The 3Fs: Good For Your Brand, Good For Your Budget

Spend any length of time in market research and you become aware of the notorious Cost-Speed-Quality Triangle. Notorious because the idea is you can only have two out of the three. Good and cheap research takes time. Fast and good research ain’t cheap. Fast and cheap research means cutting corners on quality.

The triangle is a seductively simple way to explain the pressures all of us live with – particularly at a time when research buyers are also expected to do more with less thanks to the rise of zero-based budgeting and othe trends. So in recent years, there’s been a push back against the basic assumptions of the Triangle. It’s become less an iron law, more an equation with multiple solutions.

You could argue, in fact, that three of the most important trends in modern marketing are each solving one variable in that equation – pushing back on one corner of the triangle. Outsourcing and procurement works to lower the cost of research. The increasing use of existing data and sophisticated analytics packages work to raise the quality. And automation works to raise the speed.

But all those solutions have something in common. They involve making existing research faster, or cheaper, or work harder. That’s great – as far as it goes. But there’s a whole other way to solve the equation. Do different research.

One of the reasons we developed our 3Fs model of brand growth – Fame, Feeling and Fluency working to track current brand strength and predict future growth – was to address exactly these problems. By thinking about branding from first principles, and asking what are the baseline heuristics which guide decision-making, we could answer another question. How can we help people get the most from their budgets by asking a few simple, useful questions – not a lot of useless ones?

A focus on Fame, Feeling and Fluency – simple heuristics, simply asked – gives the most possible bang for your budget. There is plenty of additional research you could do around your brand, like understanding the stories it can tell or using qual to dig into the roots of Feeling and Fluency. But the 3Fs are the core, giving you a read on the most basic factors driving brand growth. Does your brand come quickly to mind? Do people feel good about it? Is it distinctive?

Even better, these fundamentals are slow to change, so you can conduct effective and efficient strategic research with far fewer dips than traditional trackers (and free up your budget for more tactical, short-term work, if you want!).

How does embracing the 3Fs model deal help solve the equation posed by the Triangle? It can be done quickly, and we are working on automated versions of all our tools to help this happen. It obviously lowers cost, because it’s shorter and less frequent than conventional trackers. And by focusing on the handful of metrics that really drive growth, it raises quality too.

In an age of tightening budget belts, doing the same things better can only get you so far. You need to change your research diet too. The 3Fs offer a great way to do that.

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