What’s wrong with traditional marketing research?

Marketing ResearchTraditional marketing research is based on the premise that consumers are… rational human beings. It asks the question “what do you think, and how do you feel about the things you are thinking about”.

However, buying behavior is not cognitive.

The cognitive part of the purchase decision is the final touch after an emotional desire has been triggered, often unconsciously or irrationally.
As Dan Ariely states, “reasoning, behavior, decision making is more like a game of snakes and ladders. No clear path. Highly emotional. Predictably irrational.”
Now, my research experience is that most of the time, people have no idea why they're doing what they're doing. So they're going to try to make up something that makes sense. Why do you need a Jeep to go shopping in traffic jammed downtown Athens? “In case I need to go off road!” Well, in Pagrati? "Well, you know, sometime[s] I hit the road, I go away from Athens, I go… "
It is very true that much of the time (or most of the time) people appreciate the product with the heart, they take a decision on emotional grounds or they shop impulsively, and, after the fact, they come up with all the necessary arguments, and cognitive explanations to justify their decision.

If research where to rely on their cognitive explanations, then all TV channels would only broadcast documentaries (never soap operas), all magazines would include decent analyses of social issues and no gossip at all, and Manolo Blahniks shoes would be reasonably priced.
But in terms of the way we approach people's behavior, we need to go beyond words. The use of metaphor, story, image in research needs to become the focal part of the research process, rather than be the auxiliary toolkit. Often, researcher bias will rely much more heavily on the cognitively articulated consumer response (for being easier to analyze) rather than on the rich symbolism of metaphor, which is highly subjective in analysis and requires in depth expertise and experience to ensure reliability.


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