Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What the Election Polls Told Us About Market Research

How could so many pollsters get the outcome of the presidential election so wrong?

More importantly, why did so many of the red-faced pollsters not have any clue at what went wrong?

The election did have high amperage shock value for many. This included Hillary Clinton who inherited one of the most sophisticated data systems from the Barack Obama 2012 campaign.

I’ve heard some researchers suggest that the decline in land lines for telephone surveying was a large contributor or that many Trump supporters were reluctant to communicate their true support in pre-election polling. Both may have had minimum impact, but the most significant impact on this year’s polling was this:

Everyone wants the right research, but everyone wants cheap research.

And as we all know, with any marketing investment – you get what you pay for.

The truth of the matter is something that many national pollsters hate to admit – they became “fat cats” with their only focus on delivering results that only supported their highest level of profitability at the lowest cost. It’s a perfect example of how poorly managed research is not only a bad investment, but can critically affect the welfare of your client.

What Went Wrong
From a national perspective, most pollsters would suggest that the 3-4 percent point Clinton win prediction was realized if you look at the popular vote totals. This points to poorly managed research – collecting data and not collecting accurate insight.

1. RELYING ONLY ON DATA MODELING – In the ideal world, we can construct modeling from our marketing data to make both strategic and tactical decisions. Some of the most successful brands are managed from a fully-developed and sophisticated model. Others are less successful with modeling since they don’t understand that the market is constantly dynamic and numerous data sources are needed to measure and evaluate market movement. Modeling can quickly become outdated if not supported by solid and varied market research. Also keep in mind that previous behavior doesn’t always equal predictive behavior.

2. LACK OF RESEARCH SYNTHESIS – Today’s successful marketers understand the importance of synthesizing research methodologies to validate all research findings. When marketers seek the lowest cost research investment, they turn to the cheaper alternatives. Pollsters, as well as some marketers rely heavily on singular methodologies such as online surveying or panels. Smart research plans include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies which automatically validate findings. If pollsters would have paid as much attention to the size and enthusiasm of Trump rallies, they may have questioned their quantitative findings.

3. QUALITY OF SAMPLE – Pollsters, as well as market researchers, are focused on statistical significance of their surveying. The norm is to achieve a +/- 4 percentage point maximum variance.
This goal is achieved through quantity, not quality. Unfortunately, many pollsters utilize online or panel surveying, which has duplicate participants for each research wave. In addition, because of the ease of access and availability, these methods are concentrated on high urban areas with little representation of rural citizens. In addition, representative pollster samples are developed to mirror the general population with state-by-state breakouts – not weighted for Electoral College segmented populations.

4. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS DELIVER THE RIGHT ANSWERS – As with any market research, asking the correct questions lead to obtaining the correct answers. One typical question used by pollsters, “If the election were held tomorrow, whom would you vote for?” only provides hypothetical input. It doesn’t determine who will win votes on the actual election day or even determine if the participant is committed to voting on election day.

What Can Be Learned from Failed Polling
The 2016 Campaign Poll failure only endorses what smart marketers and researchers already know in terms of quality market research:
• Relying only on behavioral data models for strategic and tactical marketing decisions has high risk. Nearly all markets are dynamic and models need to be supplemented and updated by continuous market research.
• A properly executive market research plan will include a battery of research methods – both quantitative and qualitative. Through this approach, all research analytics can be validated on a constant basis.
• Online surveying and paneling should be used with caution. Though these types of surveys can provide statistical significance, they may not provide the correct representation of your market that only traditional research methods can obtain.
• Ask the right questions and you will obtain the right answers. In today’s fast-paced marketing world, marketers trend towards quick answers versus correct answers. Survey content is as critical as the methodology or profile of the sample.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Avant Marketing Provides Theme Song for Bayfield, Colorado Branding

On July 21st the Town of Bayfield, Colorado introduced its new brand identity to the community at its summer block party. The Avant Marketing Group conducted the brand development and developed the identity. As an added part of the brand identity, Avant Marketing also wrote and produced, Back in Bayfield -- a musical tribute to the People of Bayfield. The song is now posted on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bayfield Plans Formal Introduction of New Brand

It will be a celebration this Thursday night in Bayfield, Colorado.

