Tag Archives: consumers

The Force Behind the Retail Industry

In 1852, a dry goods store was opened at 137 Lake St. in Chicago, Illinois. This store later became the great Marshall Field and Company empire. Although Marshall Field’s was later acquired by Macy’s, the birth of the modern retail industry is commonly denoted by the humble origins of Marshall Field’s. Today the retail industry exist in multiple mediums outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar structure. Consumers are now shopping online, through mobile applications, and even on social media. Simultaneously to the growth of the retail industry, market research has also made innovative strides. The driving force behind the retail industry is the trends followed by the consumers. Market research is essential to track consumer behavior, investigate the consumers’ response to new products, and identify platforms for brand engagement. Retailers can utilize online research panels that include respondents ranging in interest level – from brand loyalist to infrequent shoppers. The data can be used to promote methods that can boost sales.

Consumer behavior is constantly changing, but retailers can keep up with the trends by surveying panelist about their shopping behavior. Conducting survey through online research panels can offer insight into the consumer shopping preferences. The panels allow access to consumers that are outside of the retailer’s reach. Retailers can collect data from non-customers to learn how to attract new clients and grow their brand. The panels can also help retailers understand the general consumers’ impression of the brand and identify key factors that can be revised to attract the targeted demographic. The research panel can also be used to identify customers that already frequently visit the store or shop with that brand. The data collected from that subset of respondents can pinpoint the areas in which the brand is performing well. The research collected can serve as the cornerstone of brand promotion and awareness.

In addition to using research panels to identify brand perception, retailers can also utilize panels to collect information that assists with product development. Collecting information from consumers during the infancy of product development can provide valuable feedback and foresight into the success of product sales.  Online research panels allow access to customizable audiences that align with the goals of the study. Retailers can survey the targeted audience to identify the consumer’s product preferences. This data can help product developers design product lines around the consumer’s needs and wants. Research panels can also help retailers identify appropriate price points for their products. In return, the data collected can assist product development and boost sales.

Another way to boost product sales is to use research panels to identify how the targeted audience engages with a brand. In today’s digital landscape people are shopping using multiple platforms. Research panels can produce a snapshot of consumers’ shopping behavior patterns. This data can show retailers the areas to allocate resources and capture the attention of their targeted audiences. This information can tell retailers whether they need to open a new store, redesign their website layout, boost social media efforts, and much more.

Ultimately, the retail industry is a fast-paced world that thrives due to trends and consumer behavior. Market research is essential for retailers to stay knowledgeable of shopping preferences and brand impressions within the market. Retailers that conduct research through online research panels have access to customizable panels that target audiences ranging from general consumer to frequent customers. The information collected through this research methodology can aid brand awareness efforts, assist product development, and identify key factors in brand engagement.

 

Alumni Series: Health Trends (Part 1)

qSample and Alumni Reader Panel conducted a survey to discover health related trends of alumni of top national universities (please refer to the previous blog post for details regarding demographics). The findings from this survey will be divided into two blog segments:

Part 1. Basic preventive health measures/healthy lifestyle

Part 2. Spending habits on healthcare

According to a 2016 study by Mayo Clinic Proceedings, less than 3% of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a “healthy lifestyle”. In order to qualify as living a healthy lifestyle, following four requirements must be met: moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, a diet score in the top 40% on the Healthy Eating Index, a body fat % under 20 for men or 30 for women, and not smoking. Unfortunately, survey respondents were not aware of the qualifications set by Mayo Clinic, rather they were asked to answer best to their knowledge. Chart below reveals their knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyle:

lifestyle

Average of 62.7% of the respondents either have some degree of expertise or are trusted from peers with advice on health-related issue. Moreover, in the survey, 74.1% agreed that they are constantly looking for new ways to live a healthier life. Following three charts confirm that majority of the respondents do indeed take preventive health measures (diet, exercise, and regular check-ups):

eatt habits

reg ex

reg check

In summary, 88.1% follow a healthy diet, 75.2% follow a regular exercise routine, and 84.8% visit the doctor for regular check-ups.

