Why Your Research May Be Deceiving You

woman developing new research strategy

The eyes don’t lie. Neither do the feet. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what your market wants, look at actions – not words.

Madison Avenue employed an attitudinal research strategy for many years trying to better understand the thoughts and feelings of those using its brands. Marketers, armed by prevailing opinions within the mental health field, considered attitude a strong predictor of future behaviors and invested accordingly.

Today, a more enlightened – and, frankly, pragmatic model – has emerged. Watch the behavior and then build your research strategy and tactics around understanding the triggers behind those actions. The process should be more deductive than inductive.

Why the shift? Researchers conducting both attitudinal and behavioral research across a longer continuum have found striking differences in what survey respondents say they like or prefer – versus what they actually do.

When you think about it, the finding makes perfect sense. Who amongst us hasn’t deviated from paths we intended to take? Think back to some of your past relationships. I rest my case.

You’re not bad. You’re human – and, as marketers engaged in the battle of winning hearts and minds – we’re developing a better understanding of what that means.

That’s good.

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.