And it’s not because people are being deliberately difficult or obstinate; in most cases it is simply because the way they respond when asked an abstract question isn’t necessarily how they would react if faced with the same scenario in real life.
Take Starbucks. Millions of British consumers threatened to boycott the coffee chain last year after its tax avoidance came to light, but when it came to it how many people actually stopped frequenting its 800-odd stores in the UK, or 20,000 outlets elsewhere in the world?
By the looks of its sales over the past year, not that many. In the fourth quarter alone, Starbucks’ revenue was up 13 per cent to $3.8bn.
Similarly, in some exclusive research on charities being published in Marketing Week next week, GMI marketing director Ralph Risk says that although 41 per cent of consumers say they would stop donating to a charity if they found out executives earned an extortionate salary, in reality as long as the charity is transparent and can prove the executive’s value it is unlikely to impact on donations. It is just an emotional reaction.
In order to help distinguish between what consumers say and what they do, Ebay has been testing a new research tool to ensure that consumers’ positive emotional response to an ad is backed up by its ability to effectively deliver the message.
The technology, called Implicix, uses intuitive testing combined with avatar-led animation to measure consumers’ responses based on their actions and behaviour, rather than getting them to answer questions verbally.
I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of agreeing or disagreeing with something a little more enthusiastically than we might actually believe when taking part in a survey, and often it can be hard for consumers to put into words exactly how they feel. There is also then the worry that this response may be interpreted incorrectly.
Instead Ebay asked respondents to move their avatar in reaction to a question, becoming closer to another to demonstrate how they feel about a brand, for example.
As a result, Ebay was able to determine that the ad worked on both levels – firstly that it left consumers with a positive impression of the brand, but also that it would encourage them to use Ebay by alleviating any concerns they may have about how site works.
According to David Penn, managing director of Conquest Research, which created the Implicix tool, people tend to make brand decisions based on emotional reasons, but in actual fact a lot of our emotional thinking happens in our unconscious (or implicit) mind, which we are not aware of but influences most of our decisions.
It’s a complex theory and one which relies heavily on trusting people’s instincts, so it will be interesting to see just what type of results this type of testing can achieve – and how different the outcome may be if more traditional types of consumer research were used.