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Multifaceted online agile market research a branding case study


The client has been successfully operating in the home loan broking industry for over 2 decades. Due to shifts in the industry, they were looking to increase their market-share in more profitable markets, however, there were concerns that opportunities were being held back due to the current perceived market positioning of the brand.


The principal objective of this research was to identify the true perceptions of the brand within the market, establish the current positioning in relation to competitors and provide recommendations on brand ‘renewal’. It had to be done quickly and on a tight budget. Not all participants would be available to travel, so online discussions and focus groups where a perfect match.

Target groups

  1. Clients: past, present and potential clients who have or are looking to refinance, upgrade their home, or buy an investment property.
  2. Partner channels: industry partners such as Solicitors, Accountants, and Real Estate Agents who may refer customers.
  3. Home loan team: current staff who nurture and manage the customer and channel touch points.



Target Audience: Past, present and potential clients who are looking to refinance, upgrade their home, or buy an investment property within the next 12 months.
Method: 5 day online discussion board.
Participants: 15
Objective: To gain feedback on the service offering of the home loan service provider. Including opinions on current branding and marketing, and market position.


Target Audience: Industry partners, such as Solicitors, Accountants, and Real Estate Agents.
Method: 5 day online discussion board.
Participants: 11
Objective: To gain feedback on the service offering of the home loan service provider. Including opinions on current branding and marketing. To gain insight into feedback that the industry receives about the service experienced by referred customers.


Target Audience: Current staff of the home loan service provider who manage clients and client touch points.
Method: 60 minute online real-time chat focus group.
Participants: 8
Objective: To gain feedback on the service offering of the home loan service provider. Including opinions on current branding and marketing. To gain insight into any feedback staff members receive from dealing with current or potential clients. To understand how staff perceive the current brand position and identify road blocks hindering future business growth.


  • Participants had mixed experiences when dealing directly with banks and mortgage brokers, but on whole the experience with independent mortgage advisors was seen as positive
  • Participants Identified why they would choose a mortgage broker rather than go directly to a bank or lender.
  • Some clarity around service is required around market communication were aware of the services offered.
  • Participants were asked to watch a TV commercial, from within the discussion board, and provide immediate feedback and identify ways it could be improved.
  • We asked what could be done to raise their profile in the mortgage market.
  • We asked participants views of the brand, logo and business name.

Key takeouts

  1. A sluggish economy was seen a major issue, exemplified by fierce competition. Followed by the awareness or value of the mortgage broker’s role in the market.
  2. The challenges that need to be addressed to take advantage of new opportunities were identified.
  3. The teams perceptions of brand and understanding of the position in the marketplace was seen as a driving force moving forward.
  4. It was also revealed that the current brand is positioned better with low income lenders which is holding the business back from appealing to higher income lenders. Our client will use these research findings to employ a targeted multi-channel communication strategy.

VET & workforce real-time online focus groups case study


A government relations, marketing and advertising consultancy who had been engaged to provide strategic communication advice, key message development and copywriting services for their client with a specific education and training public initiative. Our client was responsible for communicating to stakeholders about national changes to the VET system at a local level, promoting awareness of the initiative and building knowledge of the organisation amongst stakeholders.


To use agile and low cost online market research methods in order to reveal insights about training and workforce development. To ensure the language, tone and content of the communication material was relevant and on track for all targeted audiences.

Target audiences

There were 3 primary audiences for this study:

1. Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s)
2. Learners (Students)
3. Employers and Industry


Method: 3 x Online Focus Groups – 1 group per target audience

Participant numbers: 10 per group

Duration: 60 minutes per group


The consultancy took the results and formulated the communication strategy and collateral to roll out across the different channels. This communication included keywords, descriptions and info that was highlighted by the target audiences as important and preferred. This ensured the language, tone and content of the communication material was relevant and on target for all audiences.

The research data also assisted in developing a name for the program that would engage each target audience. Furthermore, develop editorial for TasTAFE, Department of Education and the Skills Tasmania newsletters – “Fact Sheets” for each stakeholder group.

