As marketing researchers we strive to make sure our work supports decision-making. In order to do this, we need to be well versed in the decisions marketers need to make for their brands.
The key decisions marketers make for their brands are not so obvious. Both marketers and marketing researchers think in terms of information requests (e.g., Why are customers setting up accounts but not ordering? What are the emotional needs in this category?), or study-types (e.g., We need to do focus groups. We need to do a survey with users and non-users). Underneath requests for information and requests study-types is always at least one decision. It is important for us to work with clients to articulate those decisions precisely.
In my experience, when I ask people for decisions, they almost always give me an information request. I have found that it helps to write decisions down as declarative statements to help distinguish them from information needs, which I write down as questions. That is why I use the practice of filling in the blank: We will decide __________________.
From a big picture point of view, I have come up with six major decisions marketers need to make for the success of their brands. This list comes from working on many brands and from watching brands succeed or fail.
I list them below in terms of the categories, in bold, and a short description of the decision.
Please let me know your thoughts. What do you think of this list? What might you edit or add?

  1. Product Benefits: We will decide what benefits to offer.
  2. Targeting & Segmentation: We will decide whom to target with this benefit and whether we have more than one target, which is obviously segmentation. (Does it make economic sense to offer a different product benefit or different approach to defined, reachable groups?)
  3. Positioning: We will decide what we need customers within each target group to think for them to buy our product or service. (Here I am referring to product positioning as defined by Ries and Trout, not the positioning statement in the PowerPoint deck!)
  4. Market Approach: We will decide whether to steal share, grow the market, or both. (Thanks TVG for teaching me this.)
  5. “Story” to Establish Positioning: We will decide what story we need to tell to establish that positioning. (By story I mean messages, creative, customer service, etc. There is a lot here!)
  6. Delivery: We will determine the media and sales campaign to deliver the story to establish the positioning within each target.

Please keep in mind that when we write research plans and the decisions, the decisions are always more detailed versions of these six key decisions. For example, we might need to decide whether the benefit customers are seeking in a particular skin care category is medicinal or aesthetic, for example. Or we might decide whether to steal share from this particular brand or another brand.
Again, please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!