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OPINION14 October 2009

Picking on research

If you want to convince people you’re a clued up, no-nonsense businessperson, try picking on research.

We see examples of this all the time, and Research Rockstar has just pointed us to a new one – a Forbes article about the shortcomings of research.

Marc Babej of marketing strategy consultancy Reason writes that “conventional research tools are ill-suited to assess the impact of marketing investment on behaviour”, and offers five sound (if obvious) tips for making sure you don’t waste your investment in research.

“Just because someone thinks a BMW is the best car out there doesn’t mean she’s going to buy one,” he writes, which puts me in mind of a comment that Millward Brown’s Graham Page made to me in an interview last year: “The argument that you can’t ask people why they do stuff if probably right. But that’s why most market research doesn’t.”

Babej’s points are valid, as far as they go, but really all he does is to take a very narrow definition of ‘research’, and describe how it can be misapplied.

The real issue here is how research is perceived. If you believe market research = surveys and charts and focus groups and stuff, and if you believe the value of research = the thickness of the report or the amount of money you spent on it, then you’re going to run into problems.

Fortunately, most people realise that the implementation of research is part and parcel of the process – and that the responsibility for making sure that it has an impact lies with both clients and agencies.