Death, taxes and market research

It is with some sadness that I have to report the imminent death of sensible market research.  take a look at this article from The Drum – a reputable advertising industry publication (or so I thought) and see if you can spot the flaw:

Dim Drum

I hardly know where to begin in describing how daft this is.  Suffice to say, if you want to know if your advertising is effective, you don’t just ask people if it’s effective.  Duh.  You could observe what they do and you ask them how they feel about your brand – which allows you to draw conclusions about effectiveness.  None of us is likely to say to a survey that advertising makes us behave differently – we’d look silly.  But guess what?  John Lewis sales are up 5% over Christmas suggesting that their emotionally charged advertising approach, far from squandering their budgets, has delivered very nicely thank you.

It’s a bit like asking people whether we should raise taxes.  The fact they will inevitably say ‘no’ tells you nothing about the wisdom or otherwise of raising taxes.  So when 78% of people say advertising hasn’t influenced their shopping habits, this tells us precisely nothing about whether it really has.

But it’s worse than that.  This sort of incompetent ‘plain man’s view’ approach to market research is becoming increasingly common.  The idea that you can just ask the public to answer the question you have in your head is seriously misguided.  Research involves experimental design. It is a skill.  Sadly, Survey Monkey, bless them, have made market research surveys accessible to anyone and everyone.  Including those who have no idea how to do it.  That’s democratisation for you.

Worst of all, I came across this nonsense originally through WARC – normally a genuinely useful and authoritative portal for accessing  marketing intelligence.  Nonsense gets everywhere nowadays.

Pay peanuts, get monkeys?


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