“Should We Conduct Market Research?”

In a famous interview for Forbes magazine, Steve Jobs was asked by the interviewer: “How do you do strategy?” And the first sentence out of his mouth was, “We never do market research”.

Henry Ford famously said, more than once according to legend:  “If I had asked my customers what they really wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses'”.

As many of you might already know, at Wunderkind we have a fairly radical stance on market research, as evidenced by the above quotes. Beware of asking customers questions they don’t consciously know the answers to. Beware of well-intentioned subjects of market research who tell you what they think you want to hear.

That said, sometimes it’s necessary to do market research before developing or launching a campaign, and if you’re going to do it, then best to be honest about Why you’re doing the research, and then find the appropriate How and Who. For example:

1) Are you looking to understand what customers find appealing or attractive about your brand at an emotional level?

If so, then ask yourself, how many people do you know who monitor, understand and articulate their emotions accurately during the course of a day? Very few. So it would make sense NOT to use direct rational methods that ask respondents to be supremely self-aware and articulate about their emotional drivers. Totally unreasonable. Instead, consider innovative projective techniques in qualitative research that allow participants to cough up stories, images, memories, and archetypes associated with a brand, product, or part of life. Make sure the researchers you use are not only brilliant moderators, but great at pulling out patterns and insights that are user-friendly, not academic.

2) Are you looking to test positioning or creative concepts with your target audience?

If so, then for god’s sakes do not shove your creative into an online panel where there is no observation, discussion or probing—or real understanding. Testing strategies or creative on surveys and panels is an excellent way to mislead yourself into disastrous decisions. Use one-on-one interviews, for example, with an excellent moderator who has the intuition and skill to lift out the real emotional response people are having to your ideas.

3) Are you looking to cover your ass to make sure you don’t make a huge mistake?

See both 1) and 2) above. Do both, and sleep at night.