Research red in tooth and claw

As a keen follower of wildlife documentaries, I share Gavin McDonald’s appreciation of David Attenborough (MW January 30). I also agree that insight, knowledge and intuition are important skills for marketing professionals. It is McDonald’s criticism of market research replacing these key marketing skills that I would question, arguing that good-quality research can go a long way in informing marketers of views and opinions out there in the “wild”.

While market research is a tool providing practical information, it can – if used correctly – lead to insight, knowledge enhancement and in some cases even allow the marketer to feel more (or in some cases less) confident about their intuitions. Used correctly, market research does not involve flattening great ideas, nor does it lead to “dumb campaigns” that aim for “mass appeal”.

If the campaign objectives and strategy are clearly defined and the market researchers carefully briefed, the results of the research will provide an answer as to whether the advertising is delivering the right message and eliciting the anticipated reactions. Whether the material presented to respondents is “liked” or not is, in my experience, neither here nor there unless likeability is stated as a specific campaign objective.

To assume that market research is to hear what people say and do it is simply wrong, and can only lead to the sort of conclusions McDonald describes. More importantly, it ignores the key ingredient of good market research – the researchers. These are the people who ensure through careful analysis that consumer reactions are understood in the context of their cultural and emotional background. Ultimately, it is careful analysis of what

is said that leads the market researcher to be able to contribute significantly to marketers’ understanding of customers as people rather than mere consumers.

Finally, I would like to add that not all research takes place in chintzy suburban front rooms. Depending on the objectives of the research, researchers are often found “in the wild” on accompanied shops in local supermarkets or in people’s bathrooms or kitchens. In our experience, such trips are often accompanied by the client – usually a marketer.

Teresa Edleston

Research manager

Green Light International

London W1

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