The one-sentence summary
Your research findings could well be misleading you, so it pays to examine every aspect of the techniques used to gather it before relying on it.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
• Subtitled The Truth about Consumers and the Psychology of Shopping, this is predominantly a critique of market research techniques.
• The overall conclusion is that most market research is flawed because we can’t provide accurate answers even if we wanted to. This is because:
~ much of the information we hold isn’t consciously processed, nor do we have conscious access to it
~ the more routine the behaviour, the more it is likely to be unconscious
~ the absence of knowledge doesn’t stop us from providing an apparently sensible rational after the event
~ the unconscious filters aren’t understood by the conscious, so we can’t even accurately report what influenced us
• We tell ourselves myths, so group discussions and surveys removed from the moment don’t work – live testing in the moment is the closest to replicating real life.
• Research is perceived as a means of reducing the inherent risk in decision making, so everyone wants to believe the findings, true or not.
• There are many reasons that most questions should be avoided. They include:
1. Questions inadvertently tell people what to think about
2. Questions change what people think
3. Questions inadvertently lead the witness
4. Questions can accidentally sell
5. Questions can inadvertently persuade people to like something
6. Artificially deconstructing the consumer experience is misleading
…all of which can lead to the artificial reinforcement of existing opinions, mistaking the value of claimed attitudes, inviting the wrong frame of mind, and a set of responses that can’t be trusted, even though they were offered in good faith.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
• Anyone doubting the efficacy of market research techniques will enjoy the analysis here and find a lot of supporting evidence.
• The author claims that focus groups don’t work because:
~ People copy each other
~ People change their mind to fit in
~ People agree with the majority
~ Discussion changes attitudes
~ One voice can sway the group
• There are five ways to check if your research findings can be trusted:
1. Analysis of behavioural data – what they actually do, not their opinions
2. Frame of mind – as close to the real buying experience when asked
3. Environment – was the context appropriate?
4. Covert study – they should not know the focus of the study
5. Timeframe – as instinctive and close to the purchasing moment as possible
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
• You have to burrow quite hard for these points – some clearer sections and headings would help the reader to extract what is good material.
• If you are in the business of research, you might want to resign after reading this.
• If you use these techniques to make important investment decisions, you might want to examine, and probably change, your current methodology.