Learn to expect the unexpected from research

I read with interest Martin Croft’s article about the allegedly fabricated Nestlé research (MW February 9). The intricacies of the Nestlé case are not for me to comment on, but it raises an interesting point about the frequent use – or rather misuse – of research as a marketing tool.

“Research only tells us what we already know” is a phrase I increasingly hear from marketers. And sadly it is often true because researchers have failed to take proper account of past outcomes and opinions before they undertake new surveys. Too often, new research is conducted “raw” without a good overview of past insights .

Recently, I read through several historic marketing strategies for one organisation and found one, which despite never being actioned, could be implemented effectively today. The strategy was five years old.

Good research embraces consistency in order to identify inconsistency. It understands hindsight in order to discover foresight and looks for subtle changes, avoiding blindly re-inventing wheels. Research can offer significant return on investment, but we must ensure that the researchers have genuine insight into the market and have fully considered past data. Perhaps once this approach to research is accepted, marketers will feel confident enough in the results to change their mantra to: “Research – expect the unexpected”.

Anna Cliffe

Head of research


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