The ABCs of market research

Following on from a couple of high-profile suspected publicity stunts in the media, research executive Bianca Boey warns companies about the dangers of resorting to any means to garner publicity.

The death of Michael Jackson last month came as a shock to most people. What shocked me more, however, was the flippant claim that came after his death, that the whole thing was a publicity stunt. It is undeniable that his record sales have gone up considerably since his death, but I can’t help think how disturbing and disgraceful it would be to fake your own death in order to sell your name and product.

Another story suggesting a publicity stunt has also caught my attention in the past week, which seems to be a more plausible claim. Jamie Neale, the backpacker who went missing in the Australian bush, was found alive after 12 days lost in the Blue Mountains. A miracle? No, say the press and the public – it is a blatant hoax to gain publicity and money. Indeed, it has been predicted that Jamie Neale could sell his story for up to £500,000.

We may never know if this story is a hoax or not, but these suspicions emerging in the press certainly got me thinking about the need and desire for publicity, and how far people will actually go to gain press coverage and money. It is not just individuals that will push the boundaries to gain publicity and sales; many companies do it too. There are hundreds of examples of bad marketing with mistakes ranging from ignoring your target audience, to misleading the public, to outright lying. An amusing example that I came across recently comes from a leading energy provider who promised a price guarantee to fix prices until 2011…on the same day as it announced a 35% increase in price!

What is it that forces people and companies to submit to such shameful and open displays of dishonesty and deception? Is it really worth risking a brand’s reputation just to sell a few more products?

If we think about the long term, it is certainly not worthwhile damaging reputation or excluding potential customers from your brand. It does, however, make sense that if a company is not doing well, it will do everything it can to obtain sales. This is where market research can make all the difference. If market research is carried out sufficiently, it will provide a company with the means to avoid such blatant and shameless subjections to bad marketing and publicity. Market research can show a company exactly who its target audience is and how best to appeal to them without having to risk its dignity or reputation.

So, if you have a worthy and quality product that is not selling to its full potential, don’t give in to shocking marketing campaigns and dishonorable publicity stunts to boost sales instantly. Just take some time to do your market research and ultimately your brand will reap the benefits – it’s easy as 123.

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