For many marketers and consumer insights departments, a claim substantiation study can be new ground and a complicated topic. Marketing researchers and marketers tend to be more familiar with typical research projects, such as tracking studies, brand image studies, and concept tests. However, the survey that is used to substantiate a statement on an ad, a package, a point of sale display, or a sales presentation, provides a unique challenge because these surveys are not conducted on a regular basis.
There are typically two ways to gather data to substantiate claims, either through scientific measurement or claims substantiation surveys. This article focuses on data which is gathered by means of a claim substantiation survey, which in general, gathers data about consumer perceptions, such as which product tastes best, or which shampoo leaves your hair feeling the silkiest. Although a claim substantiation survey covers the familiar ground of consumer surveys, they are different from traditional marketing research and present their own unique challenges.
Anyone contemplating a claim substantiation study should expect that it will likely differ substantially from traditional marketing research. These differences are summarized in the table and described below.
Differences between Marketing Research and Claim Substantiation
|Potential stakeholders||Internal clients and marketing research group||Internal clients, marketing research group, in-house counsel, trademark administrators, external counsel|
|Intended audience||Internal stakeholders||Internal stakeholder and possible external challengers to a claim|
|Data and analysis||Qualitative or quantitative data, analyzed by a variety of methods||Quantitative data, analyzed with specific statistical methods|
|Data gathering||Often long questionnaires; covering a range of question areas||Short, focused questionnaires including added steps to maintain reliability|
|Report||Presentation format||Expert report|
|Key output||Conclusions and recommendations||Possible substantiation for claims|
- The potential stakeholders are different. The stakeholders for a marketing research study often include an internal client, such as a brand manager, marketer, or strategic planner, as well as the marketing research group. The stakeholders for a claim substantiation study include these same internal clients, who need to know what positioning the product can support, as well as in-house counsel and trademark administrators. External counsel may often be involved as well.
- The intended audience is different. The intended audience for a claim substantiation study includes the internal stakeholders described above, as well as an external audience. This external audience may include potential challengers to a claim or authorities who might be in a position to evaluate whether the claim is substantiated, such as Federal Court or the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau. Often, companies undertaking a claim substantiation study aren’t sure exactly who will be the intended audience because they don’t know which specific competitor may challenge a claim, and what specific context or venue will be used for the challenge.
- The data and analysis are different. The data gathered in a traditional marketing research report may be quantitative or qualitative. It may be analyzed by a wide variety of techniques, from summarizing themes in a focus group to advanced analytics for a large-scale quantitative study. By contrast, the data for a claim substantiation study is always quantitative, never qualitative, and always analyzed with specific statistical techniques intended for substantiation tests.
- The data gathering is different. The questionnaires used in traditional marketing research studies can be long and include a variety of question types for thorough analysis, such as buying behavior, product usage, and brand ratings. Compared with traditional marketing research, a claim substantiation survey is much shorter, more focused, and requires elements of execution not present in typical marketing research studies. For example, the questionnaire in a claim substantiation study is more likely to require a third-party validation, and likely has more extensive rotation of questions and responses to avoid order bias. This reason is why the claim substantiation study needs to stand alone, and not be combined with another research effort, such as a tracking study.
- The report is different. The report for a marketing research study is often displayed in presentation format, providing results in an easily-scanned layout. The report for a claim substantiation study is written as an expert report, and provides much more detail about the research methods.
- The key output is different. Key elements of the output from many marketing research reports are the conclusions and recommendations, which describe the main findings implied by the data, and also the implications for the brand or product that is the subject of the research. The researcher’s role focuses on the task of identifying conclusions and making recommendations. In contrast, the key element of output from a claim substantiation study is the substantiation (or lack of substantiation) for the various claims that were tested. The researcher’s role focuses on applying statistics and experienced judgment to evaluate the degree of support for the claims tested, and to consider alternative claims that might fit the data.
This article lists only a few of the many differences between traditional marketing research and a claim substantiation study. There are others, but hopefully the process of claim substantiation is now less foreign and more familiar.
Dr. Bruce Isaacson
MMR Strategy Group