In this article, we’re going into a few of the more annoying sticking issues that market researchers face. I wanted to call this article by a far more clickbaity title, such as: “Market Research Fails to Perform Because You Are Bad At It.” But, it sets the wrong tone and also sends the wrong message that failure and performance are somehow holding hands when in fact they are only casual acquaintances. Let’s start with the market research template first.
Market Research Template
Your product or service has a target consumer, which means your market research does too. You are not seeking a general consensus here. Your product or service is going to alienate people, and that is what your market research targeting needs to do too.
Sushi is only as good as the fish you use to make it. If your gathering methods are biased, if they are leading people, if they are restricting answers, then you are gathering incorrectly.
Commonalities and differences, what are the reasons, and what of your current landscape. You cannot predict the future based on your analysis, but you can predict the present.
Lesson number one, sometimes your market research teaches you nothing. Lesson number two, if three people can interpret the information three different ways, then each one is correct.
What direction do you take your product or service? Do you run the advert? Do you press ahead with the product? It is time to pick a path and take it.
This is where most people think market research stops, but this barely scratches the surface. Things change very quickly, especially once people are exposed to your brand or product. You need to continue with the testing phase.
You picked a direction, you chose a path, and you did the thing. How did it turn out? It may be worth restarting your entire market research process to get a handle on how well or poorly it went. Start your tests small so that you may pull back and run new (small) tests as time goes on.
How did your tests go? How did your further market research go? Are your interpretations the same? Do not commit yourself to a conclusion, simply pick a path and run it, testing while you go.
You have tested, researched, and now you need to conclude. Pick a new path, run more tests, do more research? Can you commit to a larger campaign, or to a full product rollout?
Even after launching your advert or your product, you should still be doing market research to see if it lines up with your expectations. Further tests, small and large, should be helping you fill in the picture.
Concluding and Enacting or Cancelling
Do you continue your advert campaign or product/service rollout? Do you keep pushing forwards, do you cancel the project, or do you cycle back for more testing and analysis? It is at this point, after epic amounts of work, that you should be looking at your project and asking it is worth intensifying more time and money.
Market Research Has Issues
The template above is a hornet’s nest of potential problems, from biased research methods to incorrect interpretations. But, there are also other sticking points that seem to creep into most types of market research. Here are some of the most frustrating.
Market Research Issue 1 – Time and Trends Are Your Enemy and Your Friend
Let’s say you have 100% perfect market research, and it tells you that your video advert is perfect. It is perfectly crafted, targeted, and the timing is perfect. You have gone through the market research process several times now, and you are ready to invest in a big campaign.
Your campaign flops, you make very few conversions, and you have spent thousands on a video advert that was seemingly perfect. What went wrong? In many cases, time and trends upset the balance.
Take for example the movie “Dredd” (2012). A truly brilliant movie and a work of cinematic art. It quickly became a beloved cult classic, so how come there was no sequel? Time and trends changed to where a production company wouldn’t authorize a movie about a cop who uses violence to fix problems, even if it is completely fictional and set in a post-apocalyptic comic-book world. Sometimes, no matter how good your product, service, or market research, your timing is what trips you up.
Market Research Issue 2 – People Have No Idea What They Want
The fundamental flaw with market research as a premise is that people have no idea what they want. Take the Marvel movies. Back in the days of 1980s Batman, the idea of a massive cinematic universe was laughed at. Take the Marvel universe and how it set up its favourite characters in stand-alone movies, and then decided to try a lesser-known comic book about a sentient tree and talking raccoon, only to create probably one of their best Marvel movies ever. Yet, if you had asked movie fans if they would grow to love a tree, or adore a green woman with daddy issues, they would have said a resounding no.
As it cleverly states in the image above, people do not know what they want, and if you ask them, they tell you stuff they already like. In short, this may explain why when something becomes popular, it is very quickly followed by several clones of it. From the Teenage Ninja Mutants and Biker Mice from Mars, to Dark Souls and… mostly every other Dark Souls clone.
Market Research Issue 3 – You Didn’t Sell the Product Before You Made it
I was speaking to a famous author of self-help books, and he told me a story about a young woman who interviewed him. She was compiling a book on how to be a successful author, and she had interviewed twenty people before she had got to him. Afterwards, he quizzed her on why she decided to dedicate so much time to this project, since he believed fully that Napoleon Hill was a charlatan of the highest order, and he sniffed a “Think and Grow Rich” wannabe.
