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Market research – A sometimes not so tasty medicine

Market research, be it quantitative or qualitative, can sometimes render contradictory and quite upsetting results for some stakeholders in the organization – marketing department, another department, top management and even for the organization as a whole.


Let’s imagine a company which is designing a new product.


Company X is commissioning a survey to test the concept, to see what’s the product market potential, by measuring consumers appetite for this new product based on a short description of what the product is supposed to do for them.


Consumers’ reaction is overwhelmingly positive, so the product is green-lighted for development.

We can imagine a couple of scenarios in which things don’t go as expected:

  1. The product is rushed to capture as much market share as possible, but the sales are disappointingly low.

  2. Just before launch, company X commissions an actual product test, in which the consumers are thrashing the actual product of which idea they seem to like not so long ago.



Each of these scenarios can develop in various ways:

  • 1A. The product is rushed to capture as much market share as possible, but the sales are disappointingly low. – And that’s all; Let The Blame Game begin!


  • 1B. The product is rushed to capture as much market share as possible, but the sales are disappointingly. A post launch survey identifies a lot of issues with the actual product. – Now is really the time to Let the Blame Game begin!


  • 2A. Before launch, company X commissions a new survey, an actual product test in which the consumers are quite dismissive of the product the idea of which they seemed to like not so long ago. – Hang on, the customers don’t yet understand the product since is so new; once they’ll get used to it, they’ll love it. Let’s ignore the second survey and launch the product as soon as possible. –> Becomes a Type 1 scenario


  • 2B. Before launch, company X commissions a new survey, an actual product test in which the consumers are quite dismissive of the product the idea of which they seemed to like not so long ago. – How could this be...? The idea is great! Let The Blame Game begin!


There are a couple more ways in which the 2 scenarios can develop:

  • 1C. The product is rushed to capture as much market share as possible, but the sales are disappointingly. A post launch survey identifies a lot of issues with the actual product. – OK, let’s take a deep breath and take a close look at what we, as an organization, did wrong in implementing a good idea. Let’s right all these flaws before going again to our customers.


  • 2C. Before launch, company X commissions a new survey, an actual product test in which the consumers are quite dismissive of the product the idea of which they seemed to like not so long ago. – OK, let’s take a deep breath and take a close look at what we, as an organization, did wrong in implementing a good idea. Let’s do it right before going to our customers, even if it means a longer time to market.


Of course, things are more nuanced in the real world:

  • Scenario 2C seems the best (especially in hindsight), but scenario 1C could lead to a good outcome too, in the end.

  • In most cases, even in scenarios 1C and 2C there will be a bit of Blame Game before starting fixing things.

  • In all these scenarios, The Blame Game can also easily engulf the researchers – “one or all surveys must be flawed -> we acted upon wrong data, thus is not our fault, is…” You catch my drift.

  • Eventually, probably most organizations will move past scenarios 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B to type 1C or 2C scenarios. The crucial question is how much time and resources will be spent in the Blame Game before moving to action.


In the end, organizations more willing to swallow the bitter pills (including from research), are the ones with the highest success chances in the long run.


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