The International Writers Magazine:Marketing Issues
Are The Dumbest People in the World?
corporate teams that are overdependent on research averages often
see their marketing fail at a spectacular rate. Their new product
introductions seem caught in a revolving door -- what's in and
what's out based on "researched" hypotheses that have
little to do with actual market behavior.
Interest in surveys
that purport to identify averages and norms is so great that the myths
this type of research spawns are sometimes floated as sophisticated
branding and marketing strategies.
Cures are invented, fads are nurtured, styles are crushed and dogmas
are erected as though mandated by some newly discovered "truth."
Sometimes psychological warfare is involved.
For example, when high-priced researchers ask, "Are Americans dumb?"
95 percent of Canadians say "Yes." If they ask, "Are
Canadians dumb?" then 95 percent also say "Yes."
However, when they ask, "Who are the smartest people in the world?"
then the answer is "Americans."
The moral of this story is that these surveys are products of the art
of deception -- even though the lies may be deeply buried. Their results
are totally dependent on how the questions are formed and on anticipated
The sensible conclusion is that the dumbest people in the world are
the ones who rely on such "research" and hinge their business
decisions on manufactured responses. Corporate America lives on a daily
diet of such feedback and avoids visiting a washroom more than three
times a day, as the national-average surveys indicate once a day is
the norm. Ex-Lax, anyone?
Whether the topic is movies, or food, major government policies or simple
pet-care advice, the attitudes and tastes of the entire populace of
western civilization are manipulated daily by a very small group of
research fakers. They collect their data and come up with guidelines
for the rest of society to follow so that everyone can be mentally prepared
to behave appropriately when positioning a toilet seat, sneezing during
dinner or tipping a bartender.
The Law of Averages
Obeying the dictates of national averages is like calculating the lowest
common denominator of a group's IQ and then choosing the closest match
to act as its happy-go-lucky spokesperson.
Businesses routinely operate on this principal, taking it from one extreme
to another. The results can be predictably absurd -- from "An average
person can eat a dozen hamburgers in one sitting" to "The
average person can drink a bathtub full of beer in two days."
Readers, please do not attempt either of these feats without supervision.
The fact is, how people behave "on average" is not the issue
any longer, as we are fast becoming participants in one-to-one marketing
and cyber-branding games. Therefore, national averages do not mean a
As we move forward, customization is taking over generalization. Now,
corporations are delivering branded values based on direct demands from
customers rather than mass-produced goods based on massive research
in pursuit of common averages.
Crafting the descriptions and terminology used in conducting and reporting
research is another art form. The thick report starts by quoting some
scholars or a Nobel laureate. Then it dives into a revelation of what
customers want, for example: "indispensable value plus sustainable
bonds with the product for a long-term relationship, with continued
enjoyment with the minimal fiscal expenditures."
Simply put, in this case, customers want "cheap." The main
objective of this report, then, is to present common-sense data in such
a way that it seems to justify -- even demand -- action. The research
becomes a catalyst, triggering a disconnected series of steps -- including
more studies to reconfirm the earlier findings. So, who are the dumbest
people in the world?
Recommendations: Get Smart
Like researchers would say, "The national average of executives
making all decisions based on market research is 90 percent." That
leaves just a small handful who engage in original thinking and invite
The corporate teams that are overdependent on research averages often
see their brands fail at a spectacular rate. Their new product introductions
seem caught in a revolving door -- what's in and what's out based on
"researched" hypotheses that have little to do with actual
This type of research creates a thick fog that prevents corporations
from correctly reading their customers' preferences. Consequently, their
products fail to achieve longevity. Flawed research often aims to satisfy
a preconceived need by confirming that a well-known principle is correct,
instead of making an objective determination.
Of course, research can have great value if the right questions are
presented in the right way. American businesses use far less research
then companies in the UK or Japan, or in the rest of Europe. Indian
businesses are run mainly on instinct and intuition. The emerging economies
simply do not believe in the value of research.
However, a well-conceived study with a clear objective and unassailable
methodology can sometimes provide very valuable information. Still,
in no case should it become the main driver of a company's strategy.
There is nothing quite like making gutsy, raw decisions. That is something
the smartest people in the world are not afraid to do.
© Naseem Javed Feb 2006: Naseem is the author of Naming for Power,
is recognized as a world authority on Global Name Identities, Corporate
Image, Cyber-Branding and management of Digital Branding Assets.
He introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80's and also founded
a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century
ago. He is currently lecturing at major conferences on cutting
ideas on image building.
Naseem Javed on the smell of money
Future of Adult Branding
Naseem Javed on XXX.com
Is Your Brand Worth Billions?
Naseem Javed on brand values
Branding: The '06 Corporate Challenge
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