Looking in All the Wrong Places
The above is a line from an old song, a very old song, but it is relevant
to events I have experienced during the past two weeks. I got a call
from a Law Firm. They have a case that has involved data collected through
market research. So they called me about being an expert witness. I
did not want to invest the necessary time that it would take to be an actual
witness, but agreed to look at the data, read the depositions and also to
suggest a few people that might be interested in being the expert witness
for them. Actually, I thought that they would be much better suited
as expert witnesses than I would.
After reviewing the market research papers, two reports, one dealing with
the data from the research (about 90 pages), the management summary (about
15 pages) and a 400-page deposition, I was reminded of the line from the song
quoted above. It seemed that they spent a lot of time and money doing
research in one of the least desirable areas -- Malls. But of course,
they are cheap and fast. The data reflected just how cheap the research
was in terms of quality, too.
I was also reminded of an old high school joke. Remember, my high
school days were over a half century ago.
It seems that a man walking down a residential street in Cincinnati
encountered a Hillbilly on his hands and knees at an intersection. The
man asked the Hillbilly what he was doing down there. To which the Hillbilly
replied, "I'm looking for my house key. When I took out my car keys,
I dropped my house key. The stranger decided to help the Hillbilly
look for his house key. After about 15 minutes with no luck in finding
it, the stranger started asking a little more about how the Hillbilly dropped
the key. When asked specifically where he was standing when he dropped
the key, the Hillbilly pointed down the street. To which the stranger
asked why then was he looking way up here? The Hillbilly replied that
there was better light at the corner of the street than in the middle of
The above story sounds ridiculous, but don't we do something similar every
day? How often do we select a test protocol in our research because
it is cheaper, faster or easier than a protocol that we know yields much more
valid data? In the research that I reviewed for the law firm mentioned
above, it certainly was fast, easy and cheap, but was it reliable and valid?
I don't think so.
I am grateful to the law firm. In appreciation for my time, they sent
a $750 check to the Mary Rose Mission, a non-profit hospice for people without
insurance and/or family.
For an example closer to home, during my P&G days, we knew that our
most loyal users were purchasers from the lower income area, lower on the
socio-economic scale, less educated, etc. I don't know if things have
changed but I do know that P&G frequently talks about their consumer
research via the Internet. To use this method 14 years ago, we would
have been ignoring our core users. Maybe things have changed. I
do know that P&G's product category efforts are moving to categories
like the health & beauty aids where the loyal user trends are probably
different than those of the package soap category, i.e. higher income, better
educated, etc. (Note: I still believe in P&G and their methods.
My portfolio contains about 45% P&G stock.)
The Hillbilly cited above has changed much like P&G. He now parks
his car at the intersection under the street light. Where are you looking
for your test participants?
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