Consumer Research

“It is not the voice of the consumer that matters, what matters is the mind of the consumer.” (Hodgson 2004)

Consumer research is the investigation into the driving forces behind customer behaviour, consumer psychology and purchase patterns. Consumer research can indicate potential problems, highlight needed changes, help determine new products and services and help develop advertising strategies (Acevedo 2010). To me this all makes perfect sense because when you think about it the best way to cater to a customer is to understand them and how can you be expected to understand someone without first looking into what makes them tick?

The problem is however that in today’s faced paced, action packed, activity overloaded society it can be difficult to get people to stop for even just a minute to conduct research. And we are all guilty here; I mean seriously how many of us would give up an hour of our day to do a survey or an interview. Personally, I cross the street or try to avoid eye contact when it comes to those sorts of things.

It seems that nowadays in order for a company to get a little information out of someone they have to offer something in return. That’s why free samples and competitions are a great way to generate a response and receive a lot of information without the consumer really noticing. One of the best examples of this I can think of was the Smiths ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign.

Smiths was noticing decline in sales and wanted to introduce a new flavour. Before they came to a decision about what to introduce they had the brilliant idea to ask customers directly what they wanted through a competition. The initial stage of the campaign saw the brand ask consumers to suggest potential flavours, attracting nearly 315,000 entries. After that people could then vote for the top entries. “All four finalists won $10,000. The overall winner, Aline Pascuzzo, for her Caesar flavour, was also awarded a further $30,000 and received 1% of sales revenue” (mUmBRELLA 2009).

What was good about that campaign was that it gave an honest and direct depiction of consumer wants. Focus groups on the other hand offer a chance to get a deeper understanding of consumer psychology but they don’t always get such a straight forward response. Daniel Gross (2003) strongly challenges the effectiveness and value of focus groups for informing product development and marketing. He draws attention to the mismatch between what people say about product concepts in focus groups, and the way they actually behave when it comes to making purchases.

In the end consumer research can be quite costly on a company but in turn it can save them millions by saving them from making the wrong marketing decisions through a lack of customer understanding. 


Hodgson, P 2004, ‘Is Consumer Research Losing It’s Focus’, Userfocus, 1 June, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Gross, D 2003, ‘Lies Damn Lies and Focus Groups’, Slate Magazine, 10 October, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Acevedo, L 2010, What Is Consumer Research?, Ehow, weblog post 19 July, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Smith Unveils Ceaser Salad as New Flavour Following Public Vote 2009, mUmBRELLA, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

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