 

health


 

Alumni of top national universities: Buying Habits

A survey was conducted by Alumni Reader Panel and qSample to investigate the buying habits of alumni of top national universities. 1,964 respondents completed the survey. Universities represented in this survey are: University of Chicago, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Harvard,  Dartmouth, Cornell, and Brown. Succeeding three charts summarize the demographics of the respondents by each school:

age

gender

employ

In a bigger picture, 4.4% were Millennials, 23% were Generation X, 72.6% were a mix of Boomers and Silent Generation. In addition, survey respondents were predominantly males (66.5%). Prior to discussing the buying habits of alumni, an important limitation to acknowledge is that there is an insufficient amount of data to categorize the demographic of respondents from the results. For instance, if respondents were asked a question about brand loyalty and given four choices, the results were simply netted by counts. Thus, we could not identify what percentage of the total counts stemmed from which generation or gender. With that in mind, here are the findings (note: data are shown in average of eight schools as there were no significant statistical outliers – margin of error is approximately +/- 5%):

They are brand loyal:

brandloyol

91.6% of respondents agreed that when they find a brand they like, they will stick to it. Furthermore, 90.4% agreed that if a product is made by a company they trust, they are willing to purchase at a premium price. These two independent results revealed a correlation coefficient of 0.994. What this indicates is that brand loyal consumers become price desensitized, allowing the brands to obtain greater pricing power. In addition, 66.1% of consumers are aware that brand name is not the best indication of quality (see below):

QUALITY

Although the survey revealed that these consumers are highly brand loyal, behavioral data portion of the survey showed what might be advantageous to competitors with potential substitute products. 99.1% of respondents indicated that they value “curiosity wanting to explore and learn about new things”. Since a mere 25.8% agreed that they are one of the first among their friends to try new product, word of mouth (through peers) would likely be their most trusted source of advertisement.

They are willing to pay at premium for quality not image:

premium

Respondents were asked to answer the following: “I am typically willing to pay more for high-quality items” and “I would pay extra for a product that is consistent with the image I want to convey”. As there is no direct correlation between these two factor, the correlation coefficient is 0.224. Although we do not have to access to the respondents’ income distribution, as 88.7% of respondents are willing to pay at premium for quality, it may be safe to assume that price is not much of a concern as long the product quality meet their standards. Interestingly, even though only 42.8% agreed to buy products to convey self-image, a striking 65% had expressed that they buy from brands that reflect their style (see below):

styleTherefore, it is critical for brands to identify the lifestyles of their target audience to effectively form bonds and trust with the consumers.

They prefer American products:

america

60.5% of respondents agreed that purchasing American-made products is an important factor. “Made in America” label has its strong manufacturing reputation, and considering that majority of these consumers value trust and quality, they are most likely willing to pay premium price for American-made products. As a matter of fact, 82.9% agreed that their purchase decision is solely based on quality rather than price.

Moving forward, blog posts will focus on buying habits and decision factors in specific industries (technology, travel/hospitality, healthcare, etc.).

buying-habits

 

 

 

 

 

Mind Blowing Text Messaging Statistics [Infographic]

 

Social Media may rule our lives, as qSample has demonstrated. Yet when it comes to marketing or simply engaging deeply with our audiences, email is the king of all internet media (as our president Rudly Raphael proved in his article The Dominance of Email).

The queen might be text messaging. It’s often overlooked as an efficient form of marketing, according to Small Business Trends. Regardless, the relevance of text messaging as a medium is astounding. For example, check these statistics:

  Texting is the most frequently used app on smartphones–with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day.
  More than six billion text messages are sent in the U.S. each day.
  People worldwide will send 8.3 trillion text messages in 2016 alone. That’s almost 23 billion messages per day or almost 16 million messages per minute.
  Text messaging has a 45% response rate, while email only has a 6% response rate.
  Over 80% of adults text, making it the most common phone activity.
  Text messages brag a 98% open rate, while email only delivers a 20% open rate.

For more context and awe, we present you our latest infographic (and please text your friends or colleagues about it; they’ll open it more than if you email them this data):

Mind Blowing Text Messaging Statistics

 

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10 Iconic Products Originally Invented For Something Insanely Different

Old coca-cola advertisement, promising body numbing

 

There comes the idea. There comes the vision. There comes the sound market research to ensure a virgin good takes its place in the hallowed pantheon of world-changing products.

Oy vey! There comes a product that ends up employed for something completely different from its original intention. The product still changed the world, people got rich, but what the heck…

More than a comedy of errors and that fool of fate vibe, we think you will find some powerful lessons from these products on determination, insight, adaptability and other vital characteristics of entrepreneurship.

