Using Consumer Insights to Build Successful DR Campaigns

by Carla Roberts on Oct 16, 2014 3:00:00 AM D2C Convention

Roberts_Carla_resized-1There’s a powerful and destructive myth in DRTV: That marketing research isn’t useful for a DR campaign because you test your advertising on-air. Problem is, on-air tests don’t help us learn – they merely tell us whether we have a success or a problem – and never reveal “why” it’s one or the other.

But if you use market research and pay attention to “why,” it’s powerful. In fact, I have a collection of successful DR products that, without consumer insight research (with far deeper results than on-air testing), would never have worked.  

These are products that broke through the key challenges. With today’s media clutter, a successful campaign must rely on more than your gut. The market is glutted, competition is stiff, consumers are savvy and costs are through the roof with greater risk at every point in the process. So why trust your campaign to the whims of a pitchman or supposed creative genus without checking in with your customer? Twenty years ago, 1 in 10 shows worked today it’s 1 in 35! Back then the odds might have made it okay to “shoot from the hip,” but not anymore.  

And how do you break through this clutter? It’s with your message – a message that is designed around what your consumers need and what it takes to move them to buy your product. Remember, clutter is now a formidable obstacle: consumers are overwhelmed living in a media saturated world facing between 500 and 5,000 ad messages each day.  More than ever before, it’s hard to get, and keep your potential customer’s attention. We know that viewers spend an average of two seconds on a website, maybe five to seven minutes on an infomercial, but when you use research to find right message, one that’s worth their time and attention – you break through.

Marketers have for over half a century, out of necessity, relied on consumer insights to create and guide their campaigns. It’s tried and true, works for every product in every category in every industry. It’s simple and when done correctly, it works every time.  

So in my work, we develop your USP using a Four-Point Process:
  1. Know Your Prime Prospect - Who is your potential consumer?
  2. Know Your Prime Prospect’s Problems - Problems are critical, but you can’t presume you know them or know the language to use to describe them.
  3. Know Your Product - Once you know your Prime Prospect’s problems, you can position your product to solve them by addressing the consumer’s most important needs.
  4. Break the Boredom Barrier - A strategy designed around consumer insight helps you find the fresh and interesting ways to break through to consumers.
When to research?
For maximum impact and cost-savings research should be done at the beginning, when the slate is fresh and you have the greatest opportunity to do it right. Next is the rough-cut stage when you are able to tweak your advertising prior to on-air testing and gives you insight that’s critical to understanding results once you’re on-air.

And you can use research with a finished spot/show to learn how to improve both a marginal show, as well as enhance a successful one. New shows can even be created from older versions using this method and sometimes, this research can save a failed show or bring it back to life.

Case Study:
The Drill Doctor long-form show defied typical product research and the usual DRTV marketing techniques. Without the consumer insight research we conducted up front, this product would not have hit the market at all. A $100 product that sharpens a $2.50 drill bit made no sense in the usual scheme of DRTV or traditional product/concept testing. We would likely have gone with the typical DR strategy –”saves money on drill bits.” But research showed this was a dead-end message. Rather, the major source of frustration (the problem) was keeping momentum moving “to get more done.”

The show/product was a success on every level. It spoke to the target market, in this case DIYers and pros alike, solved their problems with simple solutions in their language. The polished, award-winning show was the longest continuously running tool show in history. It drove sales of 3 million units in direct and retail sales.  And, one third of purchasers learned about the product through the show.

Additional Recommendations:
  • First, conduct a market assessment - understand your market, you product and your competition.
  • Conduct strategic research with your potential customers at the start of the project to position the product correctly.  If you missed this step, research your show or spot to increase response.
  • Hire the right creative team - the group that embraces your research recommendations and welcomes it. When you provide the strategy derived from the research, they can take it to the next level.
  • Echo your brand multichannel - give consumers what they need at every touch point (i.e., go deeper when you can). The questions you can’t answer in the show or spot should be on your website.
  • Seed your positive reviews before you launch and manage your reviews ongoing. Consumers depend on reviews as a first step in the purchase process. These days, poor reviews or worse, no reviews, have a dramatic impact on the purchase decision.
  • Keep testing - conduct research at every stage and tweak your campaign accordingly.
With this process comes new optimism. Because, once DRTV marketers learn to keep consumer insight at the core of their projects, they’ll tap into surprising new successes.

Want to learn more? Check out the video from Carla's session, "Using Consumer Insights to Build Successful DR Campaigns" presented at the 2014 ERA D2C Convention in September.

Carla Roberts is a strategic planner and marketing research specialist using proprietary DR research techniques to help companies create new shows/spots/websites or tweak rough cut or finished shows for more success. She can be reached at, 512 736-6559. For more information, visit
Carla Roberts's blog
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