Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester, has a funny rant about PR blunders and bad e-mail marketing habits. But one of his PR blunders is actually a market research blunder, and one becoming too common as online survey tools commodify, democratize, propagate, and saturate, consequently turning the world’s aggregate of surveys into a more aimless and sometimes offensive proposition. Trust me: I’m a male consumer with a public profile, salary and email address, and I can tell you it happens a lot. Sure it’s a PR blunder, but, specifically, it’s a phenomenon whereby your market research becomes a negative advertising campaign. Josh says:
The Consumer Electronics Association sent me a mailing a few weeks ago (they mail all of us who attend their conferences with all manner of stuff, it seems like weekly). They were testing a marketing program for their international conference (CES) next year. Sure, 140,000 people go to CES every year so I don’t know why they need to work so hard to market it, but they deserve credit for checking in with us. So I took a little Web survey. One of the choices we were being asked to evaluate in their survey was the graphic shown here.
Charitably, this graphic is a reminder that when you go to CES, the taxi lines are 45 minutes long. Is this really the image they want to reinforce? It’s so bad that for the last two years I rented a bicycle.
Uncharitably, look at that graphic again. Doesn’t it create an image in your mind that’s more closely associated with crowds of World War II era Germans than consumer electronics? Nah, it can’t be, after all, she’s smiling . . .
Now the Consumer Electronics Association will tell you that this was just a test, and the kind of connotations I’m talking about would never have made it into their official marketing campaign. But they just emailed it to thousands and thousands of people in their survey. How much more public could it be than that?
I wrote about market research as negative advertising recently in MediaPost here. Market research is foremost a customer touch point, or a friendly gesture, if you will. So please don’t offend.