Monthly Archives: April 2009

Consumers: Reality is Over-rated Part iv

It seems from many of your comments about focus groups that many of you have experienced some of the problems I mentioned in relation to asking consumers about their perceptions. To be fair to focus groups I should point out that I was talking about research more generally.  There’s little doubt in my mind that the focus group, per se, is far and away the most useless, unreliable, misleading and distorting ‘tool’ in the marketers armoury.  Actually, I should qualify that a little.  A focus group in a viewing facility is the pinnacle of disastrous research techniques, but the focus group part of that is no small component. I would really appreciate hearing more details from those of you who have had bad experiences with focus groups.  Please email me if you have any stories to share (and I’m happy to respect requests for confidentiality). Back to the subject at […]

Consumers: Reality is Over-rated Part iii

Having suggested that perception is far more important that the reality of experience in determining consumer behaviour, you might think that finding out how a consumer perceives your brand is a useful exercise. And, of course, you’d be right. You might suggest, therefore, that asking a sample of your target consumer audience or existing customers would be a smart think to do. And you’d be a lot less right.  In fact, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’d be wrong. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, we aren’t always aware of our perceptions.  A lot of our reactions happen at an unconscious, emotional level.  We like to believe we’re wonderfully good at decoding this responses consciously and post-rationalising them accurately, but we really aren’t.  We just make it up and then convince ourselves that what we’ve just told ourselves is true. This is what I call “the […]

Consumers: Reality is Over-rated Part ii

Judging from the replies yesterday, some of you are certainly familiar with the concept that customer perceptions may not tally with reality. Indeed, it’s fair to say that there are even a few cliches on the subject. And I’m the sort of person who dislikes cliches and enjoys challenging them whenever possible; they can be an excuse for not bothering to think about something. For example, take the old chestnut of which came first the chicken or the egg? It seems pretty clear to me that it was the egg, so using this as a phrase to convey the point that the sequencing of events is unclear to you, simply suggests to me that you haven’t thought about it enough! [Where something evolved to a point where whomever decides such things was willing to say, “Yes, what you have there is what I would call a chicken” it must have […]

Consumers: Reality is Over-rated

When it comes to understanding consumer behaviour there’s a tricky conundrum; a consumer’s perception of a brand is far more important than the reality of their experience. But… You can’t trust people to account for their perceptions accurately. So, how can you get any further forward if understanding consumers is important to you? I’ll leave you to think about it and tell you more next time! Philip Graves