Why the Opinion Polls were Wrong (and an inquiry won’t help)

Why the Opinion Polls were Wrong (and an inquiry won’t help)

It’s official, the opinion polls conducted in the run up to the UK general election were wrong – even the polling companies have said so. The good news is that there is going to be an inquiry into the pollsters’ failures. The bad news is that this is going to be carried out by the British Polling Council – an organisation that clearly has a vested interest in perpetuating the use of opinion polls. This is a much like asking the Astrological Association of Great Britain (and yes, there is one) to conduct an inquiry into why your horoscope has no useful insight into your future. If your starting assumption is that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world you aren’t going to be looking for answers with complete objectivity. Similarly, if you believe that people can reliably predict their future actions and will […]

Why Market Researchers Shouldn’t Read Consumer.ology

The title the ‘International Journal of Market Research’ (IJMR) sounds undeniably impressive.  Generally speaking journals are good things, bringing together peer reviewed papers from people pushing the boundaries in a particular field. But I wonder… do astrologers have a Journal of Astrology?  Google suggests that they do, sort of – it looks as though it might just be one astrologer selling predictions. There’s a National Journal of Homeopathy – I wonder, to paraphrase Tim Minchin, if they’ve had any papers on how water forgets about the wee and poo it’s had in it and just remembers the traces of medicinally advantageous ingredients? My point is that it’s easy to get a false sense of validity from a name.  In Consumer.ology I describe market research as a pseudo-science and, arguably, having an ‘International Journal’ is all part of the industry’s mystique. I must declare a personal interest at this point: recently […]

When Market Research Gets it Wrong

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 […]