Though she may not have the late Steve Jobs’ clout, British singer Lily Allen is yet another celebrity who’s spoken out to publicly criticize the value – and validity – of marketing research.
According to an April 24th interview (warning: explicit language) with Popjustice’s Peter Robinson, Allen says that she was accidentally copied on an e-mail containing market research results for her work and that reading it was one of the most horrible moments of her life.
Allen goes on:
The thing is, people who take part in market research: Are they really representative of the marketplace? Probably not. I find it totally unhelpful. My mom’s a film producer and they do these market research screenings and more often than not, it’s just like school: People don’t have opinions but because they’re asked for them, they come up with something and then it becomes a statistic. It’s like, he didn’t actually think that, he was just trying to impress the bored-looking girl in row three and he thought this could be his in with her. I’ve yet to see an example of market research where it’s actually good.
Ouch! It’s possible that Allen simply didn’t like what the research yielded and if the results had skewed more in her favor, she’d be singing a different tune. It’s also possible, however, that she has a point. Does marketing research force opinions out of consumers who would otherwise be apathetic or oblivious? How much of consumer feedback is the result of grandstanding, posturing and trying to impress? Is this more likely to happen in certain industries, such as entertainment, where hipness very much matters, or health care, where doctors try to impress each other in focus groups? How about with different demographics? Are younger respondents more prone to this type of behavior?
Aside from Allen’s unfairly black-and-white assessment, does her argument hold?