The language used by the different target groups during each online focus group session, provided speaking points for Skills Tasmania employees, and industry liaison officers, whose purpose is to interact regularly with each of the identified stakeholders. These speaking points included key messages, media comments and media release, in case there was negative criticism of the new strategy.

To find out how we can help you with you pre-test your communication strategy please contact us, or complete our online quote request form.

Getting healthy with online discussion board focus groups case study


Online market research was chosen to support important strategic communication advice, key message development and copy writing services for a government-sponsored health initiative called “Get-Healthy”. Online market research was chosen because of its affordability, agility and convenience.

The Get Healthy Service provides information and ongoing health coaching support about how to improve your lifestyle in relation to:

  • Healthy eating.
  • Being active.
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The communication under review is a direct mail package sent to targeted households. The proposed direct mail piece was to include details of the offer, relevant calls to action to encourage individual participation in the free program.


To provide online market research services to test and ascertain the effectiveness of a proposed direct mail piece for a state government health department to determine and pre-test the effectiveness of the content and presentation of the offer, prior to targeted distribution.

Target audiences

Male and female, 35-65 years, from low SEIFA postal areas.


Due to the geographic dispersion of regional and metropolitan participants for this study, an online research methodology was an obvious solution. Online Discussion Boards were chosen over real time groups due to, participant availability (they were able to contribute to the discussion at a time convenient to them) and some restrictions on Internet reliability in some of the more remote regions.

  • 1 x online discussion board group
  • 3 days in duration
  • 8 participants, plus 2 reserves
  • 1 x moderator
  • 1 x client Observer

Based on the project objectives, the discussion was structured as follows (in context of receiving the material in the post):

Day 1: Get it

Day 2: Read it

Day 3: Consider it

8 screened participants were mailed the direct mail piece in a sealed envelope, and instructed to open it on a designated date and time to mimic their response to their first exposure to the information.

What are online discussion board focus groups?

Online discussion boards occur in a secure environment where participants login and post comments in response to a discussion topic. Discussion board topics may include question, polls, images, website links or videos. You can ask participants to share their opinions, upload their own images, or take part in private discussions. Participants are notified when a new discussion topic is posted and they can access the discussion board from a computer or a mobile device. Online discussion boards can range in duration from days, weeks and months.

Insights revealed

The feedback and insights provided by the focus group participants established that the general “look and feel” of the Get Healthy envelope was a key influence in shaping the respondents’ initial perceptions of, and attitudes toward, the letter enclosed.

In particular, the research confirmed that as the first point of engagement, the envelope should be presented and addressed in a way that is appealing to the receiver in order to warrant their further engagement with the mail piece. A key point of contention among the respondents was the use of the “To the Householder” label, of which the majority disliked. On a positive note, it was communicated that the use of Get Healthy branding and supporting material ( fridge magnet) helped to reinforce the campaign’s key messaging and ensure the Service remained top-of-mind for respondents.

In terms of the most influential findings, we found that the majority of respondents were of the opinion that the mail package contained junk mail or political advertising material due to the presentation of the envelope. Among some respondents, recognition of the Get Healthy branding and Tasmanian Government logo was not immediate and the appeal of the letter suffered due to its generic and impersonal mode of address. The presentation of the letter was also noted as an area for improvement ­ particularly with regard to the layout of the text copy and small, unattractive pictures.


  • Upon reviewing the feedback, the agency reviewed alternative creative strategies to help improve the visual appeal of the envelope:

  • They replaced the “To the Householder” label with an alternative option: “To anyone who wants to get healthy”.
  • The agency significantly increased the size and prominence of the Government logo (bottom left-hand corner) and Get Healthy logo (bottom right-hand corner).
  • An eye-catching “Free Health Service” banner was incorporated in the top right-hand side of the envelope to help trigger motivation to act among mail recipients.

