Don’t always believe Research

Do you ever feel be cheated by research?

Consumer-centric is always a credo for every Marketing professional. But there is always a time when we felt “cheated” by its result. When evaluating the new product for example, often research’s result told that the product already passes the “norm” or competitor acceptance. However, when the product launched, it failed. The weird thing is, the post-launch research told us that consumers don’t like the product. What the hell!!!

The consumer insight division, or research agency, will argue that the issue is due to bad execution. Recruiting wrong respondents or bad interviewers and using the so-called multinational agency will overcome this issue. Well, the fact is not, turned out either using well-known or just established research agency are outsourcing the same recruiting agency. I surprised one time that I did different research but getting the same respondents, and then aware that even there is a term of “professional respondent”. The other time, I accidentally find out the recruiter briefing respondents to tell the certain answers to specific questions.

Beyond the execution, the other more significant issue is the culture. Asians, in general, are “indirect culture”, meaning that we not always telling the truth directly. They may not like the product, but because it considered impolite to say so. The other bias is our “face culture”, which we don’t want to be blamed in front of people. This explains why respondents always defend their current use product whatever the good comparison product is given. They don’t want to be judged to select the bad product. These cultural biases often lower the quality of the result.

Well to be fair, the traditional evaluation way is not always bad, in fact, most of the successful products in the past were launched in a similar fashion. However, the question is, “considering recent technology development, are there any better ways to improve the current evaluation process? “. Because the old way to evaluate the product at least have several drawbacks:

  1. Time delay: The post-test which usually measures the level of Awareness, Trial, and Repeat needs the product must be at least 3 months in the market with proper distribution and advertising.
  2. Risky investment: To ensure the post-test generating some readable result, the brand should invest initial heavy investment for product launch.
  3. Product Market Fit assumption: The pre-launch product test assumes the product already fits the market. However, many times products that passed the test but then failed when it come to the market. The issue is the test is based on surveys instead of observations. Respondents may not tell the truth.

One of the recent development to overcome this issue is by applying Growth Hacking Marketing in product development. Ryan Holiday in his book, Growth Hacker Marketing, defines it as a “Business strategy that throws out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaces it with customer acquisition techniques that are testable, trackable, and scalable”. Despite the broad application of the concept across marketing action points, this article will focus only on part of the concept that related to continuous product evaluation. The basic principles offered here are:

  1. Observation instead of Survey. By observing consumer instead of asking them a set of questions, obtained data become more reliable.
  2. Picking instead of screening. Respondents’ selection is based on their buying pattern, whether they repeat buy or not, not based on their claim by looking at a set pack of images as in traditional recruiting.
  3. Agile improvement. The data can be monitored on weekly basis; thus improvement can be applied rapidly.
  4. Initial investment should use to ensure the product-market fit, Instead of heavy advertising.

I would like to write the detail how to execute the idea, particularly in FMCG. However, I afraid the article will become too long and too technical to read. So I will save it for my future article.