Who is your customer? What does he want? And why does he want it? Digging beyond the surface, turning the target upside down and inside out, poking and prodding to get the right answers ensures a sound strategy. It's all downhill from there. Research feeds strategy, strategy ignites creative, creative moves the target and the target unleashes its purchasing power back to you.
Research not only has to define the target, it has to play matchmaker between consumer and market. You gotta "zig" when they "zig". And that's a beast of a job in today's economy when you're dealing with varying lifestyles, likes/dislikes, hopes/dreams and a rush-hour like barrage of marketing opportunities. But we do it every day by gathering, analyzing and interpreting hoards of social, statistical, qualitative and quantitative information to help anticipate market trends. The blood, sweat, tears and data turn into results.