Human Intelligence Series, #4
Blindside the Old Paradigm, Create New Ones
Manipulation of Market Research
The need for market research, especially consumer market research, is directly proportional to how far removed decision-makers are from the daily interactions with clients.
The greater the number of management and non-management personnel separating decision-makers from the actual contact with clients, the greater the perceived need for market research to understand what the client “wants”, and how to make the client “loyal” and give a greater “share of wallet” to the company.
The answers are believed to be in the data. Hence, the rise and fall of such marketing fashions like data warehousing, TQM, Six Sigma; and now “Big Data” is the new and exciting flavour.
Some market researchers are using Game Theory to develop new products and product branding.
Eye-tracking and the reading brain waves are also gaining traction as a market research tool.
Instead of trying to better understand what is taking place at “ground level”, decision-makers and market researchers prefer to speculate in their cubicles and boardrooms, massaging and manipulating the numbers so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities.
Political considerations, and making the numbers fit the perceptions of decision-makers, are the key to career success.
What corporations would ultimately like to achieve is condition consumers to accept whatever products and conditions they are presented with. In other words, instead of consumers controlling what they want, it will be the corporations that set the conditions to be accepted by consumers.
This is most easily achieved in business sectors where there is an oligarchy of large companies providing products and services that are almost universally used by consumers, such as telecommunications and banking. Companies in these sectors are all very large, have significant political and economic clout, and can set the terms and conditions that consumers must accept.
In this situation, consumers are like Pavlov’s children. Most people associate Pavlov with experiments on dogs, but that monster also used children in his conditioning experiments. Pavlov lived in the Soviet Union under Stalin: plenty of orphans were available for experimentation.
Competitive Intelligence: Asymmetric Research Is The Great Equalizer
For smaller companies, or for companies that find themselves in a highly competitive environment, the great equalizer against larger and wealthier competitors is Competitive Intelligence.
Executed properly, Competitive Intelligence has the following advantages:
- It engages frontline people (e.g., sales and customer service) to provide insights on what customers are thinking and what competitors are doing.
- Data from frontline personnel can be used to develop new products and enhance new ones, and provide guidance on how to improve customer service so that both the company and clients can benefit.
- Data from frontline personnel can also provide an early warning on competitor activities that may threaten the company.
- New technologies can be uncovered that may be adopted to improve products and services.
- Competitive Intelligence is relatively cheap compared to traditional market research and a project can be set up much faster, thus providing the company with greater agility in dealing with threats and opportunities.
- Finally, unlike Market Research, the emphasis is on Human Intelligence derived through the interaction of human beings, rather than on minute samples of numbers that give only a dim view into what is happening in the minds of clients.
- Market Research seeks to compare performance within an existing business paradigm. Competitive Intelligence seeks weaknesses within an existing paradigm (e.g., accepted wisdom about what a company can or cannot do) so that the paradigm is destroyed and replaced by a new way of doing things.
In short, Competitive Intelligence can provide the flexibility of execution as well as the context and texture of information that traditional Market Research simply cannot provide.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”