Dive Into Our Research & Immersion Process

Image of woman diving into water to illustrate the concept of diving deep into research & immersion

I was recently asked to participate in a one-on-one research interview regarding my thoughts on AI in branding. The study was being conducted by the Journalism and Communications school at my alma mater so I felt compelled to say yes.

As I logged onto Zoom, I realized that it had been a long time since I was the interviewee and not the interviewer. My host, a young woman on the cusp of graduation, was delightful. After she stopped recording, we took a few moments to chat about what it’s like to run a research study and the importance of being an approachable, third-party moderator.

Looking back, the irony of our closing discussion was missed. There we were, chatting about being human following a discussion that focused on artificial intelligence. Alas, the experience left me feeling like I should unpack R&R’s own research and immersion (R&I) phase a bit more. Why? Because, even as someone who moderates focus groups, gathers digital data and synthesizes the findings down to digestible recommendations, I found it curious to be on the other side of the curtain. And if I was feeling that way, it’s quite possible that our clients and their constituents do too.

So, here’s the deal, I’m going to pull the curtain back on the research and immersion that we do during the initial phase of a comprehensive organizational rebrand (COR). Though we do conduct research at the start of every creative undertaking, COR projects require substantially more.

For starters, our team isn’t huge, so what you see is what you get. The same people you meet on the front side are working on the back side, which means you get the benefits of collective brainpower each step of the way. Now that we’ve cleared up the players, let’s talk about the process.

Research Process: Step One

Woohoo, you’ve hired R&R for a dazzling new comprehensive organizational rebrand! Before we can get into beautiful designs or smart ideas, we need to get to know you, your team and the constituents who will be your biggest champions and your loudest voices. Right after the ink dries on the dotted line, we’re going to ask you to look at your calendar and start gathering people for our in-person immersion. These visits typically run between three to four days and include one discovery session with the branding committee, upwards of 10 focus groups and a familiarization tour of your organization/location. One-on-one interviews and surveys are often included in this but require fewer logistical details. With a date secured, we’ll deliver a proposed schedule for the visit and then you will handle the communications and finalization of schedules. Typically, it takes two months to get a visit planned and completed and four months in total to put a bow on the entire R&I phase.

Research Process: Step Two

Once we’ve made it through the formal hellos, paperwork and calendar scheduling, we roll up our sleeves and dig around your digital footprint. We’ll read your Wikipedia page, get lost in the never-ending scroll of your social feeds and sleuth through the hits on the first few pages of a Google search. In all honesty, we’ll find good stuff and bad stuff, but that’s the Internet. We’ll snap screenshots and jot down notes, but we won’t hold you to what the keyboard warriors have to say. Essentially, we want to gain an understanding of the organization or place, but maintain a neutral perception.

Research Process: Step Three

With our in-person immersion booked and our digital due diligence complete, we draft questionnaires for the discovery session, focus groups and one-on-one interviews. The questions will be tailored to your organization as well as our branding process. Once we have drafted the documents, we will share them with our point of contact for approvals and transparency. This way we are all working as a team from the start and there aren’t any surprises.

Research Process: Step Four

Check. Check. Check. We’ve made it to in-person immersion. For the discovery session with key stakeholders, we’ll ask for two hours of time to chat through all the hopes, dreams and aspirations for the project. During this time, we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to share, as this group is not to be part of the focus groups. That’s right, we ask that the key stakeholders don’t participate in focus groups in order to create a safe and pressure-free environment for the volunteer participants. For the focus groups, they require one hour of time, no more than 10 participants and up to 12 questions. These conversations begin with our moderator team of two explaining why we are here, what we are doing and the anonymity of the process. In between the meetings, we’ll be touring and chatting with your organization and determining who we’ll need to follow up with for one-on-one interviews.

Research Process: Step Five

Phew, we’ve done all the homework. Now we put our noses to the notes and start distilling information, such as overarching themes and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). All of our findings are laid out in a 100+ page deck that includes introductory organizational content, modified transcripts of the discovery session, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, competitive landscape, a SWOT analysis and recommendations. We then present the deck to the stakeholder team for review. Once it is approved, we can begin the fun stuff…aka the beautiful designs and smart ideas.