Brand and Marketing Research: Choosing the Right Research Methods

One of the biggest parts of planning a research project is deciding what type of research to conduct given your goals and available resources (time, human, and financial). To help those of you gearing up for your own research, I’ve written up some short pros and cons lists for some of the most common brand and market research methods. These lists are by no means exhaustive but should give you an idea of which methods to explore for your project.

Focus Groups


  • Provides opportunities to explore new lines of questioning in-the-moment
  • Can gather more detailed information from participants (depth vs. breadth)
  • Provides an opportunity to observe behaviors and reactions of individuals and the group
  • Can ask more complex questions  and follow up with participants


  • More time-consuming for participants
  • Increased difficulty of gathering respondents
  • More costly (in terms of time and money) than other types of research
  • Typically garners fewer participants than mass research methods (e.g., surveys), unless implemented on a very large scale (which is both time consuming and expensive)

One-on-One Interviews


  • In addition to the benefits provided by focus groups, individual interviews are ideal for gathering information from people who:
    • May dominate a group conversation
    • Are key project stakeholders
    • May be uncomfortable discussing things relevant to your project in a group setting
    • Are members of high-touch external audiences (e.g., major donors)
  • Can provide an intimate, confidential forum, especially if they can be conducted anonymously
  • Can provide a unique opportunity for testing (e.g., by having participants complete tasks on websites)


  • Very time-consuming and therefore more costly
  • Can create or imply a power differential between those who were interviewed and those who were not
  • Difficult to capture information from large quantities of people



  • Can reach more people for less cost
  • Increased participation/response rates
  • Efficient in terms of both time and cost
  • Can ask more questions (breadth vs. depth)
  • Can provide quantitative, statistically relevant data


  • Difficult to follow-up with participants with new lines of inquiry based on their responses
  • Can limit the types of questions you ask, information you gather, and how you are able to test creative

Secondary Research


  • Extremely cost effective
  • Can help guide the development of your primary research tools (e.g., a survey)
  • Can provide more data than you may be able to capture on your own


  • May not be able to gather information that is specific to your audience
  • Information is most often not unique to your organization

Have a question or something to add? Leave a comment or drop me a line: | 775.686.7413

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