August 24, 2006
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many times when the actual numbers in our research can become very misleading. On the surface everything looks fine. But when you start looking under the radar at the details associated with the research, you find the old maxim of "the devil is in the details." To demonstrate what I mean, I will draw on two examples, one dealing with Test Markets and the second with a Brand Promotion.
In the Test Market example we were exploring an improvement modification to the Test Market Brand. The Test Market had been in operation for a period of 18 months which was equivalent to approximately seven category purchase cycles. Participants were selected from among residents living within the Test Market that claimed to be using the Test Market Brand. Brand identified samples were placed in a CLT environment. The respondents were requested to use the Test Brand for two weeks, complete a questionnaire, then bring the questionnaire back to the location along with the front panel of the brand they were using prior to the test period. To our amazement, a third of the participates had been using a non-test market version of the brand.
Had we not requested the front panel of the brand they were using, we would have assumed that the full panel were comparing the Test Market Brand with our potential up-grade when in fact, only two thirds were making the intended comparison.
The second example, Brand Promotion, deals with sales and inventory control. It was often said that 70% of our sales were at promotion prices. This fact was confirmed through our Order/Shipping and Billing Department. This did not seem logical since, as I recall, the brand was on promotion about 8 weeks a year and while in a promotion, our sales objective was to supply the customer with enough product to cover two weeks, the promotion week and the following week.
In an effort to understand these facts, we decided to track inventory during and following a typical promotion of the brand. What we found was that two weeks following the promotion week, none of the stores had received additional product while their shelf and backroom inventory amounted to 14.5 weeks of typical non-promotion sales volume. As one of the store managers said, "We are paid to make a profit, and we are also given a bonus based on the profits, therefore, we take advantage of every opportunity we can to increase profits." This goes hand in glove with the objective of the sales department which is rewarded for the number of sales and the Marketing Department which is judged on the basis of sales during the promotion. Everybody seems to gain except for the consumer and the Company.
My objective in writing this "Views" is two-fold. First, I want to encourage market researchers to use their expertise beyond the typical market research work. We can be of much more value to the Company than we are given credit for. For an additional perspective see my Views of 6/29/06 titled "Consumer Research and Beyond." The second objective is to encourage looking beyond the obvious in our data. To report understanding as well as the numbers.
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