Views from the Hills of Kentucky

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The following series of pithy essays reflect 40 years of market research experience at Procter & Gamble and the perspective of a pioneer of in-store research. Bob Stevens was a semi-retired consultant dedicated to improving the practice of market research. His academic studies were in business and industrial statistics. Point-of-Purchase Study Group Archive.

Words of Wisdom - March 9, 2007

    [Market research is, in some ways, the Rodney Dangerfield of professions.  "We don’t get no respect."]

Significance and Importance - February 28, 2007

    [Never, ever confuse significance with importance.]

Home Use Testing - February 12, 2007

    [True validation should be conducted in the presence of typical in-use variations.]

Does Technology Make Managers Lazy? - February 5, 2007

    [Before you can manage customer relationships, you have to have relationships with your customers.]

Going Through the Motions - January 26, 2007

    [. . . the cost of the wasted time and effort spent on programs where there is not a dedicated interest in the end result.]

The Mask Comes Off - January 12, 2007

    [. . . bias from awareness of the company conducting the research: I would definitely ignore the bias potential in Exploratory Research.]

Finding New Ideas Is Easy - January 5, 2007

    [The difficulty is selecting the ideas you are going to move forward, before committing major capital investments.]

Ministering to the Flock - December 14, 2006

    [You can find some really great ideas by transporting practices from one area to another.]

If It Works for Them, Why Not Us? - December 7, 2006

    [If life is worth living, it should be worth preparing for and planning. The starting point . . . is a Mission Statement.]

I Do Not Have The Time - November 20, 2006

    [Are you Lonely?  Working on your own?  Hate making decisions?  Hold a meeting! . . . the practical alternative to work.]

Truth is a Function of Where You are Standing - November 16, 2006

    [Three people walking up a hill, . . . describe a specific tree at the top, . . . with three accurate but different descriptions.]

Doctors' Orders: Let Kids Play - November 9, 2006

    [Become an "Adult Child."  Strike an effective balance between imagination and judgment.]

Tunnel Vision in Market Research - October 26, 2006

    [Understand the job the consumer wants to get done . . . that is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer.]

What is in Your Tool Box - October 19, 2006

    [Does your tool box contain a tool for each task?  Or are you one of those people that will use a screwdriver as a wood chisel? ]

It's Just My Opinion - October 13, 2006

    [When market researchers are asked what they need, in order to uncover more market opportunities, the response is almost always more money.]

Beta Testing - Is it a lost art? - October 6, 2006

    [Try to call a company where you do business, only to get a series of instructions to push numbers, depending on the objective of your call . . . ]

Who was that Masked Man - September 22, 2006

    [Who are those people behind the masks?  The people who participate in Internet Research.]

Product and Brand Testing - September 14, 2006

    ["Coke, it apppears, strongly links to our sense of self.  Not Coke taste, but Coke the very idea: Coke the brand."]

Shopper Insights - September 8, 2006

    [How and where can this information best be obtained? . . . at the point and time of the purchase decision.]

Working Under the Radar - August 24, 2006

    [L ooking under the radar at the details of research, you find the old maxim of "the devil is in the details."]

What Do You Expect Them to Say? - August 10, 2006
    [Problems with Internet communication have a bearing on using this option for research.]

It Could Be Your Study - August 3, 2006
    [A reader of the Views writes a first-hand account of dealings with market research at the mall.]

Asking the Right People at the Right Time in the Right Place - July 27 , 2006
    [The choice of testing protocols plays an important role in test results.]

Let's Pretend is for Fairy Tales - July 20, 2006
    [How adequate are simulations and predictions compared to results obtained in the real world?]

Key Points -- Revisited - July13 , 2006
    [Additional points:  Ruler vs. Pie Markets and Customers vs. Consumers]

Consumer Research & Beyond - June 29, 2006

    [We set up a consumer research group specifically for R&D - "The extension of the laboratory into the home."]

Do you follow your own advice? - June 22 , 2006
    [Product failure in the marketplace makes you wonder if we are doing our homework.]

Key Points - June 15 , 2006
    [What do you need to know if you're entering the field of market research today?]

Marriage encounter & toilet paper - June 6 , 2006
    [Clarifying the basis of brand selection where purchase decisions are shared.]

Extension of the Laboratory into the home - May 25 , 2006
    [Describes some unique product tests.]

How you approach the problem does make a difference - May 18 , 2006
    [Sometimes it isn't as easy as management thinks to answer a simple question.]

Preference & Beyond - May 11 , 2006
    [Discusses how each variable affects the performance of your brand.]

