Research can be a dynamic tool to discover what earns a customer’s attention. Would they rather purchase based on label A or label B? Or, what do they think about your brand’s new product?

Whether you go for a virtual focus group or in-person shelf scan where you observe where customers’ eyes go first, research is costly. It takes time to conduct and time to get back the results. To avoid wasting resources, you have to make the most out of every focus group, survey, and shelf scan.

But how?

Follow these tried and true approaches to get the most truth-telling, accurate results you’re looking for.

Define your wine brand’s objectives from the beginning — and spring for a researcher

Rule number one: Kick off your brand’s design research with a clear set of objectives. Opaque understandings of your objective will only yield irrelevant data or insights that lack the depth you’re looking for.

It’s okay if you want to do research based on a gut check or because you truly don’t know the answer.

When you’re looking for a gut check, you may want to know:

Are you sure you want to go with a new label?

Are you positive your new verbiage isn’t offensive in any way?

Your customers didn’t like the rebrand several years ago. Will they like this one?

Other times you might be looking for something specific, say in nomenclature:

Is there weight with a winemaker’s name or signature on the bottle?

Does it matter to say the vineyard the vintage is coming from?

Should you downplay the fact that this is California appellated, rather than a sub-ava? (Five years ago, absolutely. Today, not as much for many brands.)

No matter what you’re trying to find out, your best bet at getting the most out of your research is to hire a professional researcher. They will be able to hone in on your objective if you’re having trouble pinpointing it and recommend the right-fit research method(s). They’re professionals for a reason, right? Use them!

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It doesn’t matter if you’re casually polling your friends at a dinner party or conducting a formal shelf scan. Leave the leading questions out of it!

Budget ample time and money for your wine brand’s research

Like a lot of processes in the wine industry, research always takes longer than you think it will. You have to conduct it, compile the results and then make sense of it all and chart a path forward.

Not only do you have to be patient, but you also have to be willing to pay. It doesn’t matter the method. Qualitative or quantitative, worthy findings are always going to cost you.

Just like you would plan out your packaging project, plan out your research project.

• Include all the relevant stakeholders from the beginning.

• Make sure everyone is in alignment with the objective.

• Know what it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take.

Going into a research project blind to the timetables and costs have thrown off many branding design projects. Be prepared and proactive.

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Trust your intuition along with clean research results

You have a wealth of marketing experience in the wine industry under your belt. You wouldn’t be in your position if you didn’t. So whether you realize it or not, you have solid intuition. And it’s too valuable to be dismissed.

Say you go into a focus group already knowing the best option between the three designs offered. It feels great when the research validates your original thinking, doesn’t it?

But if the research results don’t validate your thinking. What then?

No, the customer isn’t always right. And sometimes the data can steer you wrong if you don’t use it in conjunction with your expertise.

It happens like this: You cobble all the “winning” data points into one design project. All the best bits and pieces of your packaging that your audience liked the most (even if you knew better). The result is a Frankenstein of an end product. One color here, a flourish there — and what is that font doing? In other words, the cohesiveness of your brand went AWOL.

Does that end product truly reflect your brand?

In the midst of reviewing your research insights, if your gut is telling you something different, don’t be afraid to listen to it.

A combination of clean data results, your researcher’s insights, and your expert’s intuition can make for a solid team. Keep those things top of mind whenever you receive your latest results and you can’t go wrong.

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Whether you realize it or not, you have solid intuition. And it’s too valuable to be dismissed.

Realistic mockups of your wine brand’s tested product are worth it

Clean research is all about putting your best foot forward and seeing if what you’re presenting resonates. So, if one of your research projects includes asking a focus group to compare the looks of your potential new design versus what’s already out there, be prepared to bring your best.

For example, say you’re testing a new tier level to add to your portfolio. Get a sample of your bottle with a mockup of your label that is as close to real as possible. Use the exact material, colors, and font that you’re betting will win people over. Then, compare yours with a good mix of the familiar and unfamiliar brands.

If you don’t present a true-to-life mockup, it won’t hold its own against what exists and people will be able to tell it’s not high-quality. More importantly, your research will produce inaccurate results.

Virtual research options are increasingly growing in value and popularity, and for good reason. For one, quality digital assets (essential in virtual research) are easier to procure, especially from companies like Outshinery. And, based on the feedback you receive, you’re able to change your design much faster and gather more research to see if you’re on the right track.

Quality research results come down to presenting your best quality samples and presenting them with pride.

The importance of asking the right questions during your research

This piece of advice is pretty short and sweet: Make sure you’re asking unbiased questions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re casually polling your friends at a dinner party or conducting a formal shelf scan. Leave the leading questions out of it! Opinionated queries won’t give you accurate answers and can skew your data, leaving your research all for naught.

It’s tempting to hear what you want to hear (especially from people you know and trust). But asking neutral questions without a hint of opinion will allow your audience to freely tell you what they really think.

This is another score for hiring a professional researcher. They’re well versed in the right and wrong questions to ask to get the most out of each research session.