 

1.   Coca-Cola

 

 

CocaCola-ad-from-1800s

America’s favorite soft drink started out as anything but soft. Coca-Cola’s original purpose was to combat anxiety, headaches and drug dependence. John Pemberton, a pharmacist and Confederate veteran suffering from morphine addiction, invented the primordial Coca-Cola in the late 19th century. He named the drink Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, and it started out a sweetened alcoholic beverage infused with coca leaves.

As it grew as a brand, Coca-Cola was gradually honed with carbonation and non-narcotic sweeteners to give the world its most famous soda.

 

2.   Kotex & Lysol

lysoldouche8_0

I place these two products together because they reveal the plight of women wading in the torrid currents of marketing. On one hand, Lysol began as a feminine douche and contraception, failing on both accounts and being downright dangerous to women’s health. Marketing campaigns even accused women of being deficient spouses if they didn’t use the product. Mercifully, research and politicking mutated Lysol into what it is today: a cleaning and disinfecting home product.

If you don’t believe me or the header graphic, check out this old ad found in Mentalfloss:

lysol advertisement

Sickening.

On the other hand, Kotex started out as a surgical dressing. Perceptive Red Cross nurses discovered another use for it due to its absorbent material: feminine hygiene. After the war, Kotex discovered a new market.

 

3.   Play-Doh

 

 

play doh

No, this product wasn’t created for your toddler to make your carpet crusty, even if it buys you a break. Soap manufacturer Cleo McVickers first invented this salty clay-like substance in the 1930s. Originally, McVickers believed he’d discovered the ultimate wallpaper cleaner. He didn’t get rich for this, but 20 years later his son Joseph remarketed the product for kindergarteners. The rest is messy history.

 

4.   Bubble Wrap

 

 

bubble-wrap-wallpaper

In 1957, engineer Al Fielding and Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes thought they had a hit by designing the ultimate wallpaper—plastic sheets with air bubbles. Needless to say, the idea went over like a lead bubble. Fielding and Chavannes attempted to market their invention as a greenhouse insulation, and that approach failed as well. The product found its purpose (and was saved) by an idea from a marketer at Sealed Air, who used in 1959 as the wrapper for IBM’s 1401 computer. Is there anything computer technology can’t do?

The material was quickly dubbed Bubble Wrap. Today it’s a $4 billion a year in sales product. The home decorating industry is eternally grateful.

 

5.   Viagra

 

 

Viagra-heart-health-study

Not everything is about sex in society, and Viagra is a perfect illustration. At first, the med was conceived as a treatment for symptoms of heart disease. However, in Phase I clinical trials researchers discovered that the drug was a failure for its intended purpose. However (again), researchers noticed that male subjects were hardening not in the arteries but other places. Voila! A heavenly product “erected” from a failed drug, and now Viagra rakes in an estimated $1.9 billion dollars a year.

 

6.   Listerine

 

listerine-uses_5

Over a century ago, Listerine was invented as a surgical antiseptic. It didn’t quite catch with the medical community, and later was employed for these purposes:

–  A cure for gonorrhea
–  Treatment for sweaty feet, soft corns, and toe crust
–  An additive for cigarettes
–  Treatment for dandruff

Sometime in the 1920s Listerine found its destiny as a cure for stinky breath. Thus, if you’re ever booted from Shark Tank, know that you can come back many times with the same product and different marketing.

 

7.   Post-It Notes

 

Arthur Fry

Arthur Fry

Talk about the greatest failure becoming the greatest success. In 1968, Spencer Silver was working for 3M trying to create super strong adhesives for the aerospace industry. Instead, Silver created the opposite: an extremely weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive. Interestingly, the substance left little residue and could be reused several times. As with the other products mentioned, marketing and market research attempted to find a use for it to no avail.

Years later, another employee of 3M, Arthur Fry, used the adhesive simply to keep hymnal papers together when he was singing at church. One sticky thing led to another sticky thing, and the Post-It Note came to the market in the 1970s, floundered for a while, and finally became an American staple (or replacer) in the 1980s. And no airplanes had to fall apart either!