Political Correctness - May 4 , 2006
    [Ignoring the real problem because to address it may make us feel uncomfortable]

Investigation goes well beyond just asking and observing - April 20 , 2006
    [To what degree are you willing to immerse yourself in your research?]

Conducting the Paired Comparison Blind Test - April 12 , 2006
    [Do you introduce attributes before or after the preference is stated?.]

Clerks & Researchers - Revisited - April 6 , 2006
    [Explores responsibilities to clients, our company, employees and ourselves.]

Walking the Farm & Market Research - March 30, 2006
    [How do you separate the purpose of the product from its attributes?]

Psychological Test Biases - March 15, 2006
    [Reviewing the differences between testing products in a simulated environment vs. in real life.]

Creativity is Free, You only have to listen - March 2 , 2006
    [Creativity is something we are born with . . .society imposes conformity on the way we think about things.]

Playing the "What If" Game - February 23, 2006
    [Uncovering performance problems and creating lab validation data.]

Performance vs. Perception Research - February 16, 2006
    [. . . how the user sees the performance, real or imagined . . . vs. . . . determining what actually takes place. ]
Where is the Consumer Heading? - February 2, 2006
    [If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you must know more about where the consumer is going . . . ]

The Toughest Interview - January 25, 2006
    ["Life is like an elevator. It has a lot of ups and downs and someone is always pushing your buttons..."]
Why the Success? - January 18, 2006
    [Planning is everything.]
Limitations in Paired Comparison Testing - January 9, 2006
    [Whenever the pair test design is utilized, be sure to check for order effects.]
Frustration with Management - A Cautionary Tale - January 2, 2006
    [The lack of concern about the relationship between the product and the promise is a sure formula for failure.]
Playing Golf and Living Life - December 28, 2005
    [To excel in golf, practice. To excel in life, plan.]
Putting Things into Perspective - December 18, 2005
    [Conventional product testing techniques have been known to over dramatize a product change...]
Transference - December 6, 2005
    [The processes that make a business highly successful also work with personal improvement.]
Products Research - November 21, 2005
    [Products Research must ferret out the consumer needs and assure that technically the solution is possible. ]
Be a Winner-Argue with Yourself - November 10, 2005
    [It is best to start early arguing with yourself before you end up arguing with your boss or your client. ]
New Readers - November 3, 2005
    [For new readers - Views consists of over 400 articles dating back to 1994. Have a look!]
Baseball and Marketing - October 25, 2005
    [The criteria for success in baseball are a lot different than that in market research.]
How frequently can I use my panelists? - October 12, 2005
    [.why would anyone risk the re-utilization of participants that are to represent the typical consumer?]
The Hidden Customer - October 3, 2005
    [Some people fight change at every point. How do you convert them to your product?]
Where would you start? - September 20, 2005
    [Multiple learning paths: company, consumer, and competition.]
Words of Wisdom/Reflections on Effects - September 12, 2005
    [The conditions under which a product is evaluated can and does affect the results.]
Which do you prefer, high acceptability scores or high sales? - September 6, 2005
    ["A product without a need will not be a product very long."]
Personal Success through Analogies - August 24, 2005
    [You have the option of planning your future or letting someone else plan it for you.]
PathTracker - Revisited - August 15, 2005
    [14 distinct grocery store consumer travel paths]
Internet Research and the Street Light - August 2, 2005
    [Internet research is fast, easy, and cheap. Is it the right choice?]
Vying for the Shopper's Time - July 26, 2005
    [There is a "sea-change" taking place in the world of supermarketing.]
Conference of Champions - July 13, 2005
    [Getting up close and personal with the consumer]
Market Research: Clerks & Researchers - July 6, 2005
    [Collecting data and understanding the variables are more important than the numbers.]
The View from Behind Your Desk - June 27, 2005
    [It is time to get out from behind your desk...]
Product Concepts have a variety of valuable uses - June 20, 2005
    [Don't sell your concept short, it is the life blood of your brand.]
Change - First Understand, then Plan - June 8, 2005
    ["Stop, Look and Listen" before changing your brand.]
Milk, Orange Juice and Consumer Panels - May 26, 2005
    [Any decision making group -- consumer panels, committees, etc. tend to have expiration dates just like foods.]
Average or Top Boxes? - May 17, 2005
    [One of the many controversies surrounding data analysis is how we view product or concept ratings.]
Surrogates - May 4, 2005
    ["You are only as good as the person you hire to represent you."]
Learning Creative Thinking - April 25, 2005
    [To foster creativity in yourself and others, be willing to tolerate a little oddness.]
Consumer research should not end with market introduction. - April 15, 2005
    [After market introduction, consumer research can have a major impact on your company's bottom line.]
Are You an Effective CEO? - April 6, 2005
    [Perspective: For every person climbing the ladder of success, there are dozens waiting for the elevator.]
It is NOT a Static World - March 23, 2005
    [Newton's Laws are directed to the motion of the universe, they apply to business as well as life in general.]