The Town of Bayfield will unveil its new brand, "BAYFIELD Where Stars Shine Bright" at the Bayfield Block Party on July 21 on Mill Street.

The block party will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

In January, the town hired Avant Marketing Group to assist in developing an updated brand, logo and tagline for the town. The effort was partially funded through an Energy and Mineral Impact Assistant grant from the State Department of Local Affairs.

Avant interviewed residents and business owners, conducted a town hall focus group and asked Bayfield High School students to survey each other in an effort to discover the community's culture, heritage and aspirations. The information assisted in the development of the brand depicting the positive attributes of the town to current residents, potential new residents and businesses.

"The people who participated in the market research indicated that often Bayfield goes unnoticed," said Mark Vogel, a partner at Avant.

At a June 4 town board workshop, Vogel told trustees, "The community's progress and achievements are many times lost, with little awareness from both outside audiences, and many times, by the town's own residents."

Vogel suggested that "Bayfield has a lot to be proud of, from the school system, state football championship, best library, to growing businesses and neighborhoods. The community has become tired of typical references for Bayfield including 'Bayberry' or simply a bedroom community for Durango."

Town Manager Chris La May stated that "the new brand combines the desire to recognize community achievement, while promoting our natural scenic environment. Where else in the world would you rather sit and watch the stars than in Bayfield, Colorado?"

The brand platform provides a description of the community including the town's brand mission, vision, values and brand positioning, which was ultimately used to develop "BAYFIELD: Where Stars Shine Bright."

Brand mission"We are a community focused on continued prosperity and economic growth while maintaining our small-town values and natural scenic environment."

Brand vision"A thriving community that ensures the quality of life for all residents while maintaining our values and small-town character."

Brand values We respect our heritage - our community work ethic is rooted in the hard-earned achievement of past generations.We respect independence, foster education and value our natural scenic environment.We welcome diversity in our schools, residents and businesses that enhances the cultural fabric of our community.We are a community family devoted to the quality of life for every resident. We are helpful, caring and morally grounded.Brand position"Bayfield is a welcoming community that values diverse growth in our schools, residents and businesses which enhances our cultural fabric. We respect independence, foster education and value our natural scenic environment. We are a community family devoted to the quality of life for every resident - an authentic small-town experience in the Heart of Pine River Valley."

(Courtesy of The Pine River Times)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stars Shine Bright in Bayfield, Colorado

Bayfield town trustees did a change-up Tuesday evening from their preferred town branding image and tag-line.

They liked a new version of the crescent moon and shooting star image that they had preferred at their May 17 meeting (as reported in the June 3 Times), and they switched back to the tag-line of "Where stars shine bright" instead of "Real people, real living."

Mark Vogel from Avant Marketing presented the new option with two pine trees silhouetted in the foreground, hills and starry sky in the background. It doesn't show the valley in the middle, as the May 17 version did.

"I come from a small town," Vogel said. "We assume a lot, the values we have, the things we can experience. I've also thought twilight is the most peaceful time. The time where Bayfield becomes the center of the universe, where stars shine bright. It's all the successes and accomplishments of the community. One of the things we heard in the interviews is most people have a lot of pride in the community, but they don't feel they're getting the respect."

As for the darkness of the image, he said, "There's a richness to this that elevates the brand of Bayfield."

Audience member Jackie Morlan, who has been involved with the branding effort, said, "The tag-line of 'Where stars shine bright' says so much about our town." There are state championship athletes, people who do big things, she said. Plus, "We can see the stars much better here than in Durango."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Branding Work Begins in Florence, South Carolina

The local news media is assisting the Avant Marketing Group in gaining participation of local residents in the market research for the Florence, South Carolina Brand Development Project:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Florence South Carolina Selects Avant Marketiing for Brand Development

(March 30, 2016, Florence, SC) – Based on a competitive search, Florence, South Carolina has selected St. Louis-based Avant Marketing Group for the development of a branding and marketing campaign for its community.

According to Tim Norwood, Board Chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, “This is an opportunity to tell the story of our community. We have selected Avant Marketing’s process that will provide both residents and businesses the ability to participate and provide needed input for the development of our community’s marketable identity.”

Avant Marketing Group specializes in enterprise branding that includes corporations, associations, government agencies and municipalities.

