One of the things I do to try to get a little more out of our spending money is answer surveys.  Now I have a little background in this area.  First, although most business school graduates fail to realize this, sociology and psychology require courses in research design and methodology and statistical analysis.  It really doesn't matter whether you are studying attitudes toward gender or towards dish washing liquids or soda pop.  The principles of designing a survey are the same.

I have to say that other than political surveys, which are generally, and in some cases abominably, biased in the way the questions are written, marketing tends to adhere to the rules of writing questions free of manipulative language or inherent bias.  The problem I think marketing people fall into is thinking that consumers think the same way they do, and obsess about the products the same way they do.

A couple of days ago, I took a survey that made me pause mid-survey and ask "Are you people CRAZY?"  I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I think if I build this gripe session around a totally fictitious product, and complain only about the FORM of the questions,  I can get around that.  

So let's imagine that there is a product called a figglefaggle and almost every human being in these United States uses it, and there are several manufacturers and brands.   Also  each brand has various flavors and forms (similar to oh say ice cream in various side packages, sorbet, novelty pops, etc or sandwiches in a variety of meats and cheeses, a huge assortment of possible condiments and vegetables).  Now one of these manufacturers wants to find out how it stands against the competition, and it commissions a survey from a firm that specializes in such.  I end qualifying for the study, and I go through the usual demographic and qualifying questions and arrive at the "meat" of the study.

As the respondent, I am confronted by 4 columns .
BRAND           w/n last 12 mo        w/n the last 6 mo     w/n last mo

When you click on the figglefaggle brand, the column explodes into on listing all the varieties of figglefaggle that manufacturer makes, like this
Ackadack  Vanilla 6 oz
                     Vanilla 12 oz
                     Vanilla w/ mint bits 8 oz

At the top of the page, I am asked "Which of the following have you purchased within the period specified?"

THIS is when I blurted out loud "Have these people lost their frigging fragging minds?"  Then I realized they are interested in their most brand loyal customers.  The rest of us don't really matter.  Still I did my best.  Imagine such a questionnaire covering hamburgers and other fast food sandwiches. Well within the last 12 months, I've had burgers and sandwiches from Whataburger, Tornado Burger, Sonic, Wendy's, Red Robin, Steak N' Shake, Dairy Queen, Quizno's, Subway, Firehouse subs, and probably several other places I don't recall.  Now, I've probably had one of every kind of sandwich each of them offers because I like variety. Which were w/n 12 mo and which w/n 6 mo?  Hell if I know.  Which have I eaten in the last month? Since I don't post all my meals on FB, I have not a single solitary clue! Do YOU keep a diary?

A similar situation holds with the figglefaggles, because I am extremely price sensitive, and inordinately fond of clearance sections and sales when combined with a coupon..  Since I'm not particular about my figglefaggle, If I find a Brand A 64 oz reduced for clearance at $3.79, and I have a $0.75 off coupon, making it $3.04,  half of the usual price, I buy it.  Same if Brand C, D, etc.  So 12 months later, I am going to be able to regurgitate the details of that particular figglefaggle purchase, even if it is the brand that commissioned the study.  Still I did my best to provide as accurate information as I could.  For the rest of the survey, there were periodically similar questions that only an OCD of the most compulsive variety could possibly answer correctly.  Me?  I can barely remember what I had for lunch, much less what varieties of figgle faggle I bought within the last 12 months.  

Am I that unusual? You're better?  Ok tell me all the fruits you have eaten in the last 12 months-- on their own, in a salad, on a sandwich, in a pie, in bread.....::evil laughter::   


Leave a Reply