Two Firms Concede Errors in Exit Polls - March 15, 2005
    [Additional information needs to be obtained beyond what the respondents had to say.]
More on wearing those bifocals of business - March 6, 2005
    ["Companies need to establish and maintain a healthy balance between continuity and innovation."
What is the Mindset - February 25, 2005
    [Shopper, tester or user: under each of these three conditions, the respondent will see the same thing differently.]
United in the same mind and in the same purpose - February 11, 2005
    [Normally there should always be divisions -- it's not a bad thing.  Not necessarily in the objective, but in the ways of achieving the objective.]
Product Concepts and Mission Statements - February 3, 2005
    [Product concept and corporate mission statement - both are communication tools as well as outlining the corporation positioning.]
Changing the Environment - January 26, 2005
    [People got too comfortable in meetings and they were going on too long.  so they removed the chairs.]
Advice from the World's Greatest Salesman - January 11, 2005
    [Do it with your customers and everyone else, instead of doing it to them.]
The Flip Side of Product Improvement - January 4, 2005
    [For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction . . . is not only true in physics but also in business.]
A cup is a cup -- or is it really a cup? - December 20, 2004
    [My first impulse upon discovering something new is to go back and find out where I made a mistake. In other words, confirm my finding.]
Intent to Purchase Rating - December 9, 2004
    [Rating scale results depend more on the protocol than the differences between concepts.]
Corporate Management Should Wear Bifocals . . . - November 28, 2004
    [. . . through the lower part of the glasses focusing on the market today. . . out of the top half looking further down the road of time.]
Did they read what you really meant to say? - November 14, 2004
    [Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "Woman without her man is useless."]
The World's Greatest Salesman - November 5, 2004
    [Sam Walton called Lou Pritchett the "World's Greatest Salesman."]
Another Perspective on Outsourcing - October 25, 2004
    [Organizations that oursource their support are outsourcing their customer relationships and oursourcing their brands.]
The Psychology of Persuasion - October 18, 2004
    [What factors cause someone to say "yes" under one set of circumstances and "no" under a different set of conditions?]
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty - October 8, 2004
nbsp;   [A person who knowsb "how" will always have a job, but the person who knows "why" will be the boss.]
Competing Brands Within the Same Company - September 21, 2004
    [Rules of engagement for competing brands within the same parent company.]
A Book Well Worth Reading - September 15, 2004
nbsp;   [For anyone interested in what has made P&G one of the most successful companies of our time . . .]
Knowing When to Shift Gears - September 7, 2004
    [Market research and racing in the Indianapolis 500 are similar in many respects.]
Quality Control, When and Where? - August 27, 2004
    [Quality control samples should include those collected at the time of production, at the point of purchase and samples obtained from the home.]
Should We Be Challenging Some of Our Old Habits? - August 17, 2004
    ["The problems we face today cannot be solved on the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - Einstein]
It's the Personal Side (or is it?) - August 4, 2004
    [69% of customers defected because they didn't like the human side of doing business with the previous provider.]
Where Do I Look for New Opportunities - July 26, 2004
    [The "Where to Look" is far more complex than the "How to Look."]
More on Observational Research - July 15, 2004
    [I consider the point of purchase and point of use observation to be most important in the discovery phase.]
It's a Balancing Act - July 5, 2004
    [Seldom do we start with a clean slate in our brand development.]
Are We Actively Looking for New Product Opportunities? - Jun 25, 2004
    [Very few companies have an active, systematic program of opportunity exploration.]
What I Learned at Work - June 17, 2004
    [I learned that if I wanted to succeed in business, I needed to be concerned with the following:]
Homework Isn't All That Bad - June 13, 2004
    [Homework refers to assignments given to respondents to be completed outside of the qualitative sessions.]
But We Have Always Done It This Way - May 24, 2004
    [He would continue using a protocol that introduced bias . . . rather than admitting the research could be improved.]
New & Different - May 12, 2004
    [How often do we ask the respondent to evaluate a multiple attribute phrase?]
Walking Around the Mountain - May 4, 2004
    [Success comes when we are willing to look at all sides and remove barriers to full cooperation.]
A Joke or Seriousness in a Light Vein? - April 13, 2004
    [Some questions to ask yourself when your company is considering outsourcing.]
A Representative Sample - April 5, 2004
    [How often do we discuss with our clients the strengths and weaknesses of the study design?]
Where did they ever learn to do research that way? - March 23, 2004
    [Discussion of some test designs that get mis-used.  Also good reference books/academic courses.]
Is it the Wrong Comparison? - March 4, 2004
    [Discusses assessing your brand in relation to competition with and without changes.]
Looking in All the Wrong Places - February 23, 2004
    [Carefully reviewing the results showed that the research had been too fast, easy and cheap.]