As part of the process, Avant Marketing will conduct town hall focus groups and interviews with residents where they will provide input in regard to the identity of their community. From this research, the firm will develop the Florence Brand Platform and key messaging to target audiences identified in the marketing plan.

For more information about the Avant Marketing Group, visit the firm’s website at

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bayfield Branding Begins

Bayfield branding effort begins
By Carole McWilliams

Times Senior Staff Writer Article Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016 2:52pm
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Marketing consultants were in Bayfield this week to meet with community members and start the process of creating a brand for the town.

They arrived Monday and met with Bayfield High School students on Tuesday. They hosted a community forum last night.

No, it's not a cattle brand.

"Our focus is enterprise branding," consultant Paul VanDenElzen from Avant Marketing told town trustees on Tuesday. "Municipal branding is the part we enjoy the most, because we get to go into the community and get to know the people." He said invitations were sent to all town residents for last night's forum. The 90-minute session was to include vision exercises and finding shared values for the participants.

The interviews and visioning are the research phase of the process. Then the consultants will develop a statement of vision and values. From that, they will create visual branding including three logo options to choose from, also letterhead designs, way-finding signs, and website development. There will be a five year marketing and implementation plan.

The goal is to create a unified brand for Bayfield, VanDenElzen said. "We feel a brand can't be just a logo and a slogan." It has to resonate with residents and businesses.

Avant senior partner Mark Vogel said the branding should cause everyone to feel "that Bayfield is a place for people like me. We don't focus on the place. We focus on the people of the place, the shared values and the vision that people have for the future."

They do that with one-on-one interviews as well as community forums, he said. "We believe the internal stakeholders (residents and businesses) are as important as the external audience."

Vogel listed four levels of someone's relationship with a brand:

.awareness (I've heard of Bayfield)

.association (I've been there and know a bit about the town)

.brand affinity (you identify personally with the brand)

.brand fanaticism, which he said is rarely achieved. He gave sports teams as an example.

"The Denver Broncos don't have to pay you to promote their brand," he said. "With an enterprise, you want residents and businesses to be brand fanatics based on shared values and vision." He gave another example of asking a man who mops the floor at a hospital what he does. The man says, "I mop floors." But at another hospital, the man who mops floors says he helps the doctors keep people healthy.

"It starts with your vision, mission, shared values," Vogel said. "(Personal) values are important but difficult to articulate. Through the interview process and the focus group, we'll take people through exercises to define those values. The outcome is to energize and unify your community, turn residents into brand fanatics."

VanDenElzen said the high school students will do some market research, then create recommendations that they will present to the town board.

Vogel commented, "If the input we received today (from the students) continues through the week, we'll have ample material to work with."

Town trustees hired Avant Marketing in January, choosing them out of 12 proposals. Trustees approved a maximum cost of $22,500, with 75 percent of that covered by a state grant administered through the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments. Similar grants are going to Ignacio, Pagosa, and Silverton. All are follow-ups to downtown revitalization assessmets conducted by Downtown Colorado Inc.

Bayfield's assessment was in March 2015.

- See more at:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Town of Bayfield Selects Avant Marketing Group for Branding Assignment

(February 10, 2016, Bayfield, Colorado) – Based on a nationwide search, The Town of Bayfield, Colorado has selected St. Louis-based Avant Marketing Group for the development of a branding and marketing campaign for its community.

According to Town Manager, Chris La May, “This is an opportunity to tell the story of our town and community. We have selected Avant Marketing’s process that will provide both residents and businesses the ability to participate and provide needed input for the development of our town’s marketable identity.”

Avant Marketing Group specializes in enterprise branding that includes corporations, associations, government agencies and municipalities.

As part of the process, Avant Marketing will conduct town hall focus groups and interviews with residents where they will provide input in regard to the identity of their community. From this research, the firm will develop the Bayfield Brand Platform and key messaging to target audiences identified in the marketing plan.

For more information about the Avant Marketing Group, visit the firm’s website at

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Snickers Commercial Earns Top Super Bowl Avant Marketing Score

(February 7, 2016 – St. Louis, MO) – Mars’ Snickers brand television commercial received the highest score in Avant Marketing Group’s Commercial Index Score for the 2016 Super Bowl.

