The Ultra-credulous and the Super-cautious
This episode will extend a little bit the limitations imposed by the title. For once, it will not be about the errors in research, but about the positioning mistakes that research clients make - as in "how they position towards research"
The Ultra-credulous - is that client who believes that the consumers, aka the research, can answer any question in this world (where world means marketing world).
And if this is the fact, wouldn't it be completely unintelligent not to pick the last question, the most final, the one that "bull-eye"s the problem: Which concept is better? Which execution is better? Which is the consumers' most preferred brand strategy? In a process in which steps are ignored (exploration, insights, strategy), and in which the consumer is expected to put on his head the specialist hat (as in de Bono's game) and give us the type of "boardroom" answers we expect.
Well, you know the guy... because he is talked about and criticized at every corner, at least in this small world that is the world of mar comm in Romania.
I for one don't find him as unlikeable as the guy I am about to talk about next. I find him a little bit too stressed (by the weight of the decision he is supposed to make) and a little bit too unlucky (running too often into people who just do what he asks for) but usually he is well intended or at least open to feed-back. Plus, I feel challenged as a researcher to become more than just a researcher, if I really want to find solutions to his problems.
The Super-Cautious - the ultimate disbeliever! Lost in all the prejudices ever formulated about research, sees himself as the hero meant to clean this muddy world of research. Has doubts about anything, starting from respondents eligibility to their honesty, to the researchers' skills and in the end, about the usefulness of the entire approach. It is his duty to send notes (to the moderator), to see familiar faces in focus groups, to whisper (or shout, depending on the situation) "I don't think so!" in the middle of key phrases of research presentations.
He uses (and abuses) the classical arguments of "people do not actually know what they want", "they behave according to principles of social desirability", "they lie (with or without intention)", "they trick themselves". It wouldn't cross his mind that researchers have read the same books and have had the same type of debates on human behavior. He acts as if he has never seen research approaches that take all these into account, methodologies that account all artificiality risks and analyzes which are more subtle that just counting and labeling answers. Well, I feel sorry for him if he really didn't but I wonder if he would even recognize such an approach.
Maybe he has had his share of unfortunate encounters, just like the first guy, still, I feel far less tolerance in this last case.
The real problem? Too few people in marketing or advertising actually take the trouble to learn about research. It is a matter of "everybody having an idea about it" - just like, before 1989, everybody had an idea on how to fix a Dacia if it happened to break down unexpectedly. One word there, one bad experience here - and there you have it: the fantasy, the myth, the anti-hero.