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Is marf^Gt research a waste of money?

Philip Graves, author of Consumer.ology,
reviewed on page 17
Market research is an unhelpfully broad
term, so let me define it here as asking
people questionssomething that UK
companies spend hundreds of millions
of pounds on each year and which I
believe is a waste of money.
Organisations have been seduced by
the idea that consumers know what they
think and understand what they want.
There is little legitimate data to support
this notion and an ever-increasing body
of evidence that this isn't the casefor
example, studies that show purchase
choices can be swayed by the presence of
a particular smell, type of music or
adding in a product option that no one
will buy but that changes how they feel
about other choices.
The unconscious mind is in play far
more than we realise. This doesn't stop
us constructing conscious justifications,
or claiming particular attitudes and
beliefs. But they are no more likely to be
accurate than our daily horoscope.
Leaving aside our capacity to notice only
what suits our wishful thinking, that
means about half the time.
The value of market research is limited
to what those commissioning it feel that
it gives them. It's no better than a
placebo, potentially benign, but possibly
dangerous if it stops you doing
something that would have been more
productive. Yet we're not short of
examples when research-driven thinking
has backfired.
Investment in market research goes
beyond a simple waste of money: it
corrupts an organisation's ability to learn
and, if that wasn't damaging enough, can
lead to untold waste in the pursuit of
strategies and initiatives that would
never have been developed with an
alternativeand psychologically
informedapproach to understanding
consumer behaviour.
question time: can marl?et research help decision-maRing or does it corrupt an organisation s ability t o leamT
Rowland Lloyd, vice-president.
The Market Research Society
Market research is essential. It informs
business strategy and reduces risk in
decision-making. Without research there
is a lack of evidence on which to make
appropriate decisions. Public and private
services need to adapt quickly and
effectively to the needs of the public, and
reliable research findings are at the
centre ofthat process.
Cost efticiency is the name of the
game, both in government and business.
When a company launches a product or a
government department cuts back on a
public service, they need to get it right
first time to avoid costly errors. Market
research narrows down the options and
provides the insight required.
Good research is not just about asking
the right people the right questions. It is
about getting to the core of needs, wants,
and emotions. The government's
localism agenda, for example, includes
plans for local authorities to fund health
services. But how will it know where to
aim resources? The answer: good
research to assess current and future
health problems, so the right services can
be established.
Research should sit alongside
behavioural data, purchasing patterns
and information on the use of public
services. The best researchers will not
only provide evidence and interpret it.
They can blend this information with
other data to provide a comprehensive
picture of business issues.
Research predicts what people will do,
need or want through the use of robust
evidence, interpretation and analysis.
Our society encourages an interpretation
of public opinion. So why would anyone
reject this by condemning research?
^ Does market research benefit business? Have
your say at '
30 September 2010
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