The Index, conducted by Avant Marketing’s market planners, evaluates commercials based on three critical factors: media strategy, creativity, and marketing strategy. More than a popularity contest, the Index provides a true evaluation of the return on advertising investment for marketers.

The Top 5 rated commercials for the 2016 Super Bowl include:
1. Mars’ Snicker Bars – featuring William Defoe and vintage footage of Marilyn Monroe
2. Doritos (Frito-Lay) – Ultrasound
3. Avocados from Mexico
4. T-Mobile – featuring Steve Harvey
5. Turbo Tax (Intuit) – featuring Anthony Hopkins

The Index also identified the commercials that delivered the least in return on investment. These included commercials from LG, SunTrust, Colgate, Squarespace and a small business spot sponsored by Intuit.

The Avant Marketing Commercial Index considers the following factors for the evaluation:

Media Strategy. Advertisers have the opportunity to select placement within the game. Normally, commercials that run during either the first or second commercial break receive the highest ratings. Yet, in close games, a 3rd or 4th quarter buy can be as effective in advertising reach and attention as earlier commercials. The Index not only takes into consideration the advertising placement, but also the status of the game activity and score to rate the placement of each commercial.

Creativity. This rating evaluates the actual commercial creative in terms of attention-getting and uniqueness that can lead to memorability.

Marketing Strategy. This rating focuses on the strategy that the commercial is based. It evaluates how the commercial communicates either the product/service attribute or how the messaging supports the sponsor’s brand.

All three ratings are weighted equally in the Index.

For 2016, the winning Snickers commercial ran early in the game, utilized attention-getting creative and maintained the candy bars’ long-term brand positioning.

Avant Marketing Group is a market planning firm located in St. Louis, Missouri. The firm provides market research, market planning, strategic product development and branding.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Avant Marketing Gives Back to the Community

As the old adage goes ‘We only have what we give’. Avant Marketing is proud of its culture of volunteerism, and in 2015 of Avant Marketing Group has been more active than ever in the community.

In this past year Avant Marketing Group associate Paul VandenElzen became a member of Launch St. Louis, a group of local business leaders focused on connecting young professionals and non-profit organizations throughout the community. Launch St. Louis has partnered with groups such as Friends of Kids with Cancer and Brightside St. Louis to develop supportive networks of young business men and women. These young friends groups fund-raise, volunteer, and plan events to improve the effectiveness of their charity.
According to Paul, he chose to partner with Launch St. Louis because of the exceptional impact that it has on the St. Louis Community as a whole. “What I love about Launch St. Louis is that we aren’t tied down to a single effort or cause, what we do helps to build up many local non-profits. Really, our mission is to create the high tides that raise all boats.”

The most recent Launch St. Louis partnership is with the APA adoption center of St. Louis. The APA Adoption Center is an independent non-profit which has been a fixture of St. Louis for over nine decades. The APA is unique because it is not an ‘animal shelter’, as an adoption center their efforts are concentrated on pet adoptions. In fact, they do such a good job of connecting homeless pets to their future owners that the APA assists many St. Louis shelters by taking on overflow from these organizations.

As highlighted in the Channel 2 newscast below, Launch St. Louis is already hard at work establishing the new professionals group; the Young Friends of the APA Adoption Center. There has been an amazing response from the business community of St. Louis and many prospective youth volunteers have come forward as potential candidates. If you, or someone at your organization is interested in becoming a board member of the Young Friends of the APA Adoption Center, Launch St. Louis and the APA are hosting a recruitment mixer next month, February 11 from 5:30pm until 7:30pm at the APA Adoption Center. For more information, visit the Launch St. Louis website or contact Paul VandenElzen directly at (314) 576-7700 ext. 13.

In addition to Avant Marketing’s work with Launch St. Louis, efforts to fight food insecurity in the community have been more prevalent than ever. This past holiday season Avant Marketing raised over $4,200 which was used to feed 115 families in the St. Louis area as part of our Feed the Need Holiday Food Drive.
Avant Marketing Group is excited to continue doing everything we can to help St. Louis continue to improve. If you have a community project which needs marketing support let us know. We are always looking for the next new opportunity to advance the remarkable community of St. Louis which we call home.