Marketing idea No. 92 – Why marketing research cant pick our mind?

As we carry on believing that we are inherently capable of reading the demand of the market or conversant in picking all the latest trends, here is a thought.

Do we really know what we like? Or is what we like a by-product of what other people like? 

If history taught us anything, it is that we are really “clueless” in terms of predicting what people want and what will be popular. The Harry Potter book was turned down by 8 publishers before it managed one. The same fate happened to Star Wars, to The Beatles, to Xerox copy machine and many, many more. On the other hand, we confidently put our bet on winners which turn out to be colossal losses – New Coke to be a prime example.

If it was so simple as simply conducting a market study, asking people their preference and giving the market what they want – why do 80% of the new products fail? Why do movies that never get big budget or distributorship like, My Big Fat Greek Wedding become a phenomenon?

The answer my friend lies in the fact that in market research we ask each individuals what they like in isolation, without giving any reference to what other people like. But in reality what we REALLY like is what other people like. When everybody loves Titanic, we believe it must be a great movie. Hence Titanic became the most successful filom of all time. What we buy is based on what is currently in the Top 10 book or movie ranking. The doctor we choose is basically based on the recommendation of the others.

This phenomenon is called “Cumulative Advantage” or “Rich get richer” phenonmenon. To be put simple, we like to ride with the winners. So when everyone is buying something that is of course the winner and we choose to stick with it. If that is the case, if all we like is so much dependent on what others like, is it possible for conventional market research to work? Or even more importantly, can we actually predict trends or future?

So next time the answer of a question like, “Why did X succeed?” might be as simple as “Because millions of people bought it, thats why.” Nothing more, nothing less.

Advertisements

1 Comment

  1. Abolutely true, that sales probably is the key to tag success. And reference from others is the prime sale generating influencing factor. Research can never identify the hidden mind or the visionary mind, because the methodology is to extract what the customer experienced, based on logical factors, not what the customer is dreaming about. And in case of surveying to draw down what customers wishes for, well, who actually knows what he/she wants. 🙂
    so research is there only to guide you in case of probable options that you have based on existing experience level of rational consumers, but to be revolutionary, you just need to be a visionary, and vision knows no logic.
    Who thought that we need a YOYO toy to play with? It was a visionary mind, and not a rational researcher.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s