Pair Tests Revisited - February 11, 2004
    [Pair tests are about choices and can create an artificial environment. To evaluate a brand, conduct a single product test.]
The Dens of Truth - February 2, 2004
    [What other methods provide first hand insights into consumer problems, feelings and habits?]
Consider All Possibilities - January 26, 2004
    [Methods that save time and money for concept development and assessment.]
Communication -- It's Not Just the Words - January 12, 2004
    [Importance of independent confirmation of communication and reporting in research.]
What Kind of Image Does Your Company Project - January 4, 2004
    [Emotions are a strong driving force.  How does your company invest in emotional support?]
Political Correctness - December 19, 2003
    [Some lessons on improving our products from the ideas of Colin Powell.]
A Little Twist to Customer Satisfaction Research - December 8, 2003
    [Discusses all the varried applications of using research to enhance relationships.]
A View on Diversity of Opinions - November 25, 2003
    [Can you afford the risk of not having a broad approach to problem solving?]
Concept Limitations - November 11, 2003
    [Is there any danger that long descriptions might result in miscommunication?]
Context - It Is Relevant - November 3, 2003
    [Product placement and environment affecting purchase choice and motivation.]
In the Beginning - October 27, 2003
    [Reflections on the early origins of market research as we know it today.]
Two Moments of Truth - October 16, 2003
    [How does your brand fare under the conditions where comparisons are made?]
Searching for New Opportunities - Packaging - October 6, 2003
    [We should concentrate on learning what consumers want and address this need.]
Giving our Brands the Same Respect we ask Others to Give Us - September 24, 2003
    [Finding real value -- what have you done for your brand lately?]
Corporate Security, Espionage & Intelligence - September 2, 2003
    [In the 1990s the biggest security risks were with subcontracters.  What about outsourcing today?]
Confirm, Confirm and Reconfirm - August 20, 2003
    [Thoroughly understanding our products -- it's about learning, confirming and most of all, patience.]
It's the Economy, Stupid - August 5, 2003
    [How can you achieve the research required for a minimum product launch today?]
Time is Critical - July 28, 2003
    [A discussion of how you measure the effectiveness of product communication in a timely manner.]
It Touched a Nerve - July 15, 2003
    [Response to 6/22/03 Views from someone who also had trouble answering questions in internet panelist.]
Where Do you Place Your Confidence? - July 7, 2003
    [Does your research supplier know when to use testers and when to use shoppers?]
Whose Answers Are They? - June 22, 2003
    [When you ask too many questions, you may get data but is that really good research information?]
Mission Statements vs. Priorities - June 11, 2003
    [The ideal or the practical -- article describes tension or gap between truth and actions.]
Today vs. Yesterday and on to Tomorrow - June 4, 2003
    [Discusses changes over time of an operational model present in very effective companies.]
Concept Testing & Testing Concepts - May 21, 2003
    [Are you sure your Concept as it is written, adequately conveys the intended vision of the idea?]
Simply Asking the Question can Create Attitudes and Opinions - May 9, 2003
    [Highlights from a very stimulating and challenging article about observing consumers.]
DIY Surveys - May 1, 2003
    [When would you expect do-it-yourself research to occur and is that timing appropriate?]
Searching for New Opportunities - Inexpensively - April 24, 2003
    [Explores some ways to improve an existing brand or find a new line extension.]
You Can Lead Them to Water, but . . . . - April 16, 2003
    [Will acceptance of what you say be greater if you give people a model to visualize on their own?]
The Liar Factor - April 9, 2003
    [When concerned with validity, in-store consumer studies are the ones to use.]
Goals and Roles of Success - March 27, 2003
    [Discusses how people are viewed as who they are as well as what role they play.]
Packaging Goes Beyond the Container that Holds Your Product - March 19, 2003
    [All package elements can be used to improve the company image & all can also be a deterrent.]
Mixed Feedback - March 7, 2003
    [Researchers say that they either have too little time or feel reluctant to get involved.
 Why is this?]
Brand Failures - February 24, 2003
    [Comments on new trend of some managers who just "throw it together and put it on the market."
When would you use the In-Home Group Discussion technique? - February 13, 2003
    [An excellent and inexpensive way to talk with consumers in an unstructured environment.]
Attractions in Dead Zones - February 5, 2003
    [Assessment in Context is all about reliability and validity in research.]
Relative to What? - January 30, 2003
    [Using benchmarks in measuring potential market share.]
Was it Really a New Concept? - January 14, 2003
    [Historical look at "Assessment in Context" shows in-store studies not so new after all.]
Blind Test, Concept & Use, or Brand Identified? - January 3, 2003
    [Users must know a product's reason for being to assess how the product lives up to its promise.]
The Sin of Gluttony - December 18, 2002
    [Do our questionnaires have to cover everything every time we do a survey?]
Test Markets - December 5, 2002
    [Will people in the real world with real needs purchase your new products?]
Revitalizing the Market Reserach Organization - November 14, 2002
    [Do you have the resources in your tool box to conduct the most important research?]

