Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: PR Fantasists Could Learn Thing or Two from RAB

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: PR Fantasists Could Learn Thing or Two from RAB

Article excerpt

A depressing trend in marketing recently has been the emergence of 'poll of the week'-style market research. A simple poll of consumers is conducted with the sole aim of generating PR. The results of this kind of research are always meaningless - 40% of office workers fancy their boss! 75% of cat owners love their cats more than their partners! But on a bad news day they can often generate editorial.

The use of market research as a communication device rather than a source of corporate intelligence is a worrying development. Good market research is hard to find in the UK at the best of times, but with the industry becoming increasingly focused on PR, we are likely to see even more banal methods producing a variety of questionable results.

Perhaps the lowest point in recent years was the study commissioned by ITV to promote TV as an advertising medium. Psychology professor Geoffrey Beattie set up an experiment that proved that when a message was communicated audio-visually it was better recalled than if it were communicated using either purely audio or visual approaches. Beattie concluded: 'The brain simply likes telly. No wonder it's the world's favourite medium.'

In reality, the experiment was an embarrassment. It ignored more than 30 years of existing, far more sophisticated, consumer research on this topic conducted by researchers who, unlike Beattie, actually had a Phd in marketing. Research that had been published not in a press release, but in peer reviewed science journals.

So imagine my horror when the Radio Advertising Bureau published research by dunnhumby claiming that radio created an average sales increase of 9%. I immediately ordered a copy and prepared myself for the worst. Proving empirically a link between any communication medium and sales is notoriously difficult for two reasons. First, sales are the result of myriad variables, of which radio advertising is a relatively minor one. Second, there can be a significant time lag between communication impact and the resulting sales effect. As I turned to page one of the RAB Radio: The Sales Multiplier report I feared the worst.

And against all the odds I found marketing perfection. …

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