We are honour bound to constantly challenge our profession. After all, many other people do. From time to time market research is criticised for not getting to the truth or presenting a biased view of a situation. What do we think about that?
Is anybody out there old enough to remember the “New Coke” debacle? It is now nearly 30 years since the Pepsi challenge which constantly showed that this sweeter drink out performed Coke in blind taste tests. Market research carried out by Coca-Cola confirmed this to be the case and resulted in it launching a new and (improved?) formulation which in tests was preferred to Pepsi. But New Coke flopped. Did the research ask the wrong questions, were questions not asked that should have been, or was it simply that the research findings weren’t interpreted correctly? Could it be that the research was correct but the execution of the New Coke launch could have been managed better?
Market researchers are mapmakers. They can produce any map you would like. They can make detailed maps and they can make high level maps. They can produce specialised maps. We would also like to think that market researchers go further than just delivering a map and give good advice on route guidance. However, it is up to the person with the map to get it out of their pocket and use it correctly.
A book written by Philip Graves in 2010 called Consumer.ology lambasted market researchers claiming that the questions they posed and the way they ask the questions cannot lift the lid of the subconscious mind. He has a point in that there is much about decision-making and the way our minds work that we have yet to discover. However, the maps that we produce on the markets that we research have to be a much better option than walking into the hills with no maps at all. We need both good maps and good map readers. And market researchers in general produce excellent maps.