It is in our nature to continually challenge our profession – after all, many others do so. It is not uncommon for the market research industry to be admonished for not getting to the truth, or for presenting a somewhat biased view of a situation. How do we feel about that?
Among the most well-known instances of market research ‘getting it wrong’ is with the launch of “New Coke”. Market research carried out by Coca-Cola confirmed that when put up against Pepsi in blind taste tests, it was the sweeter taste of Pepsi that consistently came out on top. In response to this, Coca-Cola launched “New Coke”, a supposedly new and improved formula which beat Pepsi in subsequent blind taste tests. However, the launch of New Coke was a massive failure. So, we have to wonder: Were the right questions asked? Were important questions missed out? Were the findings interpreted incorrectly? Maybe the research and its findings were correct but the execution of the New Coke launch was flawed?
Market researchers can be thought of as mapmakers; producing maps on anything you like. This can include detailed maps, high-level maps, and also specialised maps. However, market researchers do not see themselves as just mapmakers but also guides, able to offer advice on possible routes. Nevertheless, it is still the responsibility of the individual with the map to get it out of his or her pocket and to make sure they use it correctly.
Consumer.ology, a book authored by Philip Graves in 2010, criticized market researchers, arguing that the questions they pose and the way in which these are asked cannot lift the lid of the subconscious mind. There is, perhaps, some merit in this point of view, since there is much about decision-making – indeed, much about the ways in which our minds work – that is yet to be discovered. We would, however, argue that the maps market researchers produce still have to be a much better option than walking into the wilderness with no map at all. For the best results, we require both good maps and good map readers. And, in general, market researchers produce excellent maps.
By B2B International (www.b2binternational.com)