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¿Es la investigación de mercado un desperdicio de dinero?

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Philip Graves

Consultor sobre conducta del consumidor


Philip Graves es consultor sobre conducta del consumidor, autor, conferenciante y colaborador regular en los medios de comunicación.
Lleva cinco años trabajando con empresas internacionales, proporcionando asesoramiento experto sobre conducta del consumidor y conocimiento conductual.
Su primer libro, “Consumer.ology”, se publicó en 2010 y estuvo en la lista de los diez mejores libros empresariales del año de Amazon. Además de presentar estudios prácticos y ejemplos de su experiencia, el libro recurre a la investigación académica de la psicología y la neurociencia para demostrar por qué la mayoría de estudios de mercado no pueden funcionar y mostrar lo que las empresas deberían hacer en lugar de eso. “Consumer.ology” se ha descrito como “lectura esencial para profesionales del marketing y directivos” y como “accesible” y “intelectualmente estimulante” para audiencias no relacionadas con el mundo empresarial.
Además del trabajo que hace desde su consultoría de conducta del consumidor para clientes que incluyen los medios de comunicación, minoristas y empresas de servicios financieros, Philip es socio de Frontier Economics.
Aunque vive en Cambridge (Reino Unido), su trabajo le ha llevado por todo el mundo, incluyendo los Estados Unidos, Brasil, Singapur, y Japón.
Is market research a waste of money?

Is market research a waste of money? Is asking people questions, qualitative research, focus groups, quantitative research, surveys, opinion polls a waste of money? I believe the answer to that question is yes and there are two key reasons for that, two reasons that are very closely interlinked. Firstly, there is an awful lot of evidence now that shows that the way in which we behave is driven to a large extent by processes that happen at an unconscious level. And the key point about that is that those processes are not processes that we have conscious access to, neither at the time that they’re happening or to reflect on afterwards. So, to give you an example, when someone goes into a wine shop and buys a bottle of wine and spends three times as much on it with classical music playing as when pop music’s playing, that person doesn’t walk out having any sense at all that it’s the classical music that’s influenced that purchase. And yet we know from the way that those types of studies are designed that that is what’s made the difference. And closely linked to the issue of the unconscious mind, and how important it is in the way we behave as consumers, is the unconscious influences that the market research process introduces in its bit to understand what people think. So lots of the processes that psychology tells us are present and influential in the consumer experience, are present in a different way as a by-product in the market research process. Things like faming and priming, the process of consciously analyzing something, the presence of other people. All of these are elements that have been clearly shown to change human behaviour. They’re present in market research but of course in a completely different way from the way that they’re present in the consumer experience. So as a result of that market research is frequently wrong. There are plenty of examples of market research not being right, either because the executives have chosen to ignore it and go ahead and launch it anyway, it’s happened with Red Bull or with Budweiser in the UK; and plenty of examples where products have been launched on the back of market research and gone on to be abysmal failures, no one’s bought them.
So, there’s the waste in terms of the amount of money that’s spent on market research butt there’s also waste in terms of the initiatives that have developed on the back of it. Often, that expenditure is much, much more significant that the cost of the research itself. And there’s also the opportunity cost of the money that’s been spent on research that’s not been used in a way that might have genuinely informed the decisions that needed to be taken, for example through life testing.
So, whilst I understand why companies cling to market research -all of us would like a clearer insight into the future, all of us would like customers to be able to tell us whether our new product is a good idea, or whether it’s going to be a success, or why they buy our brand, or what would make them buy it more- the fact is, in just the same way that all the other future reading tools that we‘ve developed as a species over the years, like looking at the stars and hoping they can predict the future, or looking at teabags and thinking there may be answers there. Market research is not a very good device for understanding what consumers will do, and it’s not a very good device for understanding what they’re currently doing either. So, I think what matters is that companies look at the psychological validity of the information they’re referencing. It’s commonplace for the statistics that come out of surveys to be couched in terms of statistical confidence. I have every sympathy and empathy with the role that statistics plays in analyzing that data, but the real issue is: what’s the data? What is it derived from? Is it psychologically valid? For example, I looked at two surveys conducted on the same subject by different polyorganizations, big companies, seeking to understand what people thought. One concluded that 6% of people were in favour of an initiative and the other that 66% of people were in favour of that same initiative. Which answer is right? The answer: neither of them. They both had their own distortions and influences by the virtue of the way that they had asked questions and the fact that they had asked questions at all. Sometimes, the solutions that companies need is to realize that market research can’t help them. Of course, if you ask people questions they’ll answer, and they will answer in a way that seems convincing and real. But often it’s a mistake to attach weight to what people say in market research. Now, I’m not against asking people questions, and a lot of good ideas have come out of talking to people. But that is in the sense of ideas sparking a thought in the mind of the creator of whatever it is you’re looking at, who can link it to the associations they have in their own mind and see the merit in what’s being suggested. It’s not about rolling all the answers up into some kind of consensus view, and because it’s the result of speaking to a lot of people, or speaking to a smaller number of people in real depth that that consensus has any validity at all, because it’s interrogating the wrong part of people’s brains and it’s influencing them as it does it. And for that reason, I believe that market research is a waste of money.
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