
“The advent of social media has turned the traditional marketing communications model on its head. Now the consumer owns the brand.”
Thanks, Matthew – and good luck with the Tutti Frutti!
For a business that needs to gain a general view from a large cross-section of the population, and in as short a time as possible, there is no doubt that online research offers a viable benefit. This affordable way to test one’s target market is ideal for existing firms and new business start-ups and can play a vital role in obtaining financial support for your company.
Do It Yourself or with an agency?
The DIY method will allow you to carry out quantitative online market research (surveys) for little cost. It is definitely a method to consider when it comes to researching one’s market but it is also important to know how it differs from agency solutions. Here are some differences:
Moreover, with DIY surveys, the client puts the questions directly to the respondent so it compromises the objectivity of questioning and the impartiality of interpretation:
In addition, the agency will give you its expert opinion on the order and the formulation of the questions:
See the Marketing Donut resources on Market research
Market research — the name alone brings moans and groans from customers and businesses alike. Somewhere deep down, we know that it’s worthwhile filling in those seemingly endless surveys to end up with a better, brighter, tastier product or service.
Market research plays a vital part in any business as it gives you insight into your market, your competitors, your products, your marketing and your customers. This way you can make informed decisions, such as which chocolate Easter eggs to stock. And believe me, this is hugely important.
Market research helps you to reduce risks by getting product, price and promotion right from the outset. It also helps you focus your resources where they will be most effective. Much information is available online and from industry organisations, and some of it is free. This information provides data on market size, sales trends, customer profiles and competitors. Your customer records also provide a wealth of information, such as purchasing trends.
So that’s the theory. With our experts like Kate Willis of KW Research and Steve Phillips of Spring Research Ltd offering their hands-on advice and tips, you can turn the theory into good business practice.
To make sure you know how to plan your market research so that you can find out which chocolate your customers prefer, check the Marketing Donut website — it goes live on 20 April.
Small firms need to do their research, now more than ever.
I know many businesses will be tempted to cut their marketing budget this year. But the way to survive a recession is to be smarter than your competitors, not more out of touch. And that means you must make market research a priority.
The good news is that market intelligence will help you to target your products and services better and improve customer satisfaction no end. And we all know that happy customers spend more, stay loyal and sing your praises to their friends.
I have some golden rules when it comes to doing market research. Surveys should be conducted with clear objectives and should avoid leading questions. And sample sizes need to be big enough – representative of your customer base.
And whatever you do, don’t make a big show of consulting your customers and then ignore their feedback – a remarkably common mistake. Listen to what your customers are telling you and react accordingly. Your business could come through the recession stronger as a result.