Insights, market research and crystal balls

I started my work life as a consumer market researcher and I’ve been a provider and user of consumer insight information throughout my career. So let me share some thoughts with you.

First and foremost, market and insight research – focus groups or surveys – are descriptive tools, not a predictive ones. A few great examples of the failure to predict: Absolut failed in focus group research; a new product named Green Sleeves was predicted to be a huge success…ever hear of it; research on flavored tequilas suggested a huge potential.

So if you want to describe what people are doing and gain insight into current behavior, use market research. To predict future consumer behavior, get a crystal ball.

The reason? It doesn’t cost research respondents anything to say what they think you want to hear. So, in my opinion, what they tell you about how they will act, will behave or will buy is similarly worthless.

Even in the descriptive arena, to paraphrase the old adage, “market research is like a lamppost, some people lean on it and some are illuminated by it.” That’s where the insights come in.

Final thought – focus groups among consumers. Save your money. See the next posting.

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