Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do Market Researchers Visit Different Cities?

The chart above is based on Richard Lewontin's famous study, as cited in Spencer Well's Deep Ancestry (2007).

The graph shows that the bulk of genetic differences is within a population of human individuals you may find, not between them. For instance, if we sample a population from an average city, not discriminating by race, we would account for at least 93% of the genetic differences.

In a country such as the United States, with a highly mobile workforce, national mass media, and national retail chains, even the population differences between areas are greatly diminishing.

This highlights one of the most perplexing inefficiencies in marketing research -- the ritual of conducting research events and focus groups in multiple cities. Rather expending resources on a larger sample size in a single location, money is spend on travel, multiple facilities and time.

Not only are are travel expenses and time away from the office greatly inflated by this practice, but the likelihood of inserting false or misleading results into the research process is increased -- not diminished. Expecting different results by geographic area can easily be the first step in getting them.

Certainly, environmental or marketplace factors do exist for some products. Marketers and researchers should carefully, and earnestly, identify these before they appropriate research funds.