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Tame research

If you want to find out what makes wild animals tick – its better to watch and understand wild animals in their habitat. This is an obvious point but the market research industry has for years used tame animals as a proxy – recruiting quantitative samples onto panels for immediate access. And even when qualitative recruitment is supposed to be random – much of the time those who arrive in the room regularly participate as respondents – not wild at all.

Until relatively recently the brain was considered to be a fixed entity – you had to make the most of the neurones you were born with. It is only in the last 10 years that neuroscientists have discovered that the brains of wild animals produce a modest and regular supply of neurones – brains are replenishing themselves.  One of the reasons it has taken so long to discover this is that scientists conducted their experiments with laboratory animals whose brains would not produce neurones.

Perhaps you think I am arguing from analogy – but if learn substantially less from captive animals – then I put it to you that you are limiting yourself if the only customers you research are in effect a captive audience – regularly researched.

There are two responses to the problem. One being to strike out and to disturb those we are researching as little as possible. That is one  tack and I would encourage you to consider using it more than you probably are at the moment.  Fresh respondents are usually more illuminating even if they may need a little more time to warm up.   The other option is to recognise how artificial so many research processes are and to accept and exploit their artificiality. Just because a play is set in the theatre doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant to real life. Well and over rehearsed respondents can teach us a lot about a market. But what they teach us is different from those being researched for the first time who have never had to put their own behaviour and attitudes under the spotlight. I am not against artificiality. But still prefer respondents to come from the wildside.

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