Want Dramatic Results? Research What Consumers DO, Not What They Say.

The word “drama” comes from ancient Greece where it meant “to do.”  The doing matters: the talking?  Not so much.

That is exactly my POV on marketing research: I’m far more interested in what consumers do than what they say.  We ask people’s opinions, we focus group their responses, we tally up their ratings of stimulus and try to ascertain how likely they will be to purchase our product or use our service based on what they tell us.

The thing is, people lie.  A lot.  Not maliciously, but with those little socially-lubricating lies of kindness, the soft sops of gentleness, the defusing half-truths of non-confrontation.  This is not meant as a slap against people–I like people.  Heck, I am a people myself.  But any reasonable person must wonder if paying someone a hundred bucks and plying them with soda and snacks, just to render an opinion doesn’t skew the results somewhat.  Or at least wonder why, if consumer packaged goods companies spend such ungodly sums on this kind of research year in and year out, they don’t produce more engaging ads…

Yes, I am a creative who doesn’t trust research.  That’s not because I think it’s evil, but rather because I think it’s bad science.  People lie, so why does 99% of advertising research rely on what consumers tell us?

This glaring shortcoming is all the more irresponsible today, when real answers can be found using that vast data engine that is the world wide web.  Online behavior can be tracked, actions can be analyzed and responses can be measured.  Social media monitoring and user generated content analytics can provide honest insights into how consumers engage with our products and services, because this data is not speculative, it’s real.

The Web allows us to measure what people do.  So until something better comes along, advertising research and analysis would do far, far better to start there.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79