Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Relative to What?

About a month ago, a friend called to ask for help interpreting some "Intent to Purchase" data.  He had data from a concept evaluation study dealing with multiple concepts.  His objective was to measure potential market share.  I was probably the last one to call about projecting market share data short of having the product in hand and some actual sales data.  I don't like playing "Let's Pretend," and that is what you are doing when projecting sales data from a verbal description of the product.  At this stage in product development, I like to keep focused on "Consumer Appeal," but given the fact that my friend was stuck with the problem at hand, how do I at least add some help?

My first question was to ask what he had chosen for his Benchmark?  Oops, he didn't have one and asked me why would we need one when we have multiple concepts.  Yes, multiple concepts but none that we have tested in the past or one for which we have market data.  Unfortunately too many people look at bench marks as added work and cost, when in reality bench marks are insurance and a measuring stick.  They are not a luxury, they are  a necessity for good research.  Many people claim that with a good database, there is no need for a bench mark.  That may be true if biases and errors were constant across all research.  But we know that is not the case.  The bench mark allows you to look at the historical results of the bench mark to see if the results in this study reflect the historical results.  If not, then we are restricted to comparing the test concept data with the data in this particular study.  But with a bench mark, we would have at least some comparison with the current market.

Recently in a Market Research Web Site, researchers were also discussing interpretation of Intent to Purchase Data.  They discussed the merits of the 80/20 rule, the value of historical data, and some techniques I have never seen or heard of.  Not once did a single person ask about any validation data.  The results were taken at face value.

Maybe I am getting too old for this business, but I would never run a study without a bench mark.

Another Historical Perspective

Too often we forget what brought us the big dance.  The earliest references to market research that I am familiar with are writings by Dr. D. Paul Smelser, the creator of the Market Research Department at P&G.  He recorded three rules for market introduction of a new brand:
  1. All tests had to be made on products in actual use.
  2. Ask the right questions in terms everyone could understand.
  3. No products were distributed nationally before being subjected to a regional market test.
 The above are Dr. Smelser's words as recorded in 1923.

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