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Let's Pretend is for Fairy Tales

July 20, 2006 - by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail:

How often in the process of evaluating a product or idea, do we ask the consumer to pretend?


Pretend that you are shopping.

Pretend that you are doing a task.

Pretend that you are deciding which brand to purchase.


Do we really believe that this task pf pretending will reveal the truth? Do we really think that the environment has nothing to do with the decision making?


Consider the task of walking the plank. Place a twelve foot 2X10 foot board on the floor and ask a group of students if they will walk the plank for five dollars. You will probably find that everyone present will take you up on the offer.  Now take the same plank and place it between two buildings, five stories above ground. Now ask the same group of students how many will be willing to walk from one end to the other of the same plank for five dollars. I will bet you that there are far fewer takers under these circumstances. But why? The plank has not changed, only the environment. Could it be the risk reward? It is not much different from the question, How likely are you to purchase this brand if it were available in the stores today? It's easy to say I would definitely purchase it if I really do not have to make the purchase. No wonder it was not hard to get those 20% and higher Definitely Would Buy scores. .


Consider the current cable television show dealing with Paintball Wars. Do you really believe that the contestants would take the same risks if they were using real bullets instead of paintballs?


Pretending is for games, we need to be using the real world to predict the results obtained in the real world.


While trashing the concept of pretending, I must admit that I will frequently use the pretend approach in very early research, but I am aware at all times that I am walking on the edge of fantasy and only working with benchmarks. However, as we get closer to market introduction, I am less likely to pretend.


Does our research method minimize the assessment of the product under investigation?


In a recent piece of research, it was found that respondents with a lower assessment of the product or idea being tested are more likely to terminate the interview before completion of the interview than a respondent for which the product or idea is appealing. This may not be a problem if the premature termination rate is very low.

However, other research has found that in certain protocols, the premature termination rate is at the 50% level.  Do we assume that the favorable or unfavorable assessment of the product/idea is the same for those completing the interview and those terminating? Based on the research, it could be a very dangerous assumption.


When you do your research, it is important to not only know the final base but also the initial placement/acceptance as well as the number given the opportunity to participate but who refused.

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