Downsizing, Liquidating & Outsourcing . . . - November 5, 2002
    [Could a major company be operated by 5 or 6 people sitting in a small downtown office?]
Business Tools -- For Every Day Use - October 24, 2002
    [How broadly do you apply your Mission Statements, Business Plans, Operational Procedures?]
What is Wrong with Corporate Market Research Organizations? - October 16, 2002
    [Corporate Management expects a lot from Market Research but is unwilling to invest in it.]
Presentation is Incredibly Important - October 7, 2002
    [We are concerned about appearance in all areas so why do we negligent appearance of brands?]
Taken to Task - September 23, 2002
    [Don't forget basic research to understand influential factors involved in decision making.]
The Personal Perspective  -  September 12, 2002
    [Discussing first hand assessment by those who can have an impact on the product design.]
How many New Opportunities Are There? - August 20, 2002
    [A reminder of how things change in a relatively short period of time.]
Eye Share  - August 6, 2002
    [New technology reveals that where your product is placed along the store aisle determines sales.]
Uncovering New Opportunities (with a Limited Budget) - July 25, 2002
    [Five economical techniques designed for the personal involvement of the researcher are discussed.]
Fast Track  -  July 10, 2002
    [Weigh the results -- how much time does it take to cultivate a new product so that it can succeed?]
Creativity and Simplicity- July 1, 2002
    [Tips on brainstorming, creative problem solving and some books that are very useful.]
Advertising -- It's All About Purchase Motivation - June 19, 2002
    [Basically, the consumer needs a product/service and must be able to find that product or service.]
A Competitive Edge Through Creative Research - June 10, 2002
    [Some lesser known methods that can give added consumer perspective are listed.]
Customer Satisfaction - Winning and Retaining Your Customers - June 3, 2002
    [Examples of good and bad service.  Advice:  treat your customers as if they were your neighbors.]
Creativity or Simplicity? - May 21, 2002
    [Creative approaches to organization and consumer research are recalled.]
Is Research Really Necessary?  - May 6, 2002
    [Are there areas that you do not think require research in the development of a brand?]
It Has Been a Long Time and a Lot of Papers - April 25, 2002
    [If you have a topic you would like addressed, let Bob know.]
Benchmarking -- What and for What Purpose? - April 11, 2002
    [To gain some perspective, four types of comparisons are used for setting up benchmarks.]
Are We Really Blind to the Obvious???? - March 18, 2002
    [Comparison of the results of in-aisle placement to end aisle displays for the same product.]
Testers and Users Revisited - March 11, 2002
    [How many really good ideas are killed because they are being scrutinized too closely?]
Common Sense - Confirmation Follow-up - February 27, 2002
    [A little more confirmation research could eliminate distractions in not-so-perfect commercials.]
Adding to the Confusion  - February 19, 2002
    [An exercise comparing the frequency of category exposure with the time in making a purchase.]

Am I not Seeing Things Correctly . . . ? - February 11, 2002
    [What has happened to all those steps in total quality that are required before implementation?]
A Little Common Sense Goes a Long Way - January 25, 2002
    [Confirm that you have done what you intended and that you communicate with the respondent.]
Educating an Old Warrior - January15, 2002
    [A new way to find out how many shoppers go down the store aisle where your brand is displayed.]

Learning from the Animals - January 7, 2002
    [Drawing parallels from geese, this essay shows how rewarding team participation can be.]

For previous essays click here for the Views from the Hills of Kentucky Archives

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