Each day, consumers are exposed to thousands of brand messages by watching television, reading the newspaper…even by walking down the street. As a result, people have expectations from brands.

When a brand goes online, what expectations do consumers have? What information is anticipated? Motivating?

And which features of the Web site will best reinforce the value of the brand with the customer? Pre-development audience research provides insights about online consumers and the content and Web site features that are compelling and motivating for them.

Audiences in traditional media, like television and radio, encounter a brand's messages in 30-second increments. However, online audiences encounter the brand for a much longer duration—often 10 minutes or more. Therefore, the depth and appropriateness of a brand's messaging and content becomes more critical online.

Why should you conduct pre-development research on content and imagery for a Web site?

For years, many companies built Web sites based upon what the corporate staff thought their Web site's visitors might like to see. However, this philosophy has failed, as evidenced by the dot-com bust, scores of unprofitable online businesses, and hundreds of brand sites that don't succeed in capturing the attention of the online audience and motivating them to a desired action.

Part of the solution lies in using pre-development research to understand who the online users truly are—their personas, capabilities, demographics, psychographics—and what is meaningful to them in terms of imagery, features and functions.

Unfortunately, online users often don't innately recognize what their own expectations will be. Typically, they recognize when their expectations are not being met at a given moment.

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Mitch McCasland (mmccasland@moroch.com) is director of insight and brand strategy at Moroch Partners (www.moroch.com) and a leading advocate of using customer insights and competitive intelligence as a basis for brand strategy, advertising, and new product design.