 

8.   St. Patrick’s Day

 

C253C146670788C8B09B0B2D378BA557

I know. It’s not a product, but it’s still is a brand. Moreover, St. Patrick’s day reveals that some celebrations are steeped in fiction and lies, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. As we reported, St. Patrick’s Day was originally a day of devotion lacking in parades where the government outlawed liquor consumption in pubs; and that American activism and thirst for equality is what truly inspired the holiday’s modern variation.

Oh, and leprechauns aren’t real either, if you were wondering.

 

9.   Super Glue/Krazy Glue

 

soldats-americains-guerre-vietnam1

Everyone’s favorite repair hack was once utilized as an emergency wound-sealer in combat situations, specifically the Vietnam War. That’s not how it started, though. These glues are composed of a substance called cyanoacrylate. Harry Coover invented cyanoacrylate in 1942 for Kodak Laboratories—in an attempt to create a special extra-clear plastic suitable for gun sights. That intention didn’t work, and neither did other uses such as plastic for airplane canopies. After years of tweaking, cyanoacrylate found a temporary home on the battlefield as makeshift would sealer that prevented soldiers from bleeding to death before being taken to the hospital.

The invention saved many lives, but the Food & Drug Administration never allowed it for the general public. This version of cyanoacrylate made its way to consumers for home repair, although some variations are employed in orthopedic surgery and dental procedures.

 

10. Saccharine

 

Süßstoff_Saccharin_Zucker-Museum

This product was a joint stumbling of both men and women. In the late 19th century—around the time Pemberton was getting high on Coca-Cola—chemist Constantin Fahlberg thought he had almost perfected a coal tar derivative. During that discovery time, when at home after work, he noticed that his wife’s biscuits tasted much sweeter than usual. Fahlberg discovered that the reason for those sweet-ass biscuits had to do with him not washing his hands after work and getting the residue of the coal tar derivative on the food.

Sometimes bad hygiene can lead to vast riches, as well as pink packets on every restaurant table.

 

Conclusion

 

 

As you can see, the line to success is rarely straight, and often seeming mistakes can be transformed into vast opportunities—just as good intentions and aggressive marketing can cause massive damage (as with Lysol). Also, what starts as something base can evolve into sophistication for consumers. The key with these inventors and entrepreneurs is that they kept their eyes and ears open, accepted failure as a bridge to triumph, and simply never gave up…stoned out their minds or not.

 

old advertisement

 

 

6 Lies About St. Patrick’s Day You Foolishly Believe

Group celebrating St. Patrick's Day in leprechaun costumes

 

Perception is reality, but often both perception and reality are not based on fact. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb and eight glasses of water a day are not necessary for good health. The Big Bang Theory is not funny.

This St. Patrick’s Day there will usher merriment, but also a plentitude of wrong facts. We’ll get to these commonly-believed myths quickly and briefly. We know your email or social media feed is being bombarded by an avalanche of St. Patrick articles from Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and that annoying cousin who has to share everything with you.

The truth might not be pretty, but as someone with Irish heritage, it’s never an excuse miss out on the day’s merriment (even if they’re fictional).

 

St. Patrick was Irish

 

 

He was actually born in either Wales or Scotland, in the 4th century, from a wealthy family who for some reason never invested in maps or GPS. In those days, the Romans occupied the British Isles. Therefore, St. Patrick was probably a Roman, although no records exist naming him a citizen of the empire. He wrote in Latin, according to the two surviving documents bearing his name, and signed his name Patricius.

Hey, when it Rome can mean have a green beer!

 

Green is the national color of Ireland

 

 

Traditionally, it’s blue, something like a sky blue. It seems green became culturally adopted in the 20th century mainly because of soccer. It’s a bit more complicated, and wearing blue on St. Patrick’s Day probably won’t save you from being pinched.

It’s Paddy and not Patty. Patty is short for “Patricia.” Paddy is short for the Irish male name deriving from the Latin Patricius, which is Patrick as we just saw. In any event, Paddy in many contexts is considered a racial slur. Only the Irish can use the “P” word freely.

Oh, and please no ordering Irish Car Bombs at bars this year, while we’re on the topic of political correctness.

 

St. Patrick was a Saint

 

 

I’m not saying I’ve got TMZ information on St. Patrick’s weekend adventures, but that he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. His title simply was woven by folklore. On the topic of folklore, legends state St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland, but since the country still boasts politicians the story is likely a fable. In reality, there were never any snakes in Ireland to drive out in the first place.