The letter

  • It was the agencies intention to make the letter less text-heavy and cluttered. Therefore, they made the decision to increase it to two-pages (as opposed to one) in the attempt to making it appear more inviting and easier to read.
  • They reviewed the existing layout of the letter to consider the value of larger images and the power of colour in order to maintain reader interest. Making the letter two-pages allowed us to run four separate testimonials (in break-out boxes) presented in much larger font, purple (as opposed to black).
  • A large photo was also included alongside each testimonial (as opposed to two very small thumbnail images featured in the original letter’s testimonial).
  • The idea to run a range of testimonials (male and female from different backgrounds and walks of life) was influenced by a couple of respondents stating they enjoyed the depiction of a good example of realistic and achievable body change.
  • The agency also changed the first line of address in the letter from “Dear Householder” (in normal font) to FREE HEALTH COACHING SERVICE in bright green bold font as a heading to reinforce the campaign message.
  • They kept paragraphs short and maintained the use of bullet points to encourage reader engagement.

Thank you to Corporate Communications for sharing the outcomes

Using online testing to validate your advertising campaign

Online advertising testing enables businesses, organisations of all sizes to quickly identify and correct potential advertising issues before the final ‘sign-off’ / decision is made!

Online advertising testing, with a sample of your target audience, improves the accuracy, effectiveness and ROI of your campaign.

It does not have to be costly or time consuming and can helps answer some of these common and reoccurring questions:

  • Is the right message getting across to the right audience?
  • Do they understand what we are communicating?
  • Will it create ongoing recall?
  • Does it push consumers’ purchase buttons?
Advertising Market Research

Your questions may centre around a particular advertising campaign, and require you to demonstrate a clear understanding of what the creative will achieve. If it doesn’t work, then it is simply a waste of money and you need to kill it before it drains the budget. If you could narrow down the margin of error through simple and fast online ad testing you can be confident that your (or your client’s) investment is being well spent.

The decision to pre-test your advertising needs to be weighed up against the opportunities lost by not investing in online consumer co-creation and copy validation and the size of the proposed campaign budget.

For example, if you are a small local trading business there’s a pretty good chance you’ll already be well-informed about local consumer sentiment, and you’d be able to readily make use of close customer contact to understand how your audience wants to be informed, educated and kept up to date. But as soon as you step into a larger online marketplace its just not humanly possible to accurately predict the response of a large target audience by just using your ‘gut feeling’ alone – if it was, every campaign would be a success, and this is certainly not the case. If you are committing to a large advertising investment the advantages of online pre-testing far outweigh the small investment in time and money to take out the unpredictability and guesswork.

Online advertising testing and refinement may be exactly what you need to drastically improve the outcome of your advertising campaign. Online advertising research makes use of qualitative and quantitative data obtained from responses to the advertising message. The types of methods which are available include:

  • online instant communities – Great for co-creation and ideation!
  • consumer experience diaries – understand how often consumer are exposed to your brand.
  • live online focus groups & interviews – immediate feedback on ads and copy content.
  • short period discussion boards – testing of early stage advertising and concepts.
  • online surveys – good old reliable but should be used after you have verified using some of the above!

You can utilise these new sophisticated tools specifically designed to capture actionable insights from a target audience in response to your proposed message or creative.

People who participate in online advertising research and testing are asked to review commercials, imagery, ideas, messages, with their immediate reactions captured. This occurs in either video or text based groups, text discussions, journals and surveys. This data is then immediately available and used to determine if the campaign messages need to be altered, thrown out or kept as they are. It is not uncommon that very early on in the testing process new information comes to light, which is then used to evolve the key messages into something which delivers an effective and targeted piece of communication.

Online Advertising Research

The practical reason behind pretesting finished and unfinished ad creative is to ensure that it is more effectual in helping an advertiser get it right before the investment gets to a point where making a correction causes an unexpected budget blowout!

The key message here is: …don’t get caught in the excitement of the creative cycle without considering how the message will be received by the audience and how it will be verified before pushing it out on the market.

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By: Steven Mallows
Co-Founder and CEO

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