Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Unconsidered Opinions

I read somewhere that for the first time, more than half the world’s population now lives in an urban environment. Only just.

When we see TV programmes about famine and war in Africa, the cameras are usually focussed on rural communities – or refugee camps which have been set up in rural areas but have now become tent towns. And that is of course as it should be: we need to be aware of the suffering of those desperately poor and mistreated people, so that we can all help in any way we can to improve their quality of life.

But that aside, I have been getting a little irritated by market research companies in the UK, or rather, I suppose, by the mono-vision of their clients.

A little while ago, I took part in a research project (it doesn’t matter what for) and was very happy to receive a modest fee for doing so. I was also more than happy to put myself on the research company’s mailing list to be informed of future projects in which I might take part. In fact I looked at a few other companies as well; and since then I have been getting frequent e-mails about forthcoming projects on all sorts of issues.

I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that I am always outside the age range that they are looking for (although I had thought that the ‘grey pound’ was quite an influential currency these days), but I am particularly irritated by the fact that these researchers are only ever interested in the opinions of people living in London, or such places as Reading or Swindon.

I can accept that users of Nokia phones between the ages of 20 and 30, or young mum’s using disposable nappies, are more interesting than keen gardeners between 65 and 80, but why should a young mum in Reading be more interesting to the marketeers than the same person in, say, Bovey Tracey?

The point I would highlight as an example is that the young mum in Bovey Tracey, as well as being just as important as the young mum in Reading, is subject to different day-to-day influences than her Reading counterpart, so her answers to questions would be different. The implication here is that the nearly 50% of the population (I’m guessing) who live outside the major towns are a completely unconsidered market by those companies who use the market research organisations. And it may be that the rural population doesn’t have as much money to spend as our urban cousins – but all the same, disposable nappies (or almost anything else) are used about as much by our rural young mum as by the city-dwelling equivalent.

Aren’t these companies interested in the fact that rural opinions may be different, but may also be just as important from a marketing point of view?

I suppose that I know the answer before I ask the question – it must be easier to find 30 young mums using disposable nappies who can take an hour out to come to a central location to answer questions about Huggies in London than in Bovey Tracey.

OK, so why not go a stage further and just do the research in the nearest branch of Tesco?

Well, obviously you couldn’t do that, because you would get an unbalanced response!


1 comment:

Rebecca Taunton said...

Good point Tim.

It's not just research companies who ignore rural areas either. The grey pound will quite likely become one of the most influential parts of the market, but no one seems to have picked up on that yet!