Snyder direct division studies buying habits

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Brann worldwide is trying to learn a little more about what consumers think about while they fill their shopping carts.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based direct marketing agency--soon to be part of Havas Advertising--recently turned to Yankelovich Partners to begin researching the customer buying process.

The research is part of Brann's move to position itself in the direct marketing arena following its formation by Snyder Communications last year, when Snyder rolled its direct agencies--including Brann and Blau Marketing--into one shop. But Brann, which does work for clients such as IBM Corp.; Merck & Co.; Pizza Hut; Sainsbury; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; and Visa International, had a difficult time positioning itself publicly while Snyder searched for suitors before settling on Havas.

Using in-depth interviews with a small group of consumers, Yankelovich is mirroring the methodology Brann used in the U.K. last year with its initial consumer research through The Future Foundation a U.K. research consultancy. Michael Mesic, marketing director at Brann, said he hopes the U.S. research will provide similar insights into the way customers purchase products and their expectations for communication with marketers.

In addition to conducting in-depth interviews and talking to consumers after they make a purchase, Yankelovich plans quantitative research using a larger sample.

The $170.7 million direct shop ultimately plans to include results from the research in its new Buying Experience Audit, a key component in encouraging clients to walk in the customer's shoes and make sure each interaction a customer has with a brand is positive, Mr. Mesic said. Brann will also create Customer Experience Leader positions in its offices for oversight.

Developing research to target how customers buy products was challenging since consumers don't tend to think or talk about the process they go through when purchasing a product, said Alan Styler, planning director at Brann in Cirencester, England.

"The objective was to understand how consumers go through the process of choosing and buying products and services from their point of view rather than from a marketing textbook point of view," he said.

The Future Foundation research identified several types of buying behaviors exhibited by consumers, including brand-led, price-led and bargain-hunting.

Mr. Styler said consumers have such high expectations of brands and that they expect consistency in marketing channels including e-mail and telephone.

"They're very unforgiving," he said. "They expect e-mail to be answered promptly and appropriately and they expect to get someone in a call center."

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