She told him how her book was a guaranteed success because people would obviously pay good money to hear from professional authors on how they gained their success. Her research and interviews had cost her thousands, but she was sure it was going to be a hit.
The famous author, saddened by what he heard asked, “How many copies have you sold?” She said, “None, it is not done yet.” The famous author explained that unlike in fiction, it is possible to sell non-fiction in advance, and went on to explain that if he couldn’t get 100 advanced orders from people for his books, he didn’t bother writing them. The young lady went away, still sure of her success. This was 15 years ago, and her book is still not published. The point is that you should be selling a product before you even make it. Market research goes a long way towards making that sale.
When planning your market research, try selling your product or service as you go, and see what response you get.
Suffice it to say, if you are showing people your new advert, and not only do they like the advert, but they want to buy the product, that is pretty much all the market research you need.
Market Research Issue 4 – Assuming People Are Stupid
This mistake is so common that it is heartbreaking. The problem used to occur within the University elitist culture. It was restricted to a bunch of people who thought they knew better because they had spent seven years listening to a professor who still lives with his mum, but now this elitism seems to have spread. It is everywhere from Facebook groups to healthcare officials.
The assumption that people are dumb affects every area of market research, from ignoring consumer distrust to stereotypes about elderly people, stereotypes about Millennials, taking too long to get to a point, colloquial expressions, only exposing people to simple issues, and overly simplified quantitative research to the point where a Facebook poll would have been more effective.
Also, on a less obvious note, assuming people are dumb seems to bias vocabulary, which is tantamount to leading people in some cases. It affects market research in a wide variety of ways, from people assuming your product/service is aimed at kids, to people wildly underestimating your brand or product because of the simplified way you have phrased your questions.
Market Research Issue 5 – Talking Down to Consumers and Research Groups
Market researchers seem to talk down to their research subjects all the time. This seems especially true when what they research is contrary to what they expected. Things like double-blind testing are not necessary when it comes to market research, but I can understand why some research companies insist upon it.
Telling people they are not smart enough to understand what you are going for is not how you conduct market research. Nor is repeatedly explaining the selling point of your product because you cannot understand why the test group is not jumping up and down with glee at the brilliance of your invention. I have even seen University professors leading respondents in surveys because their thesis relied upon proof that “All” people would respond a certain way. It was harrowing to watch.
The worst part is that many people talk down to their research groups without even knowing it. I have heard research groups being described as, “Happy with their popcorn and disposable movie” and “Happy so long as they have a place to lay their head.” In most cases, it seems like vanity is to blame for how testers treat their subjects. This is why you should have a second group of researchers who have no interest in the product/service/advert, so they may do their market research dispassionately to see if they generate different results.
Final Thoughts – To Quote Captain Picard
There was a time, long ago, when a TV show about people flying through space had profound messages, unmarred by woke leftism or restrictive rightism. It had its flaws, but for the most part, it had heart and a fair amount of logic, albeit often in a silly setting. The show was Star Trek the Next Generation. In an era when labels were things you put on presents, rather than online weapons of attack, Captain Picard made a great statement when he said:
“It Is Possible to Commit No Mistakes and Still Lose. That is not a weakness, that is life”
The point is that you can study at the finest Universities, you can follow the methods in this article to the letter, and you can pool the knowledge, experience and drive of every person you know, and still draw the wrong conclusions from your market research. Just keep in mind that:
“Hindsight is the only vantage point by which you may determine failure.”
Sometimes, the choices you make, the directions you take, and areas where you put all your effort are completely correct. It just takes people time to realise how right you are. Look at Vincent Van Gogh who died in poverty while his paintings are now worth millions. Look at the 32bit games consoles brands, rendered to extinction when 3D polygons were invented, and now there are more 2D Platforming games than ever before on the PC and consoles.
Even now, the web pages you created years ago that suddenly re-surged in popularity for apparently no reason, or the sudden demand for a product you discontinued years ago (please bring back Heinz Chipotle sauce), even to that darn YouTube video you spent months on that only had 3 views, and then suddenly found 20K views in a matter of weeks and for no apparent reason. I suppose my point is, only hindsight lets you truly see your failures, until that point, your project is merely a success waiting to happen.