A Tale of Three Researchers What’s the difference between a good researcher and a great one? By Paul Smith 61 Marketing research winter 2012 s a director of consumer research at Procter & Gamble, and a 19-year veteran of the company, I’m often asked what makes the difference between a good consumer researcher and a great one. Usually the question comes from young researchers who want to progress rapidly in the company. Sometimes it comes from a manager who wants to provide good coaching. Either way, my answer is the same. And it has very little to do with their skills as researchers.
After trying for years to explain my point of view, I concluded the most effective way to answer this question was through the following story. Once there was a market research manager who had three bright, young researchers working for her, but was only able to promote one of them. To determine who it would be, she gave each of them this challenge: “The one who best helps the next brand manager who comes through our door will win the promotion. ” Soon an eager brand manager came to the research department with this request: “I have several new ideas for my brand and need you o place a concept test to pick the best one. The research manager explained the competition and asked that the brand manager meet with each of her researchers separately. At the end of the week, the research manager called all three researchers in to present their recommended plans. And Theyre Off concept test. Her survey design included a separate test leg for each of the brand manager’s new ideas, plus one for the current concept to compare against. The test called for Just the right number of respondents in each leg to be statistically reliable. The age, education, income and ethnicity of the Marketing power . o m 17 respondents were perfectly representative of the countrys E xe c u t i v eS u m m ar population. And she had included every conceivable An average researcher can design, execute and analyze question in the survey to help pick the winning concept. any test that is requested. A better researcher would “Well done,” said the research manger. first make sure it’s the right test to answer the business When the second researcher stepped up to make her question asked. The best researcher, however, will make presentation, she proposed an entirely different test.
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But sure the right business question is being asked in the the brand manager asked for a concept test. Why have you first place. designed something different? ” asked the boss. She responded, “Well, when I looked at the new concepts, I realized they were all very similar. In fact, advertising budget that was already approved. So I checked I don’t believe them to be testably different. They all our media schedules and found out we’re now advertising describe the same product benefit as the brand currently well beyond the saturation point for our category.
In fact, ffers, with only minor differences in the words used to about 10% of our ad budget is completely wasted. If we cut explain how it works. I know he asked for a concept test, that wasted ad spending, we’d have Just enough to reduce but I didn’t think that would answer the question he came our price back to competitive levels. And that’s exactly in with: Which one is the best concept? Asking different what I recommend we do. ” each of his new concepts. My test The third researcher got the promotion. ill show all the concepts to the same group of people and sk them to pick the one with the most convincing wording. The Lesson It should be easier to find a winner, and much cheaper to The lesson, of course, is to emphasize the value of asking the execute. ” right question. Researchers are sometimes treated like “test “Excellent,” said the research manager. Then she asked waiters. ” Business partners come in and attempt to order up the third researcher to present his research plan. a specific type of consumer test. “I’ll take two product tests “Actually, I don’t have one,” he said, sheepishly. nd a brand equity study to go, please. ” Even an average What? YouVe had an entire week. I thought you researcher can design, execute and analyze the test that was wanted this promotion as much as the others. ” requested. A better researcher would first make sure it’s the “Oh, I do,” replied the third researcher. “l Just don’t right test to answer the business question asked. believe this brand needs any more research. ” The best researcher, however, will make sure the right “I’m listening,” the very curious boss responded. business question is being asked in the first place.
Telling a “Well, I understand the brand manager wanted to know oung researcher to make sure the right question is being which of his new concepts was the best. But after talking asked isn’t good enough. A story like this??”real or imagito him about his business, and looking at the research we nary??”makes the point far better. Share it the next time already have on that brand, I realized that wasn’t the right you’re asked what the difference is between a good researchquestion to ask in the first place. The current concept scored er and a great one, and you’ll have more great researchers very high when it was first tested last year.
And the televiworking for your company. Sion commercials developed to advertise that concept are In addition to a lesson about mardoing very well in market. Awareness keting research, this story attempts to is at an all-time high, and consumers illustrate one more idea critical to any are playing back exactly the concept leader: Often the best way to make a we hoped they would. The problem compelling point in the workplace is with the brand isn’t the concept. The Need More Marketing Power? problem is price. Our value ratings have go to marketingpower. com story.
If you want to be a great leader, een dropping all year because our regardless of your functional discipline, competitors have been running more AMA Article develop your skills as a storyteller. MR coupons and sale prices in the Sunday Insights 2013: Converging Worlds Lead to paper. Rise of Connected Consumer, Marketing “So the right question to ask would Researchers, 2012 have been, What price do we need to Paul Smith is the director of consumer AMA Webcasts research for Cincinnati-based Procter & have to be competitive? But we already Should You Replace Focus Groups with Gamble.
This article is adapted with permission now the answer to that question Social Media Research? , sponsored by from his book Lead with a Story: A Guide to because we conducted a pricing study Fountainhead Brand Consulting, 2012 Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, 18 months ago. We know exactly how Convince, and Inspire (AMACOM, 2012). much we need to reduce our price. Getting the Most out of Google Analytics, sponsored by Tableau Software, 2012 All rights reserved. He may be reached at We’ve never done it because we couldn’t [email protected] com. do that and afford the increase to our 81