With my book Consumer.ology now published I’m starting to hear back from people who have heard about it, read it or read or heard an article or interview about it.
One of the very positive upsides to this is that more people are starting to share their stories of market research getting it wrong.
Whilst I managed to unearth a good number of examples for the book, the fact is that it’s not really in anyone’s interests to publicise occasions when money spent on research was wasteful. Occasionally there’ll be times when someone’s decision was vindicated and they’ll speak about it, but often the people making the final decision are also the ones who have decided to spend several thousand pounds on research, and choosing to ignore it doesn’t reflect particularly well on that decision even if it’s the right thing to do!
One reader contacted me to tell me about the conclusions of a focus group for a beer that was being tested with consumers in the UK, with a view to importing it.
The conclusions from the research were that the beer was “weak”, “watery”, “gassy”, “… like kissing your sister!”. It certainly wasn’t a real man’s beer.
However, the autocratic head of the business decided to push ahead with launching the beer in the UK. His name was August A. Busch III; you may have seen the product around here in the UK since then… it’s called Budweiser.
If you have any market research stories you would like to share, please do get in touch (philip(at) philipgraves.net)
It’s not just the publication of my book Consumer.ology here in the UK that is putting market research under spotlight.
I recently had this article on the BBC website by Michael Blastland forwarded to me:
Beware the Don’t Know Brigade
He has hit on a topic that was covered in part by David Moore’s book “The Opinion Makers”; in it the former Gallup man revealed some of the dramatic differences you get to questions, depending on whether you offer the option “Or don’t you have an opinion.”
As Blastland points out this is only part of the issue. The wider context is all important in determining how we react to something, as is the detail of the issue in question.
“Do you want your children to have a wonderful state education?”
“Would you like to end world poverty?”
Many people would say say an unhesitating “Yes” to these in a survey. But such initiatives come at a price. The focus of the question, and often the questions before it, may do a great job of sensitising respondents to the social issue concerned (particularly if a self-interested party is behind the research), but such visions are much more difficult to cost (so the fact that 90% of your income will be taken in tax to fund this educational reform isn’t discussed).
Of course, I’m being extreme to make a point. But the reality is that even if any one question were to be accurately described from a cost perspective for a research study of this kind, it wouldn’t exist in the vacuum it does for the research: respondents don’t know about the separate polls being conducted for other initiatives that will require their tax pounds to fund and, even if they did, it is unlikely they would create an accurate total in their own minds before responding so focused would they be on the issue being deconstructed for the research.
As I point out in Consumer.ology, there are a whole host of reasons why people can’t give accurate responses in opinion polls; the fact that, arguably, a lot more people should be “don’t know’s” is the tip of much, much larger iceberg.