Should Consumer Research be Illegal?

One of the subjects that I think should be of interest to all consumer researchers is the law. Not all that Jerome Vs Willensby in 1869 case law stuff, I can’t see much application for that, not studying the statute books either.  I’m talking about evidence, how it’s collected and how much weight can reasonably be attached to it. Given their importance in the legal process, a lot of work has been done to examine the accuracy of eye-witness testimony.  It strikes me that if there were any question over people’s ability to accurately report on an event they witness involving someone else then similar problems may well exist when relying on a person’s ability to accurately report their own experiences. In fact, given the role of the conscious mind as a post-rationalising device that has no direct access to the unconscious mechanisms that trigger our behaviour, there is reasonable […]

The Consumer Need Myth and Why Customers Really Buy

You’d be hard pressed to find any marketing text book that doesn’t talk at some point about “consumer need”. It’s a simple enough concept: the products that will do best are those that meet a requirement that someone has. At the next level you may find there’s a discussion on the types of consumer need.  Broadly these break down into physical and emotional needs.  So, by way of simplistic example, the former says that, because you’re cold you will buy a hat.  The latter that because you want to feel special you’ll buy an expensive hat.  This is all fine up to a  point.  But I happen to think that most consumer behaviour is nothing to do with “need”.  This is a problem because the notion of consumer need suggests that, at some level, a consumer is aware of what it is they are getting as a result of acquiring […]

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 […]