I've almost finished reading Truth, Lies and Advertising, the must read for anyone wanting to get into planning. I'm loving it and I'm glad it's confirming everything I thought planning was and a lot more!
Jon Steel talks quite a lot about the pitfalls you can get into when conducting research whether it be qualitative or quantitative. Completely in context with my reading the book, I just had a call for a marketing research which was pretty funny. This lady starts talking (I had a hard time understanding her accent) and tells me she is conducting a marketing survey about cars. I'm quite happy to comply and she starts with her in-depth questionnaire. I found out later in the conversation that the survey was for Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz.
Now here's the thing you want to know about me: I don't have a driver's license, I don't know how to drive, I don't have a car, I'm not very interested in cars and the last thing on my mind is buying one. So I'm usually pretty oblivious to car advertising, unless there's something stunning about it.
Not once did they ask me whether I have a car or not. I would have thought that to be the first question to ask... At the very end, she asked what car I had and she didn't have an option for "none" on her multiple choice answers! They just assumed I have a car. I don't think I'm very representative of the group of people they would want to advertise to, but anyway they have my raving about wanting to buy Porsches, Isuzu Rodeos, Nissan Pathfinders (I said I was in the middle of reading the book, that's the first that came in mind!) - while being able to cite numerous car brands but not having seen a single ad about cars in the last 4 weeks, I only remembered BMW sponsoring ted.com talks.
A lot of the questions were about which car ads I remembered within the last 4 weeks. That's pretty difficult to remember all of a sudden, out of context. That just shows again how important it is to be asking relevant questions...