Consumer Insight: Special Report

The feature on this page could make people who work in market research growl a little. This is because the observations made are precisely that, observations. And observations made by journalists, of all people.

They are not, as any researcher will tell you, based on a scientific methodology of any use to marketers or agency planning departments. It isn't real research, they'll grumble.

Of course, others would disagree. Dan Halliday, who commissioned the "research", argues that most of the 1,000-page reports churned out to satisfy the marketing community's thirst for "proof" are, by their nature, dishonest. The questions put in surveys and the ways they are interpreted are inherently biased, he believes: they tell clients what they want to hear.

A glance at Halliday's agency's client list suggests marketers haven't forgotten the value of instinct in their quest to understand consumers.

Motorola, BMW, Nike, Johnnie Walker and, recently, Coca-Cola have entered the fold at TheFishCanSing.

It is impossible to prove who's right (or wrong). Consumers are increasingly difficult to define, so who's to say a number-crunching goliath will be anymore insightful than a lone observer with a good eye for spotting trends?

The days of lumping people into demographic groups are gone and consumer insight comes from learning about how people feel, not how much they earn or where they live. And yet, for all the millions spent on new research methods, many ads we see every day do not show much insight at all. Whether it is targeting men (page 30), women (page 29) or the UK's ethnic populations (page 33), advertisers are too often getting it wrong.

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