I try to stay in touch with the graduate students I meet throughout the
years at the various colleges that I visited. The most prevalent response
I get when I ask how things are going in their jobs, centers around how market
research is abused. It seems that research is conducted without regard
for good fundamental research principles. Actually this comes as no
surprise. I have frequently seen the same abuses. I have found
that it does little good to hit the problem head on. As a result, I
have been recommending that every market research department have a good supply
of textbooks. My personal favorite is, which I usually recommend, Market
Research -- Principles & Applications
by Melvin Crask, Richard
Fox and Roy Stout. The authors are not only writers and educators but
I know personally that two were heavily involved in corporate market research
business, namely with Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. Their first
publication, 1995, is my standby. This book does what many textbooks
do not do and that is point out the weaknesses of various designs and also
how the designs are frequently abused.
It is my experience that one of the most frequently abused test designs
is the Protomonadic Test design. [Note: The Protomonadic design
includes both single product and paired comparison evaluation. Participants
use one product for a period of time, after which a single-product interview
is administered. They then use a second product for an equal period
of time, after which a paired comparison interview is administered.] The
authors point out that "No questions pertaining to specific product attributes
can be included in the single-product interview to avoid biasing the participant's
evaluations of the second product." In other words the single product
interview, conducted after using the first product, is limited to likes and
dislikes along with an overall assessment. Ignoring this concern is
one of the most common abuses I have seen in this particular design. Unfortunately
there are those that believe they can obtain additional data at no extra
cost. They ask all kinds of questions about the first product assuming
that bias does not enter into the assessment of the second product.
The Sequential Monadic test design is a version of the Protomonadic Design,
where a product is placed, a single product interview is conducted (again
only likes & dislikes along with an overall assessment), and then a second
product is placed and a second single product
interview is conducted.
The authors point out that the second product is not truly evaluated
in a monadic fashion, but rather is evaluated relative to the first product.
This can make the second single product interview data meaningless.
Note that the above examples deal with the psychological effects in interviewing
and not physical product effects. There are even greater hazards when
physical performance characteristics are involved.
Every market research organization should have a good supply of market research
textbooks. Also for anyone interested, the University of Georgia, through
its Continuing Education Center, administers an excellent study at home market
research program for the MRA/ARF. This is an excellent way for those
in the work force to receive formal marketing research training.
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