Saturday, February 23, 2008

Segmentation research and the resulting advertising to target segments -- is it predestined to succeed?

Acquiescence (the propensity for survey respondents to answer positively to questions at abnormally high frequency) on the part of survey takers has been an issue that researchers have struggled with for as long as they've been analyzing surveys.

Research into this behavior has identified social status, age, unmotivated survey takers, ethnicity, and "impulsive and emotional extraverts with a desire for external stimulation" were "yea-sayers" (Couch and Keniston, 1960) as groups that exhibit this behavior from time-to-time. In response, researchers have altered questionnaire design to try identify respondents that are overly eager to respond positively to the subject matter be asked about -- to varying degrees of success.

Thinking about the research that advertising agencies often conduct in the process of developing positioning and creative concepts for a brand, as well as the tracking studies used to monitor and assess the resulting advertising, the issue of acquiescence could have a dramatic impact on the perceived success of advertising campaigns.

Consider this scenario: an ad agency running a segmentation study for a client, one who has helped develop the survey, and has focused on maximizing the subjects included in the segmentation survey -- a common occurrence.

Regardless of product, the segmentation survey will produce a segment (amongst several) that is positive, a group that "wants it all" -- in terms of the product/service features being considered. (This group, due to the prevalence of positive responses, contains a high frequency of "acquiescent" responders.)

This segment will most likely become a target in the positioning process, as they can easily be seen as "early adopters" because of their positive attitude (i.e. - they will influence the other segments).

The "acquiescent responders" -- because they are predisposed to frequently answering "yes" to survey questions -- will also be more likely to respond favorably at a later date to the positioning and advertising tracking studies made to assess the advertising that grew out of the segmentation work.

From the advertising agency's viewpoint -- what would be your motivation for excluding this group from either the segmentation or the following tracking studies? Regardless of product/service, or advertising execution, the "target" segment is more likely to report recall of seeing the ad, and having favorable recollections of it, due to the higher percentage of "acquiescent" respondents in the target segment.

Has anyone had experience with this phenomenon?


Anonymous said...

For those predisposed to answering a survey or view advertising in a favorable light: won't these also be a group of people predisposed to wanting to buy your product? Seems like as long as you recognize that such ag roup is influencing your research results, it is okay to go after them as a target audience or market, as they will likely buy your stuff?

john s.

spandrel said...

Because the people are predisposed to answering favorably, you don't know how likely they are to really buy your product (versus your competition's). The goal should be to remove or minimize the effect of these people, so you can accurately assess the effectiveness of your adveritising in motivating them to purchase. If you leave in those biased to respond favroably, you are guaranteed to get overreporting of advertising and effectiveness, which works to the advertising agency's benefit, but not to the client's.