Many advise to "go with your gut." But when you are preparing to spend millions of dollars on a communications campaign, you want to base your decisions on more than a gut instinct.
Strategic communications isn't strategic unless it is based on solid research. Test those gut instincts and see how they play with the audience you are trying to reach. You may be right. But if you aren't, you have avoided wasting a lot of money, effort and even goodwill.
Research involves a lot more than "testing the winds." That notion trivializes the careful research steps on which successful marketing campaigns are based. What message is most persuasive? Is that message believable? Where will your target audience listen to your message? Who is the best spokesperson for your message?
These aren't the kinds of questions your gut is trained to answer.
Qualitative research can help to refine messages once you have determined the best ones to use. Testing images and phrases can reveal whether what you mean to say comes across to those you want to reach. Often, research suggests different phrasing or use of other images that resonate better with your target audience. The difference can be an ad that works versus one that flops.
Men and women who dream up creative ads often chafe at research that shows their work products miss the mark with the intended audience. Sometimes the people who pay for the ads fall in love with an idea that doesn't connect. They are thinking with their guts, not their heads.
Research is not antithetical to creativity. It just ensures what is creative to the creator is meaningful to the person on the other end of the ad.
When it comes to assessing return on investment, spending little bit on research can earn dividends by making sure that a bright idea is actually an effective idea. The difference can be measured at the cash register.