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The Tom Dougherty Blog



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Market research done right – and why most get it wrong

Now, this is interesting. Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association found that 29% of marketers have “too little or no customer/customer data” and, most strikingly, believe what they have is not appropriate to decision making.

The study was mostly focused on real-time data, such as from social networks, mobile and online advertising and so on. But here’s the rub: 74% of them rely on traditional survey data concerning demographics and 60% concerning usage.

Customer research that’s projectable to the market as a whole is the only kind of research you can count on because of its projectability and its means to eliminate the outliners that social media and other online processes can’t.

So why are marketers so disappointed with it?

Easy. Because they aren’t asking the right questions.

In most cases, the questions asked are only usage and attitudes, which only gives you a sense of the marketplace without uncovering the strategies to change it. Marketers are then left with data that’s simply not actionable.

Here’s a story I often tell: We’ve done research and brand strategy for several beers and it always amazing me the research they’ve previously conducted. For example, many of them will have asked the question: “Why do you prefer the brand of beer you drink?” The answer is almost always: “I like the taste.”

Duh.

How actionable is that answer? Funny enough, many beers fall into the trap of thinking that’s actionable, which is why most of them advertise taste – when taste is not a switching trigger. You only switch for what you currently do not have. Who prefers a beer they think tastes terrible? (More about the beer industry is listed here.)

That, however, is usually the kind of data marketers are struggling to use, especially at a time when 70% of them said their efforts are under greater scrutiny than in the past.

To understand consumer behavior and how to change it, you have to understand human behavior. That means testing true switching triggers, brand meaning and, most importantly, precepts – the belief systems that drive behavior.

It comes as no surprise to me marketers are struggling with their data. The real surprise is that, despite continuing pressures, most haven’t done anything meaningful to change it.




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