 

St. Patrick’s Day started in Ireland

 

 

That’s like saying fajitas started in Mexico, even if they’re popular now in that country. The truth is that the holiday—as we know it—began late in the 18th century in Boston and New York when Irish immigrants marched against American racial prejudices against them. The event gradually evolved into the drunk fest we have today, and then made its way to Ireland.

Sure, March 17 has long been a day of devotion in Ireland, with pubs not even allowed to open. Only in the 1970s did the Irish start taking St. Patrick’s Day as a cultural celebration. And man, those pubs stayed open…

 

Most Irish are Catholic

 

 

Okay, they are, but the reality is that most Irish American are Protestant. The main reason, it appears, is that during colonial times Irish immigrants arrived from Protestant regions of Ireland like Ulster. My father, for example, was a proud Irishman who was raised Lutheran (and later became an atheist, probably to fully celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).

 

Keep in mind and other than that…

 

 

Just so you know, Leprechauns were originally lecherous, drunken elves rebranded by American marketing; and that the luck of the Irish makes no sense at all considering history’s ass kicking of the Irish. But it was Tennessee Williams who said, “Luck is believing you’re lucky.” I’ll leave it at that.

It is sensible to assume that St. Patrick was indeed captured by Irish slaves as a child, spent seven years in brutal bondage (forced to listen to prehistoric U2, perhaps?), converted to Christianity, and then returned home only to go back to Ireland to become a bishop.

Between leprechauns and St. Patrick’s history, however, I think you can find the essence of what is an Irishman: life is fiction, history is harsh— so you might as well believe you’re lucky and make your personal history an enjoyable fiction, full of oppression and liberation. Or should I say Irishperson, as I rail against saying Paddy or ordering Irish Car Bombs?

 

Please enjoy our infographic:

St. Patricks Day Infographic qSample

 

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Is Apple Watch Finally Being Accepted By Consumers?

 

Not that long ago our syndicated research pointed to the tepid attitude towards the Apple Watch. Right before the release of the much-touted wearable in spring of 2015, our custom audiences in essence collectively shrugged cold shoulders (41% said they were not interested while 18% were not aware of its arrival). Later on and early that summer, in an article for Quirks, we further demonstrated that the iPhone accessory (which it basically is) wasn’t the next watershed tech moment.

Could qSample have been wrong about the Apple Watch, now that it’s early 2016? Could market forces be changing, once again revealing Apple as a slayer of conventional wisdom and even conventional market research?

There’s a case to be made for saying yes to the above questions, although it’s ultimately hard for a reason: Apple doesn’t release sales figures on the Apple Watch. During the last Holidays—with some fuzzy math and fuzzy analysis—the projected estimates of Apple Watch sales range from 3 million on the low-end to 10 million on the high-end. Nobody really knows the sales of the gadget, except for Tim Cook and his band of merry executives.

However, there are hints the Apple Watch might be finally breaking through, as provided by the insights of popular Linked Influencer, Anurag Harsh, in his post Is Apple Watch Killing the Mainstream Swiss Watch Industry?

Harsh makes an astute case by juxtaposing the rise in popularity of smartwatches with the slow collapse of traditional Swiss watches (based on data by Strategy Analytics). The data reveals that smartwatch shipments dramatically increased to 8.1 million units in the last quarter of 2015 compared to traditional Swiss watches that shipped 7.9 million units (down 5 percent from 2014).

Here is a graph from the article demonstrating the changes:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers

 

We did our own search through Quartz, and found corresponding data:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 2.png

Harsh further offers this graph revealing how Apple’s stocks have risen while other watch companies continue to tumble, all around the release of the Apple Watch:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 3.png.jpg

 

Lastly, Harsh has some harsh words for traditional watchmakers:

There will always be a market, albeit evidently a smaller one, for traditional regular watches for the more discerning customer, but the Swiss companies have criminally underestimated the rise of timepieces of the smart variety, and their original display of arrogance towards them could prove to be deadly. No matter what we believe, the numbers are starting to indicate that very fact.

In the end, we agree with Harsh that traditional watchmakers are making the same mistake as video stores, book publishers and PC makers: resting on their alleged omnipotence and disregarding consumer tech trends.

