In the hard sciences, research is reasonably reliable because it measures things. In the soft (social) sciences, research is often not about measuring things, but about asking questions. In other words, rather than watching to see if you’re cheating on your wife, they ask you if you are. Then they treat your answer as a fact rather than just the bullshit it is.
Here’s an example: A recent article in Ad Age on loyalty programs, reported that… …The number spikes to 37% when it comes to millennials surveyed for the study, who said they would not be loyal to a brand that doesn’t have a strong loyalty program…According to the study, 68% change when and where they make purchases to get loyalty rewards, and 60% will switch brands if incentivized. They use numbers and percents to pretend they have facts. There isn’t a fact in sight. All they have is what people say they do. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]There is no more unreliable way to ascertain what people actually do than to ask them.[/inlinetweet]
The “research” was done by Accenture, the consulting company. Listen to this frenzied nonsense from the report: “…the number of consumers who watch broadcast or cable television in a typical week plunged to 48% in 2011 from 71% in 2009. Those are absolutely stunning results, which is (sic) accurate suggest that consumer behavior on television watching is changing faster than anyone had expected. Accenture’s explanation for the trend is that the TV is losing ground to other devices – mobile phones, laptops and tablets…” All this hysteria was based on asking people questions, not measuring their behavior. Fortunately, someone was actually measuring this behavior during this same period, so we can see how wrong the self-reported baloney was. According to Nielsen’s Cross-Platform report (Q3, 2013) TV viewing during the period of Accenture’s “collapse” didn’t change at all.
According to Nielsen’s Cross-Platform report (Q3, 2013) TV viewing during the period of Accenture’s “collapse” didn’t change at all. The only thing that changed were the answers that people gave to Accenture’s annoying survey takers.
Accenture’s “absolutely stunning results” were stunning all right. Stunningly wrong.
Hoffman, Bob. Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey (p. 156). Type A Group, LLC.
Now I’m the first to suggest that research is essential to learn about consumers and consumer behavior, but unless you get out of the office and actually watch consumers shop qualitative research alone is not enough. People may say they are going to do something, but there is a long line between actually doing what they say. Now if you will excuse me, I have to clean the garage.