Regardless, it’s too soon to claim that consumers have fully embraced the Apple Watch. After all and somewhat tellingly, the release of the Apple Watch 2 has already been moved from March to September. It’s doubtfully the reasons are due to technical or distribution setbacks.

What can be inferred from all the mentioned data above, though, is that the watch market has become more competitive and more fragmented. Fitbit and other wearable-makers exploded into the watch market with their own products in the last five years. Even before, companies like Samsung and Microsoft already offered a variety of smartwatches and electronic wristbands.

There are indeed some tectonic shifts in the watch industry, and no one is sure who will remain on the surface or who will be cast down to the underworld of the forgotten with such, once-glorious companies such as MySpace, BlackBerry or Yahoo!

The Apple Watch may not be a tent pole item, but it certainly seems to be enjoying being part of a growing acceptance of wearable tech (and thus qSample stands by its research). Also, one shouldn’t forget that presently Apple inspires the most love out of consumers than any other tech company, according to the brand engagement indexes. All of this will at least grant the smartwatch some time to evolve and survive.

It’s the traditional watchmakers who ironically might have finally run out of time.

 

Top 10 Consumer Research Questions (and a damn fine cup of coffee)

man drinking coffee

 

Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of Guerrilla Marketing, once stated that the greatest billboard in history would simply have these words: “Free coffee, next exit.”

Imagine the traffic. Now, imagine you were one who placed this billboard, along with a rented space right off the exit where the coffee would be served. In this hypothetical space—while playing a mixture of barista and Coyote Ugly—you would be able to ask eager visitors for their feedback on a product you’re developing.

What would you ask, in this supposed scenario perhaps directed by your inner David Lynch? You would have to ask the right, pithy questions. The rapid coming and going for coffee, after all, reflects an age where the average consumer has the attention span of a goldfish.

Here are the chief consumer research questions that will elicit the exact data for your product, even for a crowd demanding their complimentary java:

1. If I created a product about (problem you solve), would you be interested in buying it?

This question is always a good icebreaker, although a notion called response bias warns that people often say what you want to hear. They key is how excited they get. As marketing guru Seth Godin explained: If you mention a product or idea to a friend and then this person, on their own, tells ten other friends about it, then you probably have a winner. If the friend remains silent, go back to the drawing board. No need to terminate friendship, though.

2. What are these problems costing you?

Another way to slay response bias is to make the cost of their problems concrete. When we’re shown in numbers how bad our issues are, we tend to get real honest real quick.

3. How do you hope (product) will make your life better?

People want problems solved, sure, but they also want a better quality of life. This concept may also include a product that elevates their status in society. Furthermore, in our digital age, the Fear of Missing Out phenomena is more powerful than ever.

4. What’s happening in your life that brought you here today?

This question is considered perhaps THE question to ask consumers, but it won’t work for the Twin Peaks market research situation. However, the inquiry is key for online research. Finding the process of why consumers arrived at your site or store is almost as valuable as what they say about your brand.

5. Does (product) remind you of another brand?

If by any small chance you have a unique product, then life is good…at least until its release and then reality bring challenges. However, if a product loudly evokes another brand out there, or maybe one you might have overlooked, then it’s a good launching pad to analyze the competition or rebrand into something more niche.

6. How much are you willing to pay for (product)?

At the initial stages of product development, it’s prudent to get a feel of value and expectation of a brand. You can couch the value in terms of the value of the product solving a problem in a respondent’s life.

7. What would stop you from purchasing (product) right now?

Nothing wrong with finding out early what resistances future customers might have. This also provides essential materials for the sales team you probably have in the hypothetical backroom brewing the coffee.

8. How do you prefer to receive information about (product)?

As with pricing, gaining a good vibe on preferred platforms (i.e. video, audio, internet) may go a long way.

9. Who, what why, when, where and how would you use (product)?

Using a little journalistic acumen can open up vast understanding in potential customers. In addition, most people efficiently respond to the “Five W’s and One H” formula. Become a hypothetical New York Times.

10. Would you recommend (product) to a friend?

Some say this is the greatest question in marketing, in any medium. A respondent’s honesty and altruism shine through when it comes suggesting a product or idea to someone who might ruin their face or status in the community.

(Bonus) Was the coffee good?

It better be, but we mention this question as a reminder of the invaluable tool of small talk whenever possible. One of the tenets of sales is to get a customer in a “yes” mode by asking questions that will result in a positive reaction. In market research, this can sentiment can negate confirmation bias and other cancers to quality data.

We hope the coffee in this hypothetical research project was a damn fine one. Obviously, more questions ought to be asked in consumer research; and many ought to be directed at the brand itself. Self-knowledge is just as significant to product development. Maybe in real life (yet) you cannot afford a billboard and a place with flowing coffee, but asking the right questions is always priceless.

New Studies Make It Official: Sex Doesn’t Sell

Betty White on wrecking ball, showing sex doesn't sell

There is the famous adage that half of any advertising budget is wasted, but no one knows which half. Recent studies seem to have found some of the waste, and that is advertising that uses sexual content.

Yes, sex doesn’t sell after all.

These are the findings of a new a study published by the academic journal Psychological Bulletin.

For those of you who cannot believe this, let me repeat: sex doesn’t sell after all.

 

Why it doesn’t sell

 

The study found that sexual imagery in television diverts viewers’ attention from a brand. In a Bloomberg interview, Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the study, said plainly:

It never helps to have violence and sex in commercials. It either hurts, or has no effect at all.

Just as stunning as how bikini-clad starlets or bare-chested incubi won’t sell your brand, is the reality that there is no “significant difference in how men and women reacted to the different types of advertising.” However, the broader compilation of data showed that sex had a larger effect on males, according to Bushman.

Keeping up with astounding news is the reality that the study’s findings are not even new. A 2007 study from the University College London claimed:  “There was no main effect of advertisement type on brand recall suggesting that the presence of sex in advertising does not assist memory for the advertisement.”

 

How sex became prevalent in advertising

 

How did the maxim of “sex sells” become a mainstay of advertising, marketing and even computer hacking (cough…Ashley Madison)? It seems intuitive that one of humanity’s primal urges get placed at the center of any selling effort. However, sexual imagery was basically nonexistent a century ago, with a few exceptions like the Pearl Tobacco brand and the W. Duke & Sons trading cards, both which featured sexually provocative divas.

So exactly what happened to society?

pearltobacco

We can probably blame one person in history: Ernest Dichter

Dichter is considered one of the fathers of the market research and the focus group. Thriving in the early to mid-20th century, he was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud. That meant Dichter viewed individuals as oceans of unconscious, primordial desires that surfaced with the right stimuli. Sex was one of them.

As I wrote in Freud and the Intriguing History of the Focus Group:

It is said that sex sells, but to a Freudian like Dichter the truth is that sex buys. Our sexual urges and identities are with us every moment, even when purchasing mundane items, Dichter thought. He always advocated, not always successfully, that his clients heavily employ phallic symbols, curvatures in design and pleasured-looking models—all coyly hidden in a conservative era.

Dichter’s ideas were extremely successful, making brands like Betty Crocker and Ivory Soap iconic to consumers (with plenty of subliminal messaging). He was the main influence on why Barbie looks like…well…Barbie.

Ernest Dichter (August 14, 1907 - November 21, 1991)

Ernest Dichter (August 14, 1907 – November 21, 1991)

Some experts have even said that Don Draper’s edgy thinking on Mad Men draws directly from Dichter’s philosophy.

What happened next is obvious. The hidden symbols and imagery of Dichter began to move to the vanguard of a competitive advertising industry. At the same time, society became more open and the sexual revolution liberated everyone but Pat Boone. The porn industry became the living archetype of successful capitalism. Eventually, sex was used to sell everything from food to automobiles, and it seems no one cared to ask if sexuality actually promoted a product.

sex

 

How do you sell beer or lingerie then?

 

Obviously, sex isn’t going to go away. Yet understanding its power (or lack thereof) could go a long way to making sure that advertising budgets don’t get (as) wasted. As an advertising execute put sexually into context:

If you are advertising a male deodorant like Axe (Lynx in the UK) or lingerie like Victoria’s Secret, you’d be a fool to overlook such a strong selling mechanism. But if you’re trying to sell a lawn mower or a new sofa with nudity and sex, you’re doing your product a serious disservice. Yes, you’ll get attention. But it’s the wrong kind of attention, and won’t lead to a bigger and better brand. Sex, used sparingly and judicially, is a strong selling tool. But abuse it, and you will ultimately lose out.

Unless you’re